Having a baby, whether it was six weeks ago or six years ago, dramatically changes your body, especially your core, regardless of whether it came out of your vagina or tummy.
The core is literally at the centre of everything we do. 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.
Even if you were fit before and during your pregnancy, your pelvic floor needs focus and special attention to get it functioning normally again, allowing you to progress in your fitness and wellbeing.
When we are pregnant, we are not as able or effective in utilising our core cylinder as much as we were used to. We can get it back. We need to work at ‘waking up’ the muscles in the core – letting them know we want to use them again. 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 (abdominal separation) – which can give the appearance of a mummy tummy.
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.
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 mother has had a c-section, they need to think about their scar and the risk of internal adhesions – remember this is major abdominal surgery.
You need to practice realigning your body on a daily basis and during exercise to optimise core function. Learn how to fire up those connections to your muscles and improve not only your physical fitness, but also your metabolism, stress levels and immune system.
It’s estimated that a third of all women will suffer with some kind of pelvic floor disorder in their lifetime. And that’s just medically reported cases of conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse, bladder or faecal incontinence.
These are life-changing problems, often accompanied by depression and fear. They are not easy to discuss. And yet access to specialist women’s health physiotherapy in the UK is still subject to a postcode lottery. I do however, advise women to try and get a GP referral and or go and see Brighton Physiotherapy Clinic.
Problems usually start around the childbearing years, but menopause is another massive milestone for women’s pelvic floor health. So, if you have any concerns about your core and pelvic floor, drop me a line here. I also work closely with experts in the field who can help too including women’s physiotherapists, soft tissue massage therapists and nutritionists. Click here to see who I work with.