Postnatal Exercise Guide from the Experts
It has been widely acknowledged that exercise can help women to cope with or even ward off symptoms of post natal depression and anxiety, allowing you time for yourself and the chance to reconnect with your body. However, it can seem daunting when in recovery (physically and emotionally) from giving birth and there is lot of information out there, some of it good, some bad.
To help you to navigate these choppy waters, we asked our resident women’s PT to provide some insight into what’s good and what’s not when you’re ready to start getting active again postnatally.
These tips will help give you a guide on how to get started safely.
1. Wait until your postnatal check up before starting any formal exercise
It’s important to wait until you have seen your health care provider before embarking on
any new formal exercise plan, including classes and one to one. This is because the
instructor will probably not be insured but also your own health. It gives your body time
to start healing, stitches to dissolve or removed, and scars to heal (C-section). The
check allows your health care provider to check for infections and screen for any other
problems that may be made worse by exercise.
2. Get your abdominals checked
This can be done by trained health care practitioners such as midwives,
physiotherapists, GP’s and trained fitness and movement professionals. By checking for
any separation you can then avoid movements that may make things worse and focus
on one that will help you heal.
3. Don’t neglect your pelvic floor
Your pelvic floor takes a lot pressure during pregnancy and vaginal births, forceps,
ventouse and tears/ episiotomy will also add to the trauma. But don’t be fooled, those
that have had a c-section can have weakened pelvic floors too! Start doing gentle lifts as
soon as you can and increase slowly from there. If you feel like there is nothing there or
are experiencing pain/discomfort/incontinence seek guidance from your health care
provider, as they may refer you to women’s health physiotherapist.
4. Get the Squeezy App
Look up the NHS Squeezy app. This nifty little app will help you remember to do your
pelvic floors. I’d recommend at least 3 times a day, picking maybe breakfast, lunch and
dinner to do them. Never do them when you are on the loo and going, this a great way to
promote infections – leave it until you are finished. That being said you can do your
exercises in any position- sitting, standing, laying etc.
4. Start with the basics
Once you have been given the all clear, start with the basics. You squat and lunge all
day- how do you get in and out of a chair or tidy the kids toys up? Start by doing these
movements with good form and incorporating your breath, deep abdominals and pelvic
floor. Breathe out as you stand, lift the pelvic floor and draw in the tummy below the belly
button. But NO squeezing hard!
5. Don’t be tempted to start impact too soon
Impact it is a strain on your joints and pelvic floor. You will still have some vulnerability in
the joints from the hormone relaxin. Combined with a (probably) weakened pelvic floor
its probably best to avoid running until around 3 to 6 months after having a baby. If you
have pelvic floor, prolapse, PGP/SPD or abdominal separation it may be best to seek
advice from a good women’s health physio or exercise professional to start working on
these areas first.
6. Take your time
Now is a good time to build a solid foundation for your body. Start with those basics,
work on your deep abdominals – Pilates will be good for this. Focus on excellent
technique and build up from there. It really doesn’t matter if you can’t lift the weights you
used to or swim as many lengths as you did. You will get there. In time.
7. Don’t focus on the weight
Now is not the time to focus on getting back into the skinny jeans. If you’re breastfeeding
your body will need extra calories and so will be storing them. You have a new baby,
you’re probably slightly sleep deprived, running around like lunatic, and feel generally
rubbish. Why add more stress to your life? Instead focus on what your body can do –
can it do 10 squats with great form, or 10 leg slides without your tummy bulging, or even
hold your baby without hitching the hips? These are better things to focus on.
8. Fuel your body
Make sure you eat enough! That means carbs, protein and fats in every meal! Your body
needs energy to function with a baby, extra if you breastfeed, so if your exercising it
needs fuel for that too. Eat sensibly, try to snack on fruit and veg, nuts, seeds, etc. On
the other hand if you really fancy a biscuit with that (cold) cup of tea. Go ahead the world
Drink! Water, herbal teas, weak squash. Make sure you are hydrated, not only will help
your body heal but it will help keep you from becoming dehydrated. Drink when you are
thirsty and keep a bottle in your bag. Drinking first if your feeling hungry can may also
stop you from eating when your actually thirsty.
10. If in doubt walk
Walking is great, you don’t need special kit, you can go on your own or with the baby. Its
free, you can be outside or inside. You can go fast or slow. Aim to raise your heart rate
slightly with each walk for about 10 minutes a day. Even if its just a pop to the shops or
mootch around the mall, its still exercise.