A friend of mine just had a baby. She had a pretty tough labor and ended up having a c-section. Her doctor “checked” her at 6 weeks and said “things look fine” and then at 8 weeks she got the go ahead to exercise again. With nothing more than that. No check for Diastasis Recti. No review of pelvic floor dysfunction or prolapse. No guidance on what to begin with. What NOT to do. No details on parts of the body to focus on first and areas to go slower on. Literally nothing! Sound familiar? And if you had your baby years ago and feel like you haven’t ever fully recovered this one is for you too.
Why is it that postpartum exercise isn’t given more attention from our health system. It can help so much but it can hurt even more in the long run if you choose the wrong path. And it doesn’t help that there is a societal expectation that you look like you didn’t have a baby the day you have a baby. Like seriously so unrealistic! You are bombarded with all of these messages and offers of what to do to get the baby weight off FAST!
I know it’s hard to fight the temptation to jump (literally) back into your old fitness routines or a new fitness routine that promises sweat and soreness and dropping kilos, but doing so could actually do more harm than good. Your body has been through a lot with pregnancy and childbirth. Like A LOT!! I know modern society likes to downplay or ignore the magnificent feat that mothers go through to GROW and bring life into this world but ladies – this is a HUGE thing!!
You may not get the information or support from your doctors or your mum or grandma or even your friends but I’m here to tell you start small, build the foundations. Doing so will make your future exercise that much more effective. Because if you go too far too fast you risk serious and possibly lasting injury like Diastasis Recti, hernias, pelvic organ prolapse, SI Joint injury, etc. And then you have to take many, many steps backward or even have your future exercise options changed forever. Why not start at the start and care for your body like you would if you had an injury (pregnancy and childbirth is equivalent!).
Here are 5 symptoms to look for as you get back into exercise that suggest you are pushing yourself too far too fast.
1) Incontinence/Leakage is a sign that your pelvic floor muscles and deep abdominals are not yet strong enough to handle the exercises you are doing.
2)Pelvic pain, pressure or a feeling of heaviness in your pelvic floor is a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction or prolapse. If you have these symptoms, it is important that you visit a pelvic health physical therapist to assess what is going on and work with you to remedy the situation.
3)Doming or coning through the middle of your abdomen is a sign of a diastasis recti or separation of the linea alba between the two sides of the rectus abdominus (6-pack abs), which is normal for all women after pregnancy but doing the wrong exercises that create this doming effect can result in a prolonged or permanent diastasis that can lead to the low belly mummy pooch, back pain, and pelvic floor dysfunction.
4)Low back or hip pain is pretty common as a new mom but if exercise causes you more discomfort in these areas then take that as a sign that you need to slow down or modify your workout routine.
5)Exhaustion, out of breath, overly sore muscles is a pretty obvious sign that you’ve pushed it too far. Remember you are recovering from a major physical change and possibly major abdominal surgery as well if you had a c-section. Give yourself some grace and slow down so you can properly recovery.
If these are the signs your body is giving you, no matter how long since you gave birth, it’s time to listen and adjust your exercise program before you do long term damage.
This is one in a series of blogs on post natal recovery, to receive the next two instalments ‘5 exercises to avoid after having a baby’ and ‘5 Postnatal exercises to strengthen the Core’, sign up here.
Contact me on the details below to discuss your exercise needs to rebuild your strength after having a baby. All my Pilates mat classes teach correct core engagement and offer modifications for post-natal mums. My home equipment studio can provide smaller group classes or private sessions for more support.
Reach out, get help and move to nurture yourself.