Getting Back to Exercise after a Baby

When can I begin exercising after having a baby? 

What are the dos and don’ts when it comes to post-natal exercise?

Sarah Crosby, our Women’s Health Specialist Physiotherapist explains the numerous benefits of exercise and offers helpful tips to enable you to return to fitness and healthily begin to get your body back. Sarah is passionate about post-natal ‘health and wellbeing’ and educating women on post-natal recovery. 

It is so important to take a little time for yourself after you have given birth.  There is a lot you can do to help yourself get back in shape and get your fitness back.

There are a wealth of benefits from exercise:

·     Release of feel good hormones
·     An increase in energy
·     Post baby weight loss
·     Muscle strengthening
·     Socialising with other mums

The most important thing to start working is your “core”.  Your “core” muscles are your pelvic floor muscles, deep abdominal muscles (transversus abdominus), deep spinal muscles (multifidus) and diaphragm.  All of these muscles WILL have weakened in pregnancy and it is vital to strengthen these muscles first to set a solid foundation on which you can then begin to strengthen other muscles. 

Begin exercising the pelvic floor ASAP! You can do this very soon after giving birth no matter what type of delivery you had. You can do these exercises in a variety of positions; find the most comfortable for you. You could try lying on your side to do them, lying on your back or in sitting.  Many women do not know how to perform pelvic floor exercises correctly. Here is a couple of ways to think about it.

1)     Imagine squeezing and sealing off the urethra (as if to stop the flow of urine), hold this while you ‘squeeze’/close the anus (as if to stop wind) and gently lift.
2)     Think of a zip from your anus to your pubic bone and zip forward and up along this line

Ideally, you should be exercising your pelvic floor muscles 3 times a day, working on both long holds and short pulses. There are apps and feedback machines to help you strengthen the pelvic floor.

Elvie is an excellent example of a biofeedback device that connects to your smartphone and plays games with you to exercise your pelvic floor. It is easy to use and great to visualise what you are doing. It is also motivating as you can see that you are getting stronger.  Great examples of exercises to work the rest of your “core” are bridges, superman and heel slides. 

Look to see if there are any post natal exercise classes in your area, they are a great way to meet other mums whilst doing some exercise.

After pregnancy, some women may get a separation of their abdominal muscles (rectus diastasis).  When performing abdominal exercises watch out for any doming of the upper abdominal region.  If this occurs, stop doing the exercise.

You can begin some gentle walking when you feel able.  It is sensible to begin by gradually increasing walking and never push into pain.  Swimming is another great cardio exercise to begin with; you can start to swim seven days after you are clear from vaginal bleeding. 

From 6 weeks, you can start to increase the cardiovascular exercise.  It is a good idea to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist for a post-natal assessment.  They will check your abdominal, pelvic floor and a range of other muscles to advise you if there are any areas you need to strengthen.

It is vital to ensure you have excellent pelvic floor control before you begin running to avoid any injuries or pelvic floor problems.

Remember not to overdo it after your pregnancy.  Listen to your body, nourish your body, pace yourself and give yourself plenty of rest.

If you have any concerns with getting back to exercise such as experiencing pelvic pain, incontinence, a sensation of pelvic organ prolapse or any other joint pain then see your GP or a Women’s Health Physiotherapist for further advice. 

Article first published on Elvie.com 12 January 2018

Contact Us for further information, if you would like to speak to Sarah Crosby or book an appointment.   

 

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