With so much media attention on new mums bouncing back after child birth, women can put unnecessary pressure on themselves to lose their baby weight and get back into shape very soon after the baby is born. Complying with this pressure, women can choose the wrong exercise and this can cause long-term damage or harm.
Changes to exercise routine after giving birth
One of the biggest myths is that after the six-week doctor’s check, women can go back to the exercise they did before, like running, circuits, crunches and planks.
What is Diastasis Recti?
However, your alignment and posture inevitably changes during pregnancy. For example, the baby weight pulls your spine forwards and tips your pelvis.
Exercising on a misaligned skeleton will only exacerbate any issues, and exercises like crunches and planks can increase intra-abdominal pressure.
This in turn can worsen a diastasis recti – which can give the appearance of a mummy tummy.
Can you get rid of a 'mummy tummy'?
Also, intense exercise on an already weakened pelvic floor isn’t a great idea. It will most likely put extra strain on the area, leading to chronic back pain and could increase pelvic floor dysfunction like incontinence or prolapse.
Conventional exercise that is designed for the general population will never assist in postnatal rehabilitation.
The Postnatal Body
There are some other major issues you need to consider if you have recently given birth. Postnatal women need to consider their joint laxity and instability, caused by the pregnancy hormone, relaxin. If a mum has had a c-section, they need to think about their scar and the risk of internal adhesions – remember this is major abdominal surgery.
For mums who have had a c-section or gave birth naturally, they need to bear in mind pelvic floor dysfunction from incontinence to pelvic organ prolapse. And they may have abdominal separation. If you do, you should see a postnatal fitness expert (like me) to address this.
The core is literally at the centre of everything we do. This is also affected during childbearing, and needs focus and special attention to get it functioning normally again, allowing you to progress in your fitness and wellbeing.
Even if you were fit before and during your pregnancy, the muscles in your abdominal area have been stretched, your pelvic floor has had weight pushing down on it for many months, and the tissues in your vagina and pelvic floor will be stretched, even if you birthed by caesarean.
Now that your baby isn’t providing stability in your mid region, you need to work on those muscles, ligaments and connective tissue, to get them back to being strong and functional once more.
You need to reconnect with and restore long-forgotten muscles, and realign your posture to train your core and pelvic floor muscles to work optimally and at full strength and flexibility.
Pelvic floor exercises
Most of us are familiar with the Kegel, the short squeeze and lift exercises we did after childbirth. They are a start but they are just not the whole story. Your pelvic floor does not exist in splendid isolation without a relationship with the movement of your body and your breath.
So, to get your pelvic floor and core to work as it was designed to, we need to reintroduce it to your body and to get it working again with the breath and movement so that it becomes a subconscious part of your daily functional movement patterns.
Have you ever thought about engaging your pelvic floor when you pick up your child? This repetitive pattern puts a massive amount of pressure through the muscles in your tummy and pelvis, and if you have not trained the muscles to work for you, over time they may become unable to hold the pelvic organs in their right place, or allow for efficient emptying of your bladder and bowel.
Do you find that your tummy and/or pelvic floor pushes out or down when you get up from a chair, pick up your child, or put the buggy into the car, blow up balloons for your child’s party, or when you laugh, cough or sneeze? These signs demonstrate that far more is going on than just weakness in your core: your pelvic floor also has something to do with the appearance of your mummy tummy and how it functions too.
Holistic Core Restore® – Every Woman Programme
The Holistic Core Restore® – Every Woman Programme targets both the conscious pelvic floor and core work and the unconscious work too, through movement and breath. This two-pronged and functional approach gets results. It gets your body ready for the demands of your daily life and gives you the tools and education to care for yourself in the future.