We really don’t realise what an enormous event childbirth is and exactly what our bodies have been through! For this reason we don’t give any consideration to the fact that our bodies actually need to heal and recover and can often jump straight back into the exercise we were doing pre pregnancy!
What you also probably don’t know is that it doesn’t matter what type of delivery you had, whether the labour was straightforward or not, the fact is, tissues, tendons, deep core muscles and the pelvic floor have all been through some degree of trauma!
The body needs time to heal and this can be done with correct exercise and nutrition. If we jump straight back into previous activities, sports or other unsuitable exercise then the healing process will be delayed, and further damage may be caused!
So here are the top 5 things you need to consider before returning to exercise in the post natal period
Which is separation of the abdominal muscles that occurs during pregnancy. If you have a diastasis this means that your whole core is weak. The core plays some very important roles including improving posture, supporting your back, containing and protecting your internal organs and keeping us free from back and pelvic pain. Taking these points into consideration, we can start to understand why we need to heal a diastasis before commencing high impact exercises.
Did you know…it is also possible to give yourself or make a diastasis worse if you start doing the wrong types of exercise too soon. This is because the connective tissue between the abdominal muscles is weak so doing any exercise that causes intra abdominal pressure will push the muscles further apart!
2.PELVIC FLOOR WEAKNESS
The first thing that jumps to mind here is incontinence but this is covered in the next point.
I wanted to mention here one of the most important roles that the pelvic floor muscles play – supporting the bladder, uterus and bowels.
If your pelvic floor muscles are weak then they cannot do their job of holding the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel or uterus) in place, the end result being that they fall out of place! This is called a Prolapse and something you really want to try and avoid!
The pelvic floor muscles form a hammock at the base of the pelvis holding these organs in place, so imagine jumping, running and any other high impact activities that are bearing down on these already weak muscles! Not good!!
This occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are weak and cannot do their job in assisting bladder function.
Regardless of the many adverts we see on television that normalise incontinence by wearing a pad – this really ISN’T NORMAL.
So, if you are going to an exercise class or taking part in any other activities and you are peeing your pants then you need to STOP! You will only make the problem worse!
The good news is that this problem can be fixed through a corrective exercise programme.
4. POSTURAL CHANGES
Our posture changes significantly when we are pregnant. We tend to be more aware of this during pregnancy as our bump grows and the arch in our lower back gets bigger and we start to get back ache, however, after we have had the baby we are often not aware of our posture, apart from all the aches and pains we have suddenly acquired!
Changes in our posture are caused by some muscles becoming weak and lengthened while other muscles become tight. This means that the body is not moving optimally and other parts of the body have to over compensate to allow the body to move. This can have a huge effect on the outcome of our exercise programmes.
We also need to consider that in the short term it may only mean lots of niggly aches and pains but can lead to long term problems if not corrected.
If your posture has changed it is important that it is corrected with a suitable exercise programme that works towards releasing tight muscles and strengthening weak ones.
Did you know …. It is impossible to heal a diastasis and weak pelvic floor until your posture is corrected!
The hormone responsible for loosening our joints and ligaments to prepare the body for childbirth can stay in the body for as long as 6 months into the post natal period or for as long as you are breastfeeding.
Why is this important I hear you ask?
- Taking part in high impact exercise when the joints and ligaments are already loose is only going to cause them further long term damage
- It is very easy to over stretch your muscles when relaxin is present which again can cause long term damage
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m not saying you can’t do any exercise! We were made to move and need to keep moving so that we get the physical and mental benefits of exercising. What I am saying though, is that whatever exercise and movement you are doing needs to be right for you at this time.
It can take at least 12 months up to 2 years for your body to heal following childbirth which sounds like a long time but maybe compare this to the many years of your life ahead! Be kind to your body, give it the time it needs to heal and repair.