So, your beautiful baby has arrived. This is now the most important time in your life to exercise, but it can be difficult to find the time with a newborn needing your constant attention. If you can find just 5-10 minutes a day to dedicate to yourself, you will notice the changes quickly and your body will thank you for it!
It's recommended that you wait until 6 weeks postpartum before you start exercising again, but you can start pelvic floor exercises within 24 hours of giving birth. The weight of your uterus during pregnancy pushes down on the pelvic floor causing weakness, plus the process of giving birth can cause trauma on the muscles. Pelvic floor exercises increase blood flow to the area which will quicken the healing process and they also re-activate neural pathways so that you can improve motor control and strength. This will help prevent pelvic floor disorders, incontinence and long term back pain.
To activate your pelvic floor, think about lifting/pulling the muscles up through your front and back passage like an elevator. Start with a gentle contraction, lifting inwards and upwards to level 1, level 2 and then level 3. Hold the contraction for 6 seconds before slowly releasing, then do 6 short and quick contractions. Repeat 3 times, trying not to use your glutes or 6 pack muscles. Try to do this 3 times throughout the day. For more information on your pelvic floor, check out my other blog post here: https://www.alpinepilates.co.uk/post/pelvicfloor
Pelvic floor exercises increase blood flow to the area which will quicken the healing process and they also re-activate neural pathways so that you can improve motor control and strength.
During pregnancy, the soft connective tissue called the linea alba connecting the rectus abdominis muscles starts to stretch as your tummy gets bigger to make space for your baby. The muscles usually don't come back together straight away after birth and if the space between them is more than 2 fingers wide then it is called Diastisis Recti. This causes instability, so one of the first steps after your 6 week check up is to start strengthening the deep transverse abdominis muscles to help pull these outer core muscles back together.
Once you've had the all clear from your Dr. to start exercising again, here are a few great exercises to get you started:
Deep abdominal breathing
Lying on your back, find a neutral spine position. Melt your ribs down and inhale deeply into your abdominal area through your nose, allowing your tummy to expand outwards. As you exhale through your mouth, pull your abdominals in towards your spine, flattening the abdominal wall. Try to envision your transverse abdominis (TVA) wrapping around your torso, as if pulling your abdominals back together. Repeat 6 times. You can also do this exercise on your hands and knees or standing.
Start in supine position with your knees and feet hip distance apart and your back in neutral. Breathe naturally, as you exhale slide one leg slowly away from your body and then return. Repeat other side. Focus on stability, think about your TVA wrapping around your torso and make sure your tummy isn’t bracing outwards. You must keep your back in neutral the whole time, you should be able to slide a piece of paper under there but not your whole hand. The next level is to reach your opposite arm over your head at the same time. This gives you less support so make sure you feel stabilized using your core.
Similar to leg slide but slightly more challenging. In supine, slowly float one leg up to table top position and then down again. Your shin should be parallel to the floor when you get to the top and keep the same angle in your knee the whole way up and down. Think about all the same pointers as with leg slide - stability, control, neutral spine, abdominal wall flattening etc. Add the opposite arm for an extra challenge. If your back arches or your tummy braces outwards and you are unable to correct it, stick to the leg slide until you feel stronger.
Sit tall with knees bent, hands holding back of thighs and feet on the floor. Set your shoulders into neutral and activate your core, just by sitting up tall you are strengthening your spinal extensors and front core! Pull in your pelvic floor muscles and slowly start to round your lower back, then middle back, then upper back one vertebrae at a time. Think about pulling your abdomen inwards and away from your legs and then articulate the spine to roll back up to a tall seated position. If you start to feel strong and confident with this one you can let go of your thighs and have your arms out in front of you as you roll back and up.
If you're in the Chamonix Mont-Blanc area come try out one of my Postnatal Pilates courses, otherwise I offer private and group classes via Zoom. Let me know in the comment box if you have any questions!