After the rigors of childbirth – whether naturally or a cesarean – your body needs to be rejuvenated to restore normal physiology, particularly the core and pelvic floor. Hence the absolute need for postnatal exercise. If you don’t or if it’s not done correctly you can leave yourself open to possible injury during exercise or post-pregnancy problems such as hip and back pain or problems with incontinence.
Postnatal exercise will help you:
• Restore the normal health of your body
• Improve energy levels
• Improve psychological wellbeing
• Help you get back in shape
• Minimise post birth complaints
• Optimise future birthing experiences
When can you resume exercise?
Focus of exercise
Unless there have been complications and as long as you feel comfortable you can resume exercise within a few weeks. If you had a caesarean get your doctor’s clearance – after at least six weeks.
The focus of postnatal exercise is on the rehabilitation of the core and pelvic floor. Naturally all exercise should be gentle and very progressive.
The core and pelvic floor
After child birth it is an absolute must to restrengthen the pelvic floor and transverse abdomens – that support the spine and hips. This is very important to prevent hip and back pain, minimize problems with incontinence and prevent a puffy looking tummy. You must strength the core before engaging in traditional exercise. If you don’t you may get an injury due to the lack of pelvic / lumbar stability.
Rectus abdomens diastases
This refers to the separation that occurs in the abs – the lineal Alba. You should not engage in sit-ups or planks to strengthen the abs and tone the tummy. Instead, the focus must be upon the deeper, core muscles mentioned above. Postnatal core exercises should be small and subtle with more of a physic feel than traditional exercises you would have done before baby.
Due to the changes in the center of gravity during pregnancy, there may be postural issues to address around the neck, mid-back, and lower back. A safe exercise program should look to assess these areas for the inclusion of postural re-correcting exercises – to help prevent ongoing issues such as a sore neck, upper or lower back.
The best exercise to do on your own for general wellbeing is walking as it is simple, safe, effective and can be done with baby.
Walk before you run
Do not return to pre-pregnancy exercise routines. Start with a gentle whole body strengthening program, core exercises and walking. Do not run before you have strengthened your core!
Postnatal exercise should be low-impact and moderate, such as:
• Moderate weight training
Your weekly postnatal exercise plan
• 2 whole body strength workouts
• Daily walking for 30-40 mines plus
• Specific core and pelvic floor exercises 3-4 times per week
Refer to the Postnatal Exercise Program for a whole body and core workout
You must avoid:
Certain exercises are inappropriate and dangerous for postnatal exercise, these include:
• Heavy weights
• Intense exercise
• Running and skipping
• Explosive jumping movements
• Isometric exercises (static holds)
• Crunches and planks
When to return to traditional exercise
Once you have completed 6 weeks of postnatal specific exercise you can start to resume prebaby workouts and more complex and challenging exercises. However, do not do too much too soon!
Postnatal exercise is imperative for restoring a normal level of pre-baby health and fitness to help you enjoy being a busy mum with energy and vitality and minimize post pregnancy complaints.
Here is a summary of the do’s and don’ts of postnatal exercise.
• Core and pelvic floor exercises should be performed 3-4 times per week
• Start fast walking for safe and moderate cardio exercise
• Start a moderate whole body strength exercise program with a focus on core work for overall health and fitness
• Consider medical clearance if you are unsure when to start. Get clearance from your doctor if you have had a caesarean
• Don’t return to pre-baby exercise routines
• Don’t do too much too soon
• Do not do sit ups and planks to strengthen your abs
• Avoid intense exercise, heavy loads, and jumping movements such as skipping.