You spent nine months caring for your little one in your womb and now that he or she is here, amidst snuggles and cuddles you are anxious to get your body back. And I don’t necessarily mean back in shape, I just mean getting your body back to yourself period.
For those nine months you have also shared your body with a not-always-polite roommate who kicks and punches and gives you heartburn. And while you might enjoy those sweet little flutter kicks, you probably did not enjoy the sciatica and varicose veins that your little sweetheart bestowed upon you.
Most mom’s would agree that by the time their due date arrives they are ready to evict baby.
But when baby arrives your body may seem unfamiliar. Your uterus is still the size of a cantaloupe, your once taut round belly is now squishy and flaccid and things like varicose veins and stretch marks linger. Plus, you may have tears or a c-section to recover from.
So what can you do to start feeling more like yourself? Would you think I was crazy if I said you could start exercising right in the recovery room? I’m not talking about whipping out barbells and resistance bands, but I am talking about starting to reconnect to your core.
How do you do this? Through TVA and pelvic floor exercises. Your pelvic floor and TVA (transverse abdominis) get stretched a lot during pregnancy and delivery and its really important that you get them firing correctly again. If your core isn’t working properly your body doesn’t function properly and you set yourself up for injuries and chronic pain.
The kind of exercise I am suggesting is gentle– you can do it anywhere, even lying in bed. To engage your TVA properly first start by taking a deep belly inhale, as you exhale imagine your belly button is on an elevator at the 6th floor and your spine is the ground floor. Exhale your belly button to the 5th floor, then 4th, then 3rd and so on until you hit ground level pause there and then repeat the exercise as many times as you’d like. This exercise will help you reconnect to your core and strengthen your TVA.
To engage your pelvic floor muscles start by engaging your TVA. Then think about drawing your sits bones together and your pubic bone to your tail bone. Hold for a few seconds and release. Pelvic floor exercises can also be done anywhere. Working your pelvic floor in this way will help support your core and prevent incontinence.
Try doing these exercises a few times each day after baby is born. You can even do them while you are feeding your baby.
Once you are feeling good and your doctor has given you approval (6-8 weeks pp for most people) to return to your regular exercise, ease into it. There is still relaxin in your joints that makes them less stable, and if you had a c-section or stitches, you want to be careful not to re-open the wound.
With that said, the Mayo clinic gives new advice that, “If you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it’s generally safe to begin exercising a few days after giving birth or as soon as you feel ready. ” (Mayoclinic.org) So talk to your doctor if you are feeling ready for exercise sooner than 6 weeks pp.
When you begin your regular routine, continue to exercise your TVA and pelvic floor. Check or have a knowledgeable fitness or medical professional check to see if you have a diastasis rectii (separation of the ab muscles). Avoid crunches and other ab exercises right away to prevent making a Diastasis worse. Squats and lunges are great functional exercises to get started with. If plyometrics were a part of your routine, ease into them as well since they can put a lot of strain on your already over-stretched pelvic floor.
The most important advice I can give you is to listen to your body and take your time. I’m not suggesting moms should feel pressure to get back to the gym right after the birth of their child, but I did want to give helpful advice for those who are looking to get active again. And just as exercising during your pregnancy has many benefits, so does exercising postpartum:
- It helps strengthen and tone abdominal muscles.
- It boosts energy.
- It may be useful in preventing postpartum depression.
- It promotes better sleep.
- It relieves stress.
So enjoy your little cutie but don’t feel guilty for wanting to get your body back and doing something good for yourself.
How soon did you start exercising after you gave birth?
If you have just had a baby and are looking for a program that is safe and effective, I’d be happy to guide you! Just contact me.