Just had a baby? Here’s how to take baby steps postpartum
In my many years of training pregnant women and new moms I have come across the full spectrum from competitive to sedentary and everything in between. However, I treat each woman differently, obviously, as they are individuals. There are some basic, common sense rules that I stick by without question when it comes to getting back into the exercise groove in the early stages postpartum. For example, start SLOW.
The current, yet outdated, guidelines for exercise during pregnancy recommend that you wait three to four weeks to start an exercise regime after a vaginal delivery. If you have had a c-section, then you should wait for your six week check up from your OB. In my opinion, this is not too much to ask as your body needs time to heal and you can spend your days (and nights) taking care of your newborn baby.
But, this doesn’t give you free reign to go full throttle once you have been given the green light. Boot camps are great but I would not recommend them for new moms. I can’t tell you how many moms have come to me and said, “I only leak when I do jumping jacks.” I have even heard of some fitness instructors that make it a joke and say, “get those Depends on ladies!” Not funny. In reality, if your bladder is a problem now, what do you think is going to happen five, 10 or 15 years down the road? Is it really worth it to compromise basic bodily functions in a rush for weight loss?
Once you become pregnant, you have this lovely hormone called Relaxin, that makes you hyper mobile. Although its main purpose is to “relax” the pubic area and allow for the baby to descend, it also attacks every joint in your body. Relaxin can stay in your body for up to one year postpartum if you’re nursing so repetitive strain on your joints (i.e. jumping jacks, endless push ups, burpies, etc.) can lead to injuries.
After you have delivered (vaginally or cesarean), you are also dealing with a weak and compromised core especially if this was an area that was not trained during pregnancy. Your core consists of your transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor. When starting your exercise routine, you must go back to basics and have a strong focus on these areas to ensure optimal core function.
Here are some good tips when starting to exercise post delivery:
Core recruitment: You can start this as soon as a few hours following a vaginal delivery. Try and connect again with your transverse abdominals and your pelvic floor. Simple diaphragmatic breathing will help to reconnect the very foundation of how your core functions.
Cardio: If you were a runner before, please DO NOT start running right away. I recommend waiting a minimum of three months, ideally six (and in a perfect world) nine months before beginning a running program again. I know all of you runners out there are not happy to hear this but how do you expect your joints and (more importantly) your pelvic floor to heal properly when you are constantly pounding against the pavement? The pelvic floor supports your bladder and uterine organs so a weak pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, pelvic pain and even a prolapse. Although running wearing a pad may be more common than you think, it’s not cool and definitely not sexy.
Strength: Find yourself a class that focuses on low impact strength training that will help you to regain good form and reduce the
risk for injury. Or invest in a few sessions with a certified pre and postnatal personal trainer that can create a safe exercise plan based on your specific needs.
Time: Yes the new issue of never having enough time. It’s neither a race nor a competition. Every woman heals, recovers and regains strength at her own pace. Society has placed a huge amount of pressure on how fast you should lose weight and get back
into those skinny jeans. Take a deep breath, step back and look at the big picture.
There’s no arguing that exercise postpartum has a whole new meaning. It’s not just about losing weight but becomes more about making time for yourself as you quickly realize there is less and less time for anything. However, jumping up and down, running and stressing your joints too much too soon is only going to leave you feeling frustrated, weak, incontinent and possibly home bound with a back injury.
Take it slow, know the facts and work from the outside in. Be patient; you’ll get there. One step at a time.
Samantha Montpetit-Huynh is the mother of beautiful girls and the owner and operator of Core Expectations – Toronto’s only full service wellness team that delivers personal training, abdominal rehabilitation, nutrition, massage, chiropractic and doula services to the homes and offices of pregnant women and new moms in the GTA. www.coreexpectations.com