3 tips + a bonus: How Return to Exercise after Giving Birth
1. Start gently:
Whether you have given birth naturally or had a caesarean section, the end stages of pregnancy and giving birth take a toll on your body. Take into account the kind of exercise you did before you were pregnant and while you were pregnant and gradually build back up to those levels.
By the end of your pregnancy, you have a full-grown baby weighing down on your pelvic floor, stretching it out and causing the muscles to weaken. When returning to exercise, practice performing a gentle contraction of your pelvic floor to help train it back to its pre-pregnancy strength and endurance and make sure you are doing your pelvic floor/kegel exercises daily.
3. Make sure you don’t return to:
High impact exercises too soon after giving birth. One reason is that you want to protect and strengthen your pelvic floor prior to participating in exercise where you are bouncing around (eg netball or high intensity running) or putting high pressures through your pelvic floor (eg lifting heavy weights). The other reason is that you still have the hormone relaxin in your system which causes your ligaments to be lose and flexible, putting you at a higher risk of injury.
4. Abdominal separation:
To allow your baby to fit in your abdomen your 6 pack muscles need to stretch. All women will have a different degree of stretching of the connective tissue between their abdominals, some worse than others. Make sure you avoid “crunch” type activities and movements and to practice bracing to help guide the muscles back together and prevent this being an ongoing problem. If you are unsure if you are performing your pelvic floor and deep abdominal exercises correctly, seeing a women’s health physiotherapist can be a great way to find out and get tips on safely progressing your exercises.
Emily Georgopoulos (APAM)
POGO Women’s Health Physio