The first thing to take into consideration when easing back into a fitness routine is to be realistic and patient. It took around 40 weeks to form the pregnant body and it could take nearly as long to fully return to your pre-pregnancy physical self. Birth is a transforming event. No matter if your labor is quick, long or surgical, the body undergoes a huge transformation to expel a baby.
1. Starting Back Slowly
As a general rule, I recommend that women do not return to postnatal or mommy and me yoga until their bleeding has stopped. If a woman gave birth via cesarean section, she needs to wait 6 weeks before rejoining class. If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, then you can actually be setting yourself back from real recovery. That of course does not mean you need to be held hostage in your house for 6 weeks. A walk can be considered a good start to your road back!
2. Watch For Your Bleeding to Stop
Once you do embark on some heavier activities, pay attention to signs from your body. Some women find that their bleeding that had tapered down starts to get heavier again, which is a sign that the body needs more time to heal.
3. How Is Your Pelvic Floor?
Also, if the pelvic floor is weak, putting intra-abdominal pressure (like crunches, pilates or general ab work) can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor and inhibit healing or even lead to a chance of organ prolapse. One of the first forms of exercise you can start to incorporate daily can be a kegel routine, restrengthening or even re-familiarizing yourself with your pelvic floor muscles.
4. Repairing Diastasis
It is very common that women experience a separation of the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominals — aka the six-pack muscles. Your care provider can check this for you when you return for your six week check up. If it is severe enough, you may need to work with a physical therapist to help draw the muscles back together. So, when easing back to an abdominal workout, be mindful not to overdo it. It is also advised not to do extremely deep twisting poses which can also inhibit the muscles from repair.
Have Your Abs Separated After Pregnancy?
5. Wiggly, Wobbly Joints
Relaxin, the hormone that is responsible for softening the ligaments and joints during pregnancy and childbirth, can stay in the body for up to six months postpartum. This can lead to wobbly, unstable joints and a loose pelvis. Again, just be mindful that the activity your choose is not too jerky in movement.
6. Find All Sorts of Exercise!
You do not need to attend a scheduled class to start to return to a general fitness routine. As I mentioned earlier, walking is a great place to start: don’t discount walking as a gentle cardiovascular exercise! Try swimming. The nice thing about swimming is that it is gentle on the joints and pelvic floor, and is great for strengthening the core and back muscles.
Once you do start to ease back into your routine, please remember to hydrate well, especially if you are breastfeeding. If you are out for a stroll with your baby, put your water bottle in the cup holder as a reminder to drink often.
Even though many new moms hear the old saying, sleep when your baby sleeps, very few (I believe) adhere to these wise words. So, including a few moments to simply relax post-workout can really help replenish you. If you are feeling rested and restored, you will have so much more to offer to those that need you.