I've been getting so many enquiries from new mums about what is considered "safe" exercise during the first 6 weeks postpartum. This can be for a number of reasons, mum had a fit pregnancy, and is missing the exercise aspect, or mum is looking in the mirror and thinking "Who is this person looking back at me??" to name a few.
Let's look at it from a different perspective. If you severely sprained your ankle, would you be doing box jumps a week after injury? No! Remember, pregnancy and birth (by whichever means your baby enters the world) causes an injury to your body (core and pelvic floor to be exact..) And just like any other injury, the best thing to do is to rest the injury for at least 6 weeks and then slowly re-introduce safe exercises to rehabilitate the injury.
So what should I not be doing?
Let's take a look at the big no-no's first. You should avoid:
Another thing to think about is how you get out of bed. Do you just sit up (placing extra strain on your already compromised core), or do you turn onto your side and get up from that position? I know it's hard when you are finally in a deep sleep and bub screams, awakening you thinking the apocalypse is upon you, but always try and turn onto your side first, and get up safely. (Your body will thank you in the long run!)
So what can I do?
Now that we got the don't out of the way, let's talk about what you can do in the first 6 weeks.
Enjoy your baby
All above things considered, my advice to all new mums is to not worry too much about getting active too quick. If you feel you "NEED" it for your sanity, you definitely have got some options. But don't push too hard, don't jump straight back into how you were training before pregnancy. You have a long road to recovery ahead, take it slow and you will reap the rewards later. Being patient now will help you to bounce back stronger than ever when your body is ready! For now, enjoy this special time with your little baby. They are only little for a little while - cherish every second!
You've just been through 9 months of physical and hormonal changes, while growing a human (or a few humans) inside your body. Your activity levels haven't been what they used to be, and even if you had a "fit-pregnancy" you toned down your regular activity. Getting the baby out is by no means an easy feat, regardless of whether you have a vaginal delivery or a c-section. And when the baby is out, you are still stuck with a big tummy! Many women expect it all to deflate to regular size instantaneously, and in a way I do blame Hollywood and celebrities for creating false expectations.
Let's talk some mechanics for a bit..
During pregnancy your body releases a hormone called relaxin to help your joints to relax. This makes the whole birthing process possible - imagine trying to squeeze a baby out if your pelvis was still rigid. This hormone is found in your body for about 6 months after giving birth. What that means is that your joints are compromised and any jarring movement (running, jumping etc) can cause an injury. And looking after a newborn while nursing a joint injury won't be much fun...
Also, regardless of your birthing method, the weight of the baby places an immense stress on your pelvic floor. Many women suffer from Stress Urinary Incontinence as a result of pregnancy (peeing while you sneeze, cough, jump or anything else is not normal..) and some even struggle with Pelvic Floor Organ Prolapse. I strongly recommend that EVERY woman should have a proper pelvic floor examination by a qualified Physiotherapist post birth to determine what (if any) damage has been done.
And then there is the good old core.... If I had a dollar for every time a mother has said to me "what core?" I could retire today. A good pregnancy fitness regime delivered by a prenatal qualified fitness professional can try and protect your core as much as possible, however every woman will have some degree of abdominal separation (Diastasis Recti) after giving birth. Again - it is just one way of accomodating the growing baby - your muscles seperate to make room. Completely normal. As your body enters its natural healing process straight after birth, the body sorts that out. But by 6 weeks post-birth about 53% of women still have a Diastasis Recti (some more severe than others..) Planks, crunches and sit ups won't help your core to get stronger, in fact - it will just make your Diastasis Recti worse! Seeing a physiotherapist or someone qualified in postnatal rehab will help to show you some safe exercises that can help you heal from the inside out.
Low Pressure Fitness is probably the best way to get the above issues sorted, but if you don't have a qualified trainer in your area, there are other ways to heal up and strengthen again.
So how do I get my pre-baby body back?
Like I said before, I've been there. As a new mum, your body confidence is shot, you don't fit into any of your old clothes, and how the heck does Princess Catherine walk out of the maternity ward mere hours after giving birth and look like she stepped off the front page of Cosmo????
As a mum, and a trainer of new mums with many years experience in postnatal recovery, my advice? Throw out your scales and enjoy your baby. Everybody is different, some bounce straight back after birth, others lose all the weight while breastfeeding, some don't lose any, and some poor sods (like me) gain weight when breastfeeding!
What is most important after giving birth is:
Pregnancy and giving birth (regardless of delivery method) is a big deal. And no person should be back into their regular fitness routine straight after delivery (or their 6-week check-up for that matter). Embrace your flabby bits and stretch marks for now - you grew a human and that makes you awesome! Take it slow and easy - your body needs proper rehabilitation and your core and pelvic floor will need some good recovery exercises to strengthen up and provide a good foundation for you to build on. Make sure you get in touch with a good pelvic floor physio or a Personal Trainer who specialises in Postnatal recovery to get you back on track. Below are some services offered by Chess PT to help new mums on the path to recovery!
Enjoy your babies!
I am super excited to be the first qualified instructor in Queensland - and if you have spoken to me over the last few days, you would know that I am super excited about this amazing new technique! I can honestly ramble on for hours and hours, talking about the technique, the benefits, how it has been the norm in postnatal training for years overseas and how you can benefit from adding it into your regular workout regime. BUT, you don't have hours, and if you would like to learn more, make an appointment or come along to the workshop that I am planning for November.
Here are some basic questions that I have received, and the answers.
1) What is Low Pressure Fitness?
Low Pressure Fitness is a holistic approach to core and posture training that doesn't focus on your active muscles (that you would normally train during a core exercise, kegel exercise or any other strength type exercise), but rather on your passive muscles (which by the way makes up most of your core and pelvic floor) to improve your overall muscle tone. The benefits of this is that with regular training, your posture will improve, pelvic floor incontinence will improve (as you won't need to think about bracing before a simple move like coughing or sneezing), diastasis recti (or separation of the abdominal muscles as a result of weight gain or pregnancy) will improve, your respiratory output will improve, the list goes on and on!
2) Will I get fit doing this?
In short - no. But, you wouldn't build a house on a weak foundation would you? So why would you build your fitness on a weak foundation? With Low Pressure Fitness, you will work all those muscles required to build a strong core (or foundation) in a whole different way, which in turn would set you up for more success when you do your regular training.
3) So it's just breathing?
Yes and no... Yes the breathing technique is the basis of the workout, but the different poses will help to release the different myofascial chains in your body. People who I have done this technique with cannot believe that just standing in a certain position can be so hard! So Low Pressure doesn't mean easy. It just means safe for most.
4) Are there any contra-indications?
Can everyone breathe? Yes! So really, the Low Pressure fitness technique can be adapted for anyone. Make sure you do these exercises under the supervision of a QUALIFIED trainer, and you will be safe. The trainer will make adaptations based on your individual condition.
5) Will I still feel like I've had a workout?
No, because you haven't trained your active muscles, however you will feel pulling and stretching in places you haven't felt, and you will feel taller, and more "open".
I hope that covers your basic questions about this amazing technique that is currently being taught to health professionals in hospitals in Europe.
For further information - contact me directly by clicking here. Always happy to discuss further!