As a new mum, you generally forget about yourself and look after everyone else. Hands down it's about survival. However, I'm here to remind you the 1st 8 weeks are by far the best time for your body to recover!
Research has shown the best recovery gains in your stomach muscle separation and function are within the 1st 8 weeks. Don't freak out, there are very easy and gentle exercises that you can do at home within this time frame, none of which put your pelvic floor muscles at risk.
Here's 5 easy things to do.
1. Work on your pelvic floor from day one! This is so vital and important. Make sure your pelvic floor muscles are working, strong and able to hold everything in. You can start activating your pelvic floor muscles 24 hours after giving birth, regardless of the way you gave birth. Remember you may not be able to feel much happening down there and it may hurt. Keep going slowly and start to connect the pathway from your brain to your muscles by trying daily.
2. Have your abdominal separation checked and go slow. Don’t even think about an abdominal crunch until your separation has been checked multiple times by health professionals and you feel strong within your pelvic floor. You have a window of 8 weeks post baby to really work on getting your separation as close together as it will go. See someone early and start gentle exercises early.
3. Start gentle lower tummy exercises. Transversus abdominis especially, this is a great muscle providing lower back, pelvis and stomach support. Start gently by lying on your back and trying to slowing draw your belly button to your spine without tilting/moving your bottom/pelvis or spine. This is a great one to help activate those deeper muscles to help with your abdominal separation. If you have a separation add gentle compressions with your hands to close the muscles together.
4. If you are keen to get back into running, surfing or more high impact exercise build up to it once your pelvic floor and deep stomach muscles are strong. You need to start by by building a base and this can be done with general walking. Move onto pilates, yoga and more dynamic exercises as you feel stronger, again ensuring your pelvic floor is working during your other exercises. Your hormones are still changing which means your muscles can't possible be at their maximum strength until 3 months post baby so don't even think about running or any high impact exercise before this time.
5. I'm all for women getting back into exercise and sport and reaching some kick arse goals but that takes time. This is the time to focus on strength, not weight loss or pre baby body etc. There is no such thing! Your body has gone through something amazing and is like nothing else you will ever go through. You can't possible expect your body to be like it was. That's way too much pressure on yourself. Relax, be kind to yourself and take away the pressure. Aim for strength and posture. The weight loss will come later.
I have seen some clients feel good and think their pelvic floor is strong and go back to the gym at 6 weeks post partum and end up with a prolapse. The inside takes time to recover and heal. Focus on healthy choices and gentle movement. My general rule is no running until you can hold your pelvic floor on for 10 full breaths while walking and even then not before 3 months post partum.
Hot tip: TAKE YOUR TIME! Your body needs nutrients to support you and your baby. Be healthy, eat good nutritious food and go slow getting back into exercise.
Remember it can take a year to recover from pregnancy and labour. Be patient and kind to yourself, you’re a mum now.
If this is too much for you to take in join our post baby recovery program and get all the exercises you need for your 1st 12 weeks. 10 exercises/week that are super gentle and don't take up much of your precious time. Click here for more info
I'm Melanie, a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.
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