You have immense joy taking care of your newborn baby but it is not without strain. You feel fatigued and moody and know that getting back into shape will help you master the load.
But exercising too soon after childbirth can put the postpartum body under stress. If precautions are not taken there can be adverse effects like a
decrease in pelvic floor muscle strength
pelvic organ prolapse
The risk of these developing however, can be mitigated by following a progressive training plan like postnatal Pilates.
It is normal for women who really enjoy working out to want to get back into exercise soon after the birth. But no matter how fit you are on the outside, you need to give your body time to heal. The areas that require time for recovery in particular are the pelvic floor, back and deep abdominals.
This is why exercises taught with the intention of stabilising, connecting and strengthening from within like those in postnatal Pilates are the most valuable for the postpartum body.
Postnatal Pilates stabilises, connects and strengthens from deep within
Rebuild your Core and Pelvic Floor
0-3 weeks postnatal
Gentle Pilates movements and focused breathing exercises are an excellent choice to begin your training for inner strength. Your priority is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and realign the spine. This is best done with short, simple Pilates routines that can be done any time when it’s convenient throughout the day. The Pilates breathing will encourage good diaphragm function with the pelvic muscles as well as invite deep relaxation. Walking can be easily integrated in this phase.
3-8 weeks postnatal
At six weeks there will be a postnatal check to assess how your body has healed from giving birth. Ideally you will want to receive clearance from your doctor/midwife/care professional before returning to sports or to your normal fitness routine.
In the meantime, walking and low impact activities (eg low intensity water aerobics, gentle swimming) can be pursued alongside your postnatal Pilates program. Your postnatal Pilates program will continue to address activation of the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. You may wish to visit a postnatal Pilates class at this time. This has the added social benefit of meeting other mums that may be dealing with similar issues to your own.
8-16 weeks postnatal
It is recommended to seek professional advice to help you make the right decisions about your exercise choices for this phase and the next. You should in any case continue with your postnatal Pilates practice to progress the strengthening of the deep abdominal and pelvic muscles. The postnatal Pilates exercises in this phase will gradually increase their intensity and challenge. This is important for building the necessary foundational base for further exercise.
After 16 weeks postnatal
Consider visiting a physiotherapist for a postnatal pelvic floor and abdominal check before returning to high impact exercise like running, hard cycling or plyometric exercise. Bear in mind that intensive abdominal exercises like sit ups, curl ups, planks, hovers are not recommended exercises for postnatal women. These exercises can place undue pressure on the lower abdominal wall and recovering pelvic floor. You will want to take care that your exercise choice is appropriate for your level and body control. Anything that creates a bulge in the abdominals in the front or uses the core to support a lot of body weight or requires breath holding is contraindicated at this time.
Book a session with a pelvic floor physiotherapist to assess pelvic floor and deep abdominal function before returning to high impact exercise
You may feel increasingly worn out in the first few months after having a baby despite your gradual return to exercise. This is can be due to interrupted sleep, nursing your child and the extra demands of motherhood. Fatigue and doing too much too soon can increase the risk of injury. It is important to listen to your body and how you are feeling. Be aware of warning signals like pain or discomfort. Don’t be afraid to slow down to allow any pain or discomfort to subside. It is not appropriate here to push through the pain.
Avoid pushing through pain and dont’ be afraid to slow down to allow any pain or discomfort to subside
Building exercise progressions
Ideally the time between giving birth and 4 months postpartum is the time to prepare your body for returning to normal sports and exercise. This is steady and progressive path that works to build you a solid foundation for later.
Postnatal Pilates combines breathing with core connection and posture to give you the best foundational base for ongoing training. Learning to nurture progressive strength and well-being in yourself will allow you to nurture a strong and healthy baby.
One progressive step after the next and all in good time.