“I usually advise patients begin aerobic exercise two weeks after a vaginal birth and six weeks after C-section. It is always a good idea to start walking right away. I also encourage them to ease back into an exercise routine gradually.” – Dr. Jeremy Bell
So, after 9 months of pain exhaustion, mood swings, and food cravings, it’s time to whip your body back into the shape it was in. This can be a worrying exercise, no pun intended, to ponder for many mothers who have just had a newborn. However, there is evidence that seems to suggest that jumping back into a regular exercise routine is not only good for the mother, but also for the baby.
First, there are the obvious physical benefits such as weight loss, restoring your muscle strength as well as the conditioning of the abdominal muscles. Not to mention the more emotional or mental benefits, like improved mood, stress reduction and prevention of postpartum depression.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of cardiovascular activity, nothing too extreme. The very best postpartum exercises to do are a pelvic tilt and Kegel exercises.
(See video below)
Kegels can help maintain the strength in your pelvic-floor muscles during pregnancy, help get them back in shape after delivery and possibly prevent urinary incontinence. Bell said, “With Kegels, the goal is for prevention of future incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. An aggressive protocol would be sets of 10 three times per day.”
To do a Kegel, all you have to do is squeeze and hold those same vaginal muscles you use to control the flow of urine, for 10 seconds and then slowly release. Squeeze again and release quickly.
Also, if the pelvic floor is weak, putting intra-abdominal pressure (like crunches, pilates or general ab work) can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor and inhibit healing or even lead to a chance of organ prolapse and increased separation of the abdominal muscles.
Diastasis recti (separation of the abs) is most likely in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. The muscle separation often lessens in the months after childbirth. However, some degree of separation might remain up to a year after childbirth and beyond. Diastasis recti can weaken the abdominal muscles, causing lower back pain and making it difficult to lift objects or do other routine daily activities.
You might be more likely to develop diastasis recti as a result of pregnancy if you:
- Are older than 35
- Have a multiple pregnancy
- Deliver a baby who has a high birth weight
- Have repeated pregnancies
One of the first forms of exercise you can start to incorporate daily can be a kegel routine, re-strengthening or even re-familiarizing yourself with your pelvic floor muscles.
More than likely, your abdominal muscles are still weak, and possibly still stretched out, from your pregnancy. So instead of doing traditional abdominal exercises like crunches or sit-ups, you should start reconditioning your abdomen with post-pregnancy core exercises. Start by building a foundation of strength in your deepest abdominal muscle, your Transverse Abdominis, or TvA. Then progress to specialized postnatal exercises that include lower spine flexion which train the muscle to function properly as a stabilizer.
One of the BEST Exercises for Post Pregnancy Women (and all women) is the Prone Iso Ab. Also know as a bridge or plank!
Click HERE to get our full workout routine of our top 3 plank exercises.
It is very common that women experience a separation of the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominals — aka the 6-pack muscles. Your care provider can check this for you when you return for your 6 week check up. This is also why crunches are NOT recommended.
In a previous article, Adria wrote about the long term damage that crunches can do to you stomach, post pregnancy. This doesn’t mean “do nothing” it means, do the right exercises. This article shows one of my all time favorite exercises to help women fix their “post pregnancy belly” no matter how many years it’s been since your last child. This is a MUST READ!
Prepare your body for push-ups by learning how to do various plank exercises. These require a foundation of core strength, too, so start these after you’ve worked on your TvA. To get rid of your belly fat, you’ll most likely need to lose weight. “If weight loss is a goal postpartum, nothing burns calories better than breastfeeding. Also, remember to drink lots of water,” Bell said.
A few rules to follow Post Pregnancy – Diet:
1. Make 80% of your daily calories high quality.
2. Serve yourself just 80% of what you would normally take.
3. Stop eating when you feel 80% full.
Here is a full and gentle workout routine to help you regain the strength in your stomach muscles in a safe manner.