by Lauren Allen, Pre and Post Natal Fitness Instructor
Physical activity post partum is a great way to slowly start to build up your fitness levels and aid in recovery. As well as the physical benefits such as increased circulation, muscular and skeletal strength and aiding in injury prevention our mental health can also benefit, improving our mood and also giving us an endorphin rush.
Readiness to return back to exercise will depend on the individual and their experience during pregnancy and birth. Birth injuries and C sections may delay the return to exercise and at your 6 week doctor check your doctor will be able to advise whether they think you are ready to slowly introduce low impact, low intensity exercise. Its important to remember that even if you are given the all clear you are still in recovery and your body is still adjusting to life without a bump, your hormones are still unbalanced and you now have to take in to account disturbed sleep patterns and if you are breastfeeding which will have an affect on your energy and exercise recovery.
Exercise places stress on the body so its sensible early post partum to focus on recovery and rehabilitation rather than focusing simply on weight loss. The exercise and workouts you do need to have purpose in the long run, our bodies have faced weight shifts and our ligaments and joints have been affected due to hormones. The hormone Relaxin stays present in the body for up to 12 months post partum – this means we should keep similar caution as we did in pregnancy keeping exercise low impact this will protect the joints and also the pelvic floor.
Your pelvic floor should take priority in early post partum care. The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that support our bladder, bowel and uterus. It comes under huge strain during pregnancy and birth and when weakened can be the cause for prolapse as well as incontinence. Depending on any complication in your pregnancy and/or birth pelvic floor exercises can be introduced early alongside basic breathing exercises and pelvic tilts to prepare for further core exercises a little later down the line.
Our core also goes through some drastic changes during pregnancy, the abdominals can separate to make room for a growing bump, this is known as diastasis recti and is incredibly common to last post partum as well. The majority of the time this separation can heal but any strain or stress against the area can slow down the recovery process – so don’t rush straight in to the abdominal exercises. Avoid crunches and heavy lifting, particularly over head.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise that can be introduced early post partum, it is low impact and can also been done with baby at any fitness level. The fresh air will also benefit both mother and baby just remember to wrap up warm if its cold and if it’s sunny keep shaded.
Exercising too intensely post partum can do more harm than good, even if your mind is telling you you are ready, your body may not fully be. Go easy on yourself and try not to put pressure on yourself, your body has gone through a lot and will need time to progress.