If you’re a new mother you may be overwhelmed and have lots of questions about your body. Without a doubt, a woman’s new postpartum body has gone through a tremendous amount of change.
Do you know there’s a difference between common postpartum issues versus abnormal issues? I’m here to help clarify what’s common.
As a mom of twins, and personal trainer specializing in postnatal fitness for over a dozen years, I believe it’s important for moms to understand how and why their body is changing after giving birth. With the right exercises and professional assistance, you can regain your strength and feel like your pre-pregnancy self sooner than later. Below are a few of my favorites FAQs, along with tips on how to ease back into a fitness routine.
Q: Do I really have to wait six weeks to exercise?
A: Yes please. Making a baby is a lot of work. Initially, the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles are in a REHAB phase; it’s important to minimize jarring – such as running. Hormonal effects will be present 6-16 weeks postpartum and will contribute to continued joint laxity and possible hot flashes. That, along with sore breasts, vaginal bleeding, weakened pelvic floor muscles, and abdominal and pelvic organs rearranging to their pre-pregnancy locations… definitely means it’s in your best interest to listen to your body and allow it to recover before easing back into exercise.
Q: If I had a cesarean section, when can I return to exercise?
A: A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery. Recovery from surgery will vary from individual to individual. And like any major surgery, it is advisable to seek physical therapy afterward. A physical therapist’s work is incredibly valuable to promote tissue healing and to prescribe therapeutic exercises to regain abdominal strength. A therapist can perform soft tissue work (different than massage work) to break up any adhesions in the scar and around the incision site. Your scar area should not hurt, tingle, pucker, or cause discomfort after it’s fully healed. When you return to your healthcare provider for your six-week check-up inquire about physical therapy. The sooner you seek support after surgery, the better.
Q: What type of exercises can I do after the baby is born?
A: Deep belly breaths are simple and the most effective exercise to practice to re-engage core muscles. Pelvic floor muscles were stressed throughout your entire pregnancy and are the main muscle group responsible for pushing your baby out during delivery. These muscles together with their surrounding tissue help stabilize other muscles in our body, support abdominal muscles, and can prevent back pain and urine leaks when working properly. Even if you had a cesarean section, starting deep belly breaths will help restore muscle memory. It is common that you will experience urinary leakage the first few weeks after childbirth—but it’s not normal if you continue to leak three or four months later, or a year later. Practicing deep belly breaths can help to restore pelvic muscle strength. Be your best advocate and share with your doctor if you continue to leak urine weeks after your child is born, there is help.
Q: I’m supposed to be happy but I’m really sad, is this normal?
A: There are so many emotions that come along with motherhood: happiness, love, joy, and excitement. But there also could be mixed emotions such as feeling overwhelmed, sad, moody, or anxious. These mixed emotions are not unusual, and most new moms have temporary mild symptoms of depression mixed with feelings of happiness after having a baby.
The “baby blues” is a short-lived period of mild depression postpartum and extremely common among new moms, affecting up to 85% of new moms, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Alarmingly, one in ten of these women will experience the most severe form of the baby blues, postpartum depression (PPD).
Recent studies have shown staying active and exercising after birth can be helpful in reducing symptoms of depression. Know that you are not alone, seek out a support group in your area or call a hotline dedicated to postpartum depression, 1-800-PPD-MOMS (1-800-773-6667).
Q: I’ve started exercising again and heard about an abdominal wall separation. What is it, and how will I know if I have a separation?
A: A separation in the abdominal wall is called Rectus Diastasis. Diastasis may occur during the late stages of pregnancy. It is a condition in which the two large parallel bands of muscles that meet in the middle of the abdomen separate due to thin or weakened soft tissue. It doesn’t hurt, and you may not even be aware that it exists. But it’s important to check. A significant separation may lead to increased low back pain, pelvic instability, urinary leakage, or reduced functional strength of the abdominal wall. (Read more FAQ’s about Diastasis here.) Ask your healthcare provider to check for a separation at your postpartum check-up. A minor separation may repair itself without any intervention. There are specific exercises that can be prescribed to help mend a more significant separation. Regardless if you have a separation, it’s imperative to restore the strength of deep abdominal muscles after pregnancy.
Q: I want to return to exercise safely but where do I begin?
A: It is important to have a targeted fitness program to help restore your core strength after childbirth. Active Moms’ Club can help guide you. Coach Cassandra’s From the Core: Postnatal Recovery class will help you ease back into exercise safely, re-engage your core muscles so that you have the foundational strength to return to your favorite workouts. Regardless of your fitness level going into pregnancy, a strategic course of recovery is critical to avoid unnecessary injuries.
Since the live-streaming class is designed to work with your recovering body targeting issues such as abdominal wall separation, weak pelvic floor muscles, cesarean section – the exercises get progressively more challenging.
You’ll discover that a few minutes of exercise each day will quickly add up to feeling stronger and more empowered. By the end of our 4 weeks together, you’ll have more confidence about what your post-baby body can do, and be inspired to take time for your own self-care.
Plus, you may experience greater sexual satisfaction and fewer episodes of incontinence once you complete the course. To learn more about this 4-week virtual fitness experience, click here.