As a Personal Trainer; Postnatal Fitness often comes up as a subject matter with my Clients who are looking to or embarking on having a baby.
In this article, I bring over 19 years of experience as a Personal Trainer, with expertise in training both pre and postnatal clients as well as being a mother to two daughters myself and having to adjust to the changes that having children brought upon me as a woman.
A mother’s body goes through dramatic changes during pregnancy, as well as during and after delivery.
With endless pressures from society and the media to ‘snap back into shape after having a baby’, for many of us (in fact the majority of us), find that this is no easy feat.
It is important that we understand that our body needs time to heal, time to adjust to the changes and for most news mums as well as in my own personal experience, this can take anywhere up to a period of a year and potentially longer. So don’t carry the worry of thinking how can I do this. Time is all you need, and you will find a new fitness routine.
It is vital, that exercise is started gradually, and as a new mum, you already have so many adjustments to make due to the demands of motherhood.
In this article, I aim to give you some clear guidance on how you can join in exercise programmes both safely and effectively to promote your health and wellbeing as a new mum.
Prior to starting an exercise programme, you need to have gained clearance from your GP to participate in a fitness programme.
This timeframe will vary from mother to mother.
The current guidelines are between 6 weeks postpartum for a vaginal birth and 12 weeks for a caesarean section before starting any moderate to high-intensity exercise. I would strongly recommend giving your GP further information on the type of exercise and sport that you are looking to take up so that they can guide you appropriately.
However, as soon as you can after giving birth (and when actively encouraged by a medical professional) pelvic floor exercises should be part of your initial fitness routine.
With any form of exercise, a high-quality sports bra is a must, even more so if you are breastfeeding.
Other considerations when breastfeeding are to ensure that you stay hydrated throughout a training session and avoid exercising when your breasts are full and a feed is due. Stick to a low to moderate intensity workout only.
To allow the body to adapt to pregnancy and delivery, the level of hormone Relaxin continue to grow and remain present up until 5 months postpartum and even longer still if breastfeeding.
Increased levels of this hormone can affect joint stability due to the increase in elasticity in the ligaments surrounding a joint.
For example, increased elasticity of the ligaments in the pelvis allows the pelvis to stretch as the baby grows and on delivery.
With this in mind it is best to carry out a flexibility programme that focuses on maintaining your current flexibility rather than a developmental programme that would encourage a further range of movement.
Through pregnancy and as your baby grows, many women experience a condition called Diastasis Recti.
This is the separation of the abdominal muscles (a gap of 3 cms of the two sides of the Rectus Abdominis muscle) and is actually a very common condition during and post-pregnancy.
If you have been diagnosed with this condition, it is important to follow the correct stages of retraining your midsection.
Focus on exercises that encourage the gap to decrease.
The first stage is to focus on exercises that strengthen the Transversus Abdominis (the deepest of the four abdominal muscles, which wraps horizontally around the torso acting like a corset).
Then, you move on to strengthen the Rectus Abdominis (six-pack muscle).
Avoid exercises that specifically target the Obliques.
Exercises that help challenge the Transverse Abdominis are basic navel to spine and pelvic tilt exercise in all positions, kneeling leg and arm raises, tabletop, toe taps and several more.
Below are some examples:
I still use these myself as someone who has had Diastasis Recti alongside exercises that now strengthen the Rectus Abdominis.
Due to pregnancy, your posture will have altered, however, through specific training on muscle imbalances, we can encourage better posture.
Areas that tend to become weakened and lengthened are the upper back, glutes and abdominal muscles, which in return would need to be strengthened.
Areas such as hip flexors, hamstrings, chest area become short and tight, a maintenance flexibility programme is key.
With all the above in mind, you know your body better than anyone else and it is important to seek further guidance from a health professional if you are unsure prior to commencing any form of exercise.
There are so many benefits to restarting your exercise programme after having a baby not just physically but mentally too!
Having had a complicated couple of births myself, and being passionate about fitness, I am keen to ensure my clients look after themselves in the correct manner and in a safe way.
Keep an eye out on my Social Media Channels such as my Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/JodierixfitnessUK) and/or Youtube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbmu7Kg8NDyoY02xeeXUMqw) for additional content and video workouts specifically for PostNatal Fitness.
UPDATE: My new Postnatal Videos for ReboundUK's Youtube channel are live and FREE to view for getting into Rebounding postpartum 6, 12 and 16 weeks:
6 Week Workout Video: