Avoid Post Partum Peril
Allison Kares, NCPT
Safe and Effective Exercise Options for New Moms...and old ones, too!
I know once I had my baby, I couldn’t wait to get working on my body to get “back in shape”. If I’d only known then what I know now, I would have approached things much differently. As new moms, we’re often hard on ourselves and expect our bodies to return to a pre-pregnancy state quicker than they are capable of. The rush to fit into our old jeans leaves some key pieces of post partum health unaddressed. Before you lace up your shoes and hit the gym, stop to consider these key things:
1. The state of your abs… The core muscles which include your pelvic floor, diaphragm and deepest layer of abdominals have all changed in length and strength during the growth of your new little one. This could impact how these muscles function to support your spine and organs. Exercises like crunches don’t address how your core works functionally and choices like planks and push ups are often too much for your core muscles initially. And just sucking in your abs or doing Kegel exercises doesn’t restore these muscles fully or optimally.
2. Alignment matters… During the development of your baby in utero, your body was adapting to a growing belly bump. Over the 40 weeks, your posture and spinal curves had to adjust to help support the extra weight in front of your body. These changes result in some muscles, especially those in our back becoming tighter. After delivery, it takes time and proper exercise choices to restore the length and strength of our postural muscles. You also need to take into consideration your new functional challenges…carrying a car seat with your bundle of joy, along with a diaper bag, holding your baby while feeding and getting them into and out of a crib. All these new routines add new demands on your core and postural muscles. The positions you find yourself in can often result in back pain or strain from improper alignment.
3. Leaking isn’t normal… Let me say that again…leaking isn’t normal. One drop of urine leaked is the sign of dysfunction in your core muscles, one that can be exacerbated by weakness, tightness or improper alignment. Working with a pelvic floor physiotherapist and a fitness trainer who is trained in dealing with these issues is key to restoring your health and preventing future problems. Breathing, alignment and correct muscle activation without substituting other muscles groups is all part of a balanced program and needs to be relearned before you jump into boot camp or other fitness regimes.
Looking back 19 years ago now, I was in such a rush to get back in shape, I didn’t give myself the time to deal with the lack of sleep, the time restrictions of dealing with a beautiful new person who needed me and the mental and emotional challenges of becoming a new mom. Now all these years later, I’m still trying to sort out my post partum body and improve on some of the unhealthy habits and patterns that still need correcting. If I had done my research and taken my time to work smarter not harder, I would have built a better foundation and a healthier body all around.