Postpartum Recovery and Exercise: Work Smart, Not Hard!
If my pregnant clients are asking "What exercises are safe to do during pregnancy?" (check out the answer here) Then my most asked question by Postpartum clients is:
"What exercises are safe to do during postpartum recovery?"
Sleep deprivation is REAL! Stay in bed snuggled up with that sweet new babe of yours, preferably completely naked (put one of those big blue pads or an old towel under you This has a few benefits. It allows your perineum or incision to air and heal. It also helps keep any unwanted visitors at bay! If you have breastfeeding/ chestfeeding on your list of goals, resting skin to skin for a few days after your birth will also help milk supply, on demand feeding and bonding.
Core Breathing that is. Yup, that's an exercise and it's the first one you are encouraged to do as much as you can. Incorporate your Core Breathing into any and every movement you do, even rolling over or getting up from sitting. I've included a quick tutorial on Core Breathing right below.
Incorporate that Core Breathing into your walking too! For the bonus push a stroller, or even better, wear your baby if you can. This is more work that you think in the early weeks, so take it easy at first and make sure you've got enough energy to get back to where you started!
Check out this quick tutorial of "Core Breathing" to effectively activate your inner core.
Looking for safe and challenging workouts? Check out my Postpartum Classes: Baby Barre at Retrofit Pilates on Mondays at 11:30am, book in for some one-on-one sessions and stay tuned for videos to do at home or on the go! Move Well, Feel Well!
It is highly recommended to take your time getting back into more vigorous activities. It is not unreasonable to give yourself 4- 6 months of just "day to day activity" and healing before starting a more organized exercise routine, especially if you have had a caesarean birth. Here are the general guidelines you can follow if you are exercising without the knowledge and mindful eye of a qualified instructor and when you're ready to start doing a little bit more.
A few Common Issues in Postpartum Recovery:
Let's give you a little context and information about why we have these guidelines for exercise in postpartum recovery. Here are some very common issues that exercising without awareness can cause or exacerbate. Ideally, we don't want to contribute to or increase these issues.
Diastasis Recti Abdominus (DRA):
100% of pregnant bodies will have some degree of DRA by the end of their pregnancy. This is the stretching of the connective tissue (linea alba) between the two sides of the abdominals causing a separation to the right and left of centre on the belly. For some postpartum bodies, this will "heal" almost immediately and will likely not be noticeable or effect movement. for most others, there's some work to be done to get the core to effectively work again. Our goal is not to increase the degree of DRA with unsafe movement patterns, but to work for good core activation to create appropriate tension across that linea alba again. This does not always mean the "gap" between the sides will get smaller, and that's okay. Traditional abdominal work, excessive extension (backbends), planks and exercising on All 4's can contribute to DRA due to the amount of force and stretch that is put on the linea alba. The beast exercise to help "heal" DRA? You guessed it, "Core Breathing!"
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction:
The muscles of your Pelvic Floor are part of your Inner Core. With the added weight of a growing baby belly over the last 9 months, there was extra pressure put on these muscles and they may become too tight trying to support the weight or too loose, unable to keep up. Either way, the extra pressure may have caused them to become dysfunctional. Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction include leaking urine (even just a little!), feeling like you have the urge to urinate more than usual, constipation, bowel incontinence (including gas), low back, hip or pelvic pain or a downward pressure or sensation of bulging in the vagina. A dysfunctional pelvic floor may not cause pain but can lead to pain down the road or prolapse of pelvic organs.
Sore Neck and Shoulders: All that gazing down lovingly at your baby and feeding your baby every two hours or so can be really taxing on your neck and shoulders! Some even feel tingling or numbness in their arms and hands. Try this easy little exercise set after each feed to help you "reset" and avoid progressing any issues (Click here!)
Balance: Your body is once again in flux with its centre of gravity, as your organs make their way back into place, the possible added weight of milk filled breasts and a change in body weight. It is common to lose one's balance, even with simple activities or to feel clumsy and uncoordinated. To accommodate the growing baby during pregnancy, the body used hormones to help soften and relax the ligaments around joints. The effects of these hormones are still present (some say as long as a year after one last lactates!) making it easy to overstretch and cause injury due to instability.
Work Smart, not Hard!! Easy does it, but get it done!
Ruth has enjoyed watching many bodies change, stay functional and become powerful humans. Education is at the centre of her approach, believing that knowledge is power and that informing our minds and bodies will help build an extraordinary life experience. Creative by nature and armed with an excellent knowledge of functional anatomy and physiology of pregnancy & birth, Ruth loves working with all sorts of bellies, babies and bodies!