Many women are keen to start losing weight and toning up after having a baby. It’s ok to want this. But you need to approach it in the right way, and you might need to manage your expectations about how long it will take.
Postpartum exercise is all about healing from the inside out. Shift your mindset from focusing on your weight or shape to instead focus on the strength that you’re re-gaining from the inside. This will take time, so be patient!
It’s also totally understandable if you’re not interested in exercise just yet! Being a new Mum can be all consuming and exhausting. Be gentle and kind to yourself.
Should I wait for 6 weeks before beginning exercise?
Most doctors will advise you wait until after your 6 week check up before beginning any exercise program. But there’s plenty of things you can do before then, starting with pelvic floor exercises and deep breathing. Keep reading for instructions on how to do this! You can also go for short walks.
What if I had a C-section?
If you had a caesarean birth this is major abdominal surgery and you may be advised to wait a little longer, until around 8 weeks or when you’ve been given the all-clear by your health care provider. You can still work on your pelvic floor exercises, breathing and walking.
What if I feel fine and want to start exercising sooner?
You may be feeling fine and ready to get back into exercise sooner but please understand that there are lots of changes still happening inside of your body.
For instance, the volume of blood in your body increased by 30-50% during pregnancy and it can take 6-8 weeks to return to normal after birth. Your blood pressure and heart rate similarly take around six weeks to re-adjust back to pre-pregnancy levels. And your uterus is still contracting and returning to it’s usual position.
If you had a c-section, your scar may look and feel better after two weeks, but full internal healing could take anywhere from six weeks to three months.
Your abdominal muscles will naturally separate during pregnancy to make space for your growing baby. It will take up to eight weeks (or more) for them to return to normal.
Doing the wrong kind of exercise before this separation has healed can put you back years in terms of recovering your core strength.
So your patience here in approaching your return to exercise correctly will pay off in the long run!
What kind of exercise should I start with?
Postpartum exercise is all about healing from the inside out and regaining your core strength.
When I talk to Mummas at school pick up (so these Mums are several years postpartum) about the work I do with postnatal women, they look sad and tell me they still haven’t got rid of their tummy. These Mums have not understood about the importance of core strength and posture. They’ll NEVER get rid of their tummy without starting here first.
A solid understanding of the foundations of your core and how it all works together will set you up for a great return to other forms of exercise that you might have done pre-pregnancy such as the gym, running, or a regular yoga practice.
What is your core anyway?
Your core is NOT just your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor! It’s the full 360 degrees around your torso. Think of your core like a can of coke that’s pressurised to keep the fizz in. If any part of the core is not working properly it will have a similar effect to someone opening the can so the coke goes flat, ie. you lose your core strength.
To begin your return to exercise, work on your core in this order: pelvic floor, transverse abdominal muscles, your diaphragm (breathing muscles) and your back and glute muscles.
Pelvic floor exercises
These can be done straight away after birth and are highly recommended as it increases blood flow to the pelvic floor which will help with healing any tearing or cuts. You may not feel much initially but with time and consistent practice your pelvic floor strength will return. Watch this video on how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly.
Deep abdominal strengthening
Think of your Transverse Abdominal (TA) muscles like your body’s natural corset. It compresses the contents of your abdomen (stomach etc), joins the pelvis to the rib cage and stabilises your lower back and pelvis. Watch this video on how to identify your TA muscles.
Things to watch out for
As mentioned earlier, you may still have an abdominal muscle separation, also known as a diastasis recti. If so, there are certain things you’ll need to avoid. Hopefully you’ll have had this assessed after birth and again at your 6 week check up.
It’s important to know how to check abdominal muscle separation yourself so you can continue monitoring your progress. If your abdominal muscle separation is more, or you notice any bulging or peaking of your abdominal muscles (like a bread loaf) you should seek advice from a women’s health physio.
What kind of exercise should I avoid?
Until you’ve re-gained strength in your pelvic floor and transverse abdominal muscles you want to avoid anything that overly strains the abdomen such as sit ups and crunches. You should also avoid any front-loading poses (like plank) if you have an abdominal muscle separation.
What should I do if things don’t feel right ‘down there’?
Your pelvic floor has been under enormous pressure during pregnancy and has stretched significantly during birth. Like any muscle in the body you need to work your pelvic floor to regain strength. Practice your exercises multiple times per day, every day (for the rest of your life!!)
If you experience any of these things it could be a sign of pelvic floor weakness:
- Leaking of urine or passing wind when you laugh, cough, sneeze, jump or make a sudden movement
- A feeling of heaviness in the vagina
Back pain or abdominal muscle separation might also be referred pain (meaning it’s due to the pelvic floor weakness).
Continue with your pelvic floor exercises and seek help from a Women’s Health Physio if things don’t feel right or start to improve.
Where to from here?
It’s important to take your postpartum recovery slowly and gently, being kind to yourself with a focus on what your body CAN do, not what it can’t do yet.
Get the right foundations in place so you can enjoy exercising again in a pain-free way for the rest of your life!
The New Mumma Program is an exciting online program which gives you a simple roadmap to transform your physical and mental health after giving birth. We start slowly, and build up your strength gradually, starting from the inside out.
By the end of the 6 weeks, you’ll feel ready to return to your pre-pregnancy exercise or yoga classes.
During the program you’ll:
- Learn how to rebuild your core strength SAFELY and EFFECTIVELY – think pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, back and glutes
- Enjoy beautiful Mum & Baby yoga classes, meditations and short practical exercises you can fit into your day
- Relieve back, neck and shoulder pain with simple stretches and self-massage
- Have fun and connect with your baby through massage, baby yoga and songs
- Join an online Mother’s Support Group with other women who’re going through the exact same thing as you. Live weekly check-ins with me so you never feel alone, confused or deflated because you’re not keeping up
Our New Mumma Reset program starts on 18 September – we hope you’ll join us for this incredible transformation!