Have you recently had a baby, or plan on having one in the future? Curious about a safe return to exercise? Here’s some info from pre/postpartum specialized physical therapist, Dr. Erin Weber, PT, DPT to help get you started.
If you’ve recently had a baby, congrats! Your body, mind and spirit have undergone a miraculous event and you deserve a reward. I’m not talking about a push-present, but instead, encouraging the practice of self-care and postpartum health. Women frequently come in for physical therapy, spanning 6 weeks to 8 years postpartum, with a laundry list of concerns that correlate to pregnancy and childbirth. It’s better to get a handle on things sooner rather than later, preventing undue stress and ensuring a safe return to exercise.
The body undergoes a ton of changes during pregnancy. The uterus grows up to 40x it’s normal size, things move (organs), your center of gravity changes, your breathing pattern alters, and the way you move shifts as you grow. Learning how to move efficiently in your new pregnant body allows you to create better support for your skeleton and promotes staying active and strong. Seeing a physical therapist earlier on if pain arises is prudent. Research supports staying active throughout pregnancy, including moderate-intensity exercise. Pregnancy is not the time to start a new program. Stick to familiar activity that your body can adapt to as you and your baby grow.
During pregnancy, swimming is a great form of exercise. It alleviates the forces of gravity and provides some vascular compression, which is very helpful if you’re noticing swelling in your feet. Avoid crunches and anything that places force to shorten your abdomen, allowing for the tissue to stretch as baby grows. Doing crunches (loading your rectus abdominis, the six pack muscle) is correlated to higher incidence of diastasis recti abominis. This separation of the abdominal fascia is normal, as long as it is within reason (no larger than 2 finger widths).
The postpartum body truly deserves patience and attention. This fourth trimester is a time for appreciating your body’s strength and its ability to adapt and heal. Although exercise before your six week OB/midwife follow-up visit is not advised, there are some things you can do to aid in the healing process.
Be mindful of your posture. While feeding babe, keep feet grounded with the neutral curve in your lower back. Use a pillow to avoid rounding forward. Start to get your core muscles firing again. Draw your navel to your spine as you initiate movement, especially while bending to lift and lower your newborn. Engage your gluteal muscles while standing up from sitting, keeping the normal arch in your lower back. Slowly and gently start to engage your pelvic floor muscles. Think about drawing your perineum (the space between your vagina and anus) up and in.
After you’re medically cleared by your OB/midwife, go see a specialized physical therapist to guide you safely back to exercise. PT’s can assess and treat any pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti abdominis, as well as any other orthopedic concerns.
Most importantly, breathe. Take deep, slow diaphragmatic breaths. Allow your rib cage to move again! Fill up with air on your inhale, imagine that breathe reaching down to your pelvic floor. As you exhale, let your navel pull in toward your spine.
Lastly, give yourself time. It takes around 40 weeks to grow a human in your body, and certainly takes more than 6 weeks to heal and restore after childbirth. Be kind to yourself and patient with the process.
Physio Logic Upcoming Pregnancy and Postpartum Wellness Workshop
If you’re interested in learning more about the effects of pregnancy and the postpartum phase in a safe, reassuring environment, join us at Physio Logic on Thursday, November 8, 2018 from 6pm-7:30pm for our free Pregnancy and Postpartum Wellness workshop. Sign up here.