Okay I think i’m in a safe space to admit this, but I know that after having my kids I didn’t really think about how to get my body back to a good state, whether that was nutritionally or from an exercise point of view. I remember slightly putting it all off and just thinking I had the whole of my mat leave to deal with it… and then I was back at work.
But after chatting with the lovely Grace from Centred Mums Pilates she has put together this really interesting read all about the things to take into consideration even if you are like me a few years postnatal.. I’m off to book a women’s physio appointment…check Graces amazing work in pilates and other services over at Centred Mums by clicking here
Why Postnatal Exercise Matters!
Often, once women have had their 6 week check they are keen to get back to their pre-pregnancy exercise regime asap. However, the postnatal body needs to be rehabilitated before it is ready to do any kind of high energy or high impact exercise. Ideally, every single woman who has ever had a baby would go through a programme of rehabilitating the core – the breath, the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor are hugely impacted by pregnancy and birth and it is so important that you spend the time on encouraging them to function efficiently as it will set your body up for good health for the rest of your life.
Here are some things you should be aware of when you are exercising postnatally:
Nutrition – you can do all the exercise in the world but your body will not respond to it effectively unless it is well nourished and has enough nutrients to work in an optimum way. Postnatally you need lots of protein (with every meal) to allow your cells to rebuild. You also need LOTS of good fats such as avocados, nuts and oils to help the healing process. Plus the obvious vitamins and minerals from plenty of fruit and veg. You also need plenty of water – collagen that we need to rebuild muscle is made of 70% water so will only work effectively if you are well hydrated.
Core function – having carried a baby for 9 months your core has not been functioning in it’s usual way and you need to address this before you start back at the gym. Your core function is hugely affected by your breathing. If you are not allowing your breath to move into your ribcage you may be causing too much pressure to build up in your abdominals and pelvic floor when you inhale. Try to teach yourself to breathe into your lower ribs by putting your hands there and making sure they move as you inhale.
Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) – when we do things that create intra-abdominal pressure (laughing, coughing, sneezing, moving from sitting to standing, lifting, carrying children, running, jumping) it is important we are able to control it. If a little bit of wee is coming out or your abdominals are ‘doming’ when you do any of these things it is important that you address it ASAP. Leaking/having a bulging tummy are normalised as ‘part of being a mum’ but they don’t have to be. There is SO much you can do to help control your IAP.
Exhale on the effort. When we breathe in we increase IAP (hopefully not too much as above) and when we breathe out we decrease it – our pelvic floor lifts and our belly flattens. If you exhale when doing things that increase IAP, like picking your baby up or lifting up from a squat in a class, you help to create more balance and reduce the amount of pressure that goes into your pelvic floor and abdominals.
Every postnatal woman needs a rehabilitation programme. You should be starting with release work (you can’t strengthen an over tight muscle effectively), then working to gain good function in the pelvic floor and abdominals, gluts and deep stabilising muscles. Specialist postnatal Pilates classes are the perfect place to start working on this deep level of strength.
Go and see a women’s health physio. Even if you don’t have any symptoms it is a great idea to get some expert advice about exactly what is happening in your pelvic floor and abdominals when you have had a baby (even if it was 20 years ago!) These experts can examine you and tell you what you need – it’s different for everyone. Your pelvic floor could be tight or weak or both!
It is so important not to rush back into postnatal exercise. We work with so many women who’s kids are older but didn’t have access to this information and are now paying the price for running before they could walk! Slow and steady wins the race – look at the long game. If you put in the ground work now and build the foundations for a well functioning core, you are setting yourself up for the rest of your life.
Centred Mums offers specialist pregnancy and postnatal Pilates classes for in St Albans and online. We also bring in a variety of other elements from nutrition to relaxation and more, creating a supportive, non-competitive environment for you to gain confidence and strength. If you have abdominal separation, pelvic floor issues (a little bit of wee is NOT normal!) or are unsure how to manage pain when exercising then please get in touch as we believe we can help you! The way you treat your body during pregnancy and your postnatal years will stay with you for the rest of your life. We want to teach as many women as possible how to look after their pregnant and postnatal bodies, and how to connect to their body so they can exercise safely, effectively and in a way that is sustainable for the rest of their lives.