by Courtney Loughney, MEd., E-RYT
7 years ago, after the birth of my first child, I sat and stared at a beautiful baby girl and then glared down at my pudgy belly. I had stayed active during my pregnancy and people told me I would “bounce back”, how could I still look pregnant!? I was only three days postpartum (yes, three), but I was feeling really uncomfortable with my giant boobs and awkward body shape. My husband left to go to the store. Determined to “get my body back” I put on a Cardio On-Demand exercise video and with the first jump I felt like my insides were going to fall out.
“Okay, I’ll wait until my 6 week check up to start exercising,” I reasoned with myself. At 6 weeks on the nose I quickly jumped back to a jumping and crunching workout regimen, determined to “get my pre-baby body back”. The truth is, I was uneducated about my body and the effects that pregnancy and birth have on the pelvic floor and abdominal wall. In fact, those exercises I was doing weren’t helping me get in-shape, they were actually hindering my progress.
At The Mothers’ Space we consult with expert Anne Duch of Physical Therapy for Women to ensure that our movement programs are safe and effective in helping pregnant and postpartum women get healthier and stronger. With Anne’s help we are able to educate the Mamas who walk through our doors, so that they are
knowledgeable about their own bodies and how to facilitate their own healing.
With my experiences having babies, teaching women in their first year postpartum, and with what I’ve learned from Anne, here are my top 3 things you should know before jumping back into a post-baby workout:
- Do you have a Diastasis Recti: A what? That’s right, most women don’t know that pregnancy often leads to a split in the abdominal muscles and unfortunately most OB’s aren’t checking Mamas at their 6 week check up. What’s worse? All those crunches you’re doing to get a flat tummy? They’re making it worse. Read more here about the different types and how to check yourself. If you have a split, no need to fret, it can be treated. Get started by doing belly breaths and really expanding the diaphragm as well as the belly.
- Know What the 6 Week Mark Means: It means I’m all set to run, jump, power lift, crossfit, whatever I was doing pre-baby. Mmm, not quite. 6 weeks means that your uterus has probably returned to its original size, that theopen wound where your placenta detached from your uterus is mostly healed, and that your risk of infection has significantly decreased. But you really did JUST grow a human inside of you and JUST birthed it (regardless of a cesarean or vaginal birth). Take the steps to rebuild strength and stability, especially in the hips by doing low impact exercises. Anne suggests waiting until more like the 12 week mark to add in more strenuous activities, although every body is different. This brings me to my next point…
- If you’re Leaking or Pooching, Backoff: Have you heard that everyone leaks urine after having a baby? While it is common, it is not normal. If you’re leaking urine during activities, coughing or sneezing, your pelvic floor needs a check up. If it’s happening during your exercise regimen, backoff, until you’ve addressed the issue. The same goes for a pooching tummy. For example– if you’re holding your plank and notice that you can’t hold your belly up and in, drop your knees down.
When I teach new mothers I remind them that we are rebuilding the core from the inside out. Most of the movements we do aren’t going to produce washboard abs, but, rather the strength to hold the body together. We build from there. Follow these precautions before jumping back into exercise, and most of all have patience and self-compassion, Sweet Mama.