Your Post baby body and getting back into exercise
Back in 2009 and 2012, when I had my daughters, the number of fitness professionals local to me, who knew about the post-natal body, were extremely scarce on the ground. There was a wonderful Mummy and Me Pilates teacher who ran a weekly class, thankfully, but that was it. To add to the problem, I also found I was suffering with incontinence after a long labour and forceps delivery. There was no one qualified or with an understanding of this locally. I stumbled across MUTU System during a Google search in 2012 and this was the beginning of my own journey of recovery and sequent career change.
Today, the great news is there are many more Personal Trainers and instructors who are trained in both pre and post-natal which is such a positive thing to see in the fitness industry.
So what advice do I wish I’d had after having my daughters, for getting back to exercise.
For the first 6 to 8 weeks:
Rest, rest and keep resting.
Drink lots of water to hydrate your body, especially if you are breastfeeding.
Breathe… properly. The breath is key to restoring the post-natal core and pelvic floor.
Feed your body with vegetables & fruit, protein, wholegrain carbs, essential fats and collagen rich foods to help the healing and recovery process.
Start getting out for a daily walk. Walking works many muscles including glutes, hamstrings, quads, triceps, core and back muscles. It improves mood (those early days can feel quite dark at times, especially with little sleep), and energy levels. Try 10 minutes, move to 20 then up to 3 miles a day gradually over time.
Stretch daily. Our calves, hamstrings and shoulders can get quite tight. Stretching will also improve circulation and help muscle release.
Find your pelvic floor and core muscles. Gently draw your belly button inwards and lift your pelvic floor while exhaling. Fully relax as you inhale. The NHS Squeezy app is a useful tool to guide you through this.
And most importantly, LISTEN to your body… what’s it telling you?
Around 6 weeks you should have a postnatal check with your GP. In my view, the checks do not go deep enough for the mother. This is the opportunity for you to raise all and any concerns about your post-natal body and to ask questions.
Raise any concerns you have with your delivery, especially if your birth plan did not go to plan
Ask them to check any stitches
If you are leaking urine, especially when you cough, sneeze or laugh, this is not normal and shouldn’t be ignored. It’s your body’s way of asking for help. Your GP should refer you to a local Women’s Health Physiotherapist (WHP).
If you have faecal incontinence, again this is not normal.
If you have pain in your back, pelvis, abdomen, hips or legs. Again, this is common but not normal and needs to be checked out.
If you feel a bulging or ‘bearing down from your stomach or pelvic floor, this could be a sign of prolapse.
After 6 – 8 weeks, you can slowly start to increase your activity levels. This should be gentle and gradual. If you feel any pain, stop and back up, seek help from your GP or WHP. You should be able to control your bladder and bowel. LISTEN to your body. How does it feel when you exercise? I have heard too many stories about Mums increasing their exercise workload too quickly, resulting in injury and even prolapse.
I personally advise all my clients to book a check up with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. Extremely severe diastasis or pelvic floor symptoms, hernia, pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic girdle pain and other abdominal and pelvic conditions which fall beyond a fitness professional’s expertise should be referred on. WHPs specialise in the fields of Obstetrics (pregnancy) and Gynaecology. They deal with Ante/Postnatal Joint Pain, Ante/Postnatal Muscular Pain, Ante/Postnatal Nerve Pain, Postnatal Diastasis Recti / Abdominal retraining, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, Urinary Incontinence, Faecal Incontinence, Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Pelvic Floor Pain.
I would recommend finding a personal trainer or class where the instructor is post-natal qualified, rather than head to a gym alone, without support and guidance. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their qualifications. This is your body and you need to ensure it’s in the hands of someone with the right knowledge of how your body has changed during pregnancy and how to help you recover over the coming months.
Noelle Moyler, Founder and Owner of Blueberries and Jellyfish, Personal Training.
Pre and Post-Natal exercise and nutrition specialist.
Pelvic Floor and Core recovery certified.
MUTU Pro certified by MUTU System, a post-natal recovery Program.
Visit my website at www.blueberriesandjellyfish.co.uk