Having a baby is a joyful yet challenging time, both mentally and physically. Although exercise may be the last thing on your mind in the early days, it can be a really beneficial way of energising and strengthening the body.
When you have the time and motivation to focus on starting to exercise again, it is vital to go about it the right way – safely and respecting your body. Whether you’re doing yoga, or wanting to hit the gym, it is important to be knowledgeable about the many physiological adaptations made in the body to accommodate pregnancy and childbirth. Even if you feel physically the same, it is worth being mindful of what has happened internally and to take care of your pelvis, hips and core, especially during exercise.
Abdominals: The rectus abdominis muscles will separate to accommodate the growing foetus, and although in lots of cases they close by themselves after birth, it is good to encourage this healing with beneficial core exercises. This stretching and separation of the abdominals also cause the core to be weaker which can, therefore, impact posture, resulting in lower back pain. So these muscles should be engaged and strengthened as much as possible.
Pelvic Floor: This will have stretched and become weaker in the later stages of pregnancy and through childbirth. Whether you had a vaginal birth or C-Section, you will need to work to strengthen your pelvic floor. Benefits include including reducing the risk of incontinence, supporting the internal organs, promoting good posture and improving sexual sensation. If there is any feeling of pressure, or leaking when exercising it is advised to stop what you’re doing and go back to pelvic floor activation. Go to see a women’s health physio for a check-up as leaking is not something as women we should accept. It is a sign of pelvic floor weakness and could indicate incontinence in later life, so is definitely worth tackling now.
According to NHS advice, you can start with gentle exercise such as walking and pelvic floor or tummy exercises as soon as you feel up to it but should wait until after your six week post-natal check to start high impact exercise like running or aerobics. If you had a complicated birth or caesarean, your recovery time will be longer and it's best to speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP before taking part in any strenuous activities.
Pre & post-natal trainer Hannah Mummy Mills gives her top post-birth exercises to strengthen the abdominals and glutes, as well as stretch out the chest, back and hips:
7 great post-natal exercises:
1. Glute Bridge (with yoga block/cushion)
A great exercise to strengthen both the glutes and core.
Begin lying flat on your back with the knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Place a yoga block or cushion between your knees – keeping your feet hip width apart. This will provide your pelvis with more stability. Inhale, and as you exhale begin tucking your pelvis under rolling up through the spine, engaging the glutes. Once you reach the top point – ensure your ribs aren’t flaring – inhale, and as you exhale lower down through the spine.
Aim for 6-10 reps, moving consciously with control.
PROGRESSION: once you have stability through your pelvis, remove the yoga block/cushion.
Doing your pelvic floor exercise daily can help to prevent any leaks of urine or faeces, control wind, whilst also providing support to the pelvic bones. Having strong muscles around the pelvis can help to prevent pelvic girdle pain in future pregnancies.
Meet the expert: Hannah Mummy Mills is a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Her #StrongMamaGuide postpartum workout plan is available HERE, helping mums return to exercise with confidence post-birth. Exclusive M&B reader 20% off discount code: MOTHERANDBABY20
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