As an Exercise Physiologist and Women's Health Expert, I want to talk to you about the importance of exercising during the postpartum period and the associated myths of your postpartum journey.
I want you to maintain a healthy pregnancy for many reasons:
- Cardiovascular strength
- Musculoskeletal health
- Pelvic health
But what does this actually mean in relation to your postpartum journey?
Let’s start with the most annoying piece of advice out there. Sleep when your baby sleeps. My response to that… shall I also do laundry when the baby does laundry? And do my taxes when the baby does their taxes? This blog is not about that kind of advice, rest assured! I know you’re not going to want to move with this fresh little beauty right in front of you. I’m not asking you to run a mile, not yet anyway! I’m wanting you to re-frame your way of thinking about exercise during postpartum.
How Much is Too Much?
I’m a HUGE advocate for early intervention. I want you to start thinking of your postpartum journey with your Coach hat on.
Now, Coach: Your best player broke her arm and has been in a sling for 6 weeks. You’ve just taken the cast off, yeeeeah it stinks, and you want her, to what? Jump straight into the Grand Final against our rivals New Zealand? No chance, you’re fired.
Coach hat off, New Mum hat on: You’ve just had your baby. I don’t want you hitting any crazy milestones of 150 minutes of Heart Rate increasing activity a day. No. I want you to think about that player. What are some gentle ways of getting this player back into the game?
How about ensuring she’s still a part of the team, get her socializing with her crew again. Ensure her medical team is happy with her starting with isolated exercises again. Ensure she’s still maintaining contact with her crew. Asking her what her goals are outside of the team, maybe she used to play the guitar and that’s a big deal for her to return to. Did I mention keep her close with her crew?
Do you see what I’m putting down? I want you to start reframing your 0-6 week postpartum journey as this:
- Stay connected as best as you can with your crew; family, Mum’s group, friends
- Make sure you are comfortable reconnecting your brain to your muscles
- Do this gently. Guidance from a health practitioner is key. Be sure to look at your team's credentials and make sure they have what they say they have! I’ve found a lot of online influencer's claim to have certificates that they just don’t have, disappointing but important to look into!
- Your 6 week clearance is for the Grand Final! Frightening right?!? How do you get from fresh out of a cast to playing in a Grand Final?! I’m going to explain right at the end. Keep reading!
Abdominal Birth Vs Vaginal Birth, When can I Start these Movements You're Talking About?
No, I’m just joking. Not about the answer though! The birthing of your baby has very little to do with your postpartum journey. OF COURSE there’s wound care for abdominal births but as you start making your way through this period, you’re going to start getting a better understanding that it’s all about the pressure control in your abdominal cavity over the “way” you gave birth.
Something that all births have potential to go towards, is pelvic organ prolapse.
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when we do not have the correct control of the pressure in our abdominal cavity. Meaning "bearing DOWN". We want to keep lifted, tall. Think about keeping your organs light and away from any stress and straining to force it through your vagina or rectum. I speak extensively about this in my Masterclasses. If you’re interested in joining one of them, please get in touch below and ask about when the next one is! I host them every month!
OK, I Think I'm With You, So What Exercises Should I Start With?
From 0-6 weeks, I don’t want you “exercising” exactly. I want you reconnecting to your body. Allowing your brain to find its muscles again, find its body again without the belly!
Some movements to try:
- Sitting cross legged on a pillow. Inhaling into your rib cage. Exhaling and connecting your superficial pelvic floor and lifting your deep pelvic floor. Try this for 10 slow breaths a couple of times throughout the day.
- Try the above on your hands and knees - A HUH! Harder. You’re correct. Our pelvic floor needs to be able to connect correctly, in different positions. Why? We don’t sit on pillows in a quiet space all the time, damn it! SO we need to give it the opportunity to activate and relax in different positions.
- Mermaid stretches. Hold this position and try to encourage your breath into one side of your ribs (the one that’s open). Feel how your breath can stretch muscles and fascia. It’s phenomenal. See below!
These are the types of movements I go through in my “The Transition” package. You don’t have to be in your 0-6 week phase to try these classes out either. I send a lot of women to these classes who’ve had kids 23 years ago but have an inability to connect with their breath and pelvic floor. I just want you to be different. The Mum who’s proactive, who reads up on your pregnancy and journey ahead. That’s why you’re here right! So take those next steps into pro-activity and try some of these classes out.
What Are The Signs That My Body Isn't Ready to Start Exercising Yet?
Watch out for warning signs, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Vaginal pain
- Other fluid leakage (i.e. urine or feces)
- Heaviness in your pelvic region or the drooping of pelvic floor organs, including the vagina, bladder, rectum or uterus (which could be a sign of pelvic organ prolapse)
When Can I Get Back Into F45 or Spin?
Complications during labor definitely slow down the time to return to these high intensity activities. My biggest biggest biggest rule of thumb for any other questions like this one is this. What is your confidence in controlling the pressure in your tummy?
If it isn’t 10, I don’t encourage ANY of my clients to participate in this kind of activity until they know. Even if you haven’t had a child, I don’t want to see you using your abs in the wrong way. When women jump into strong global activities such as these two, they tend to rely heavily on those powerhouse muscle groups and their smaller, closer to the spine muscles, chill out and take a seat. I need you to be fully aware of the recruitment
of your muscles. Pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, THEN GLOBAL. Does that make sense?
Is There Anything I Should Know About Exercising If I'm Breastfeeding?
Vigorous workouts can temporarily change the levels of lactic acid in your milk. This won’t change the nutritional benefits of your milk, but your baby won’t have a bar of it.
Maybe obvious, maybe not - feed before you exercise - because, ouch.
Do I Let Pain Guide My Workouts?
Pain is not gain here, or ever really? Please always let YOUR perceived pain levels guide your practice. It is your body, no one else's. No one else is going through this journey with your body, so please make sure you’re listening to your body this entire time. Please be kind to your body.
You’ve just done the most iiiincredible thing us humans can do on this planet (in my opinion anyway) and you should be soo proud of yourself. I know I am!
60-Minute Self-Care Postpartum Must Do
Rebecca Pilates on-demand postpartum class wearing postnatal recovery shorts for a little extra support during your class. Then, draw yourself a bath, pop in the bath salts and have a cup of organic nursing tea and relax for 20 minutes. When you’re ready to get out, I highly recommend sitting on a perineal ice pack. The contrast of the hot bath, followed by the ice pack will force quick blood flow in and out of the perineum, assisting with reducing inflammation and soreness. To top off your fabulous self-care routine, nourish your skin and there you have it - a whole new woman!
Remember, postpartum exercise is not about "bouncing back" to your pre-baby body, but rather about healing and strengthening your body in a safe and sustainable way. By prioritizing your physical and mental health, you will be better equipped to take care of your little one and enjoy this beautiful and transformative journey of motherhood.
If the Rebecca Pilates prenatal and postpartum packages sound like something you need to incorporate into your pregnancy, as a lucky reader, you get 15% off both Holistically Me and The Transition. Click on the package for more information and use code QUEENBEE15 for the discount at check out!
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTOR:
Bec is an Exercise Physiologist and Women's Health Expert. She has been working with women for over 10 years, specifically helping women with pre/post partum and cycle syncing. Bec has recently returned to Australia with her husband, after living in Vancouver for the past 5 years, and is loving being back on the Australian coastline.