It’s essential to exercise in a specific way after pregnancy and delivering a baby (however delivery plays out) to heal and recover well.
Truly, I can’t stress this enough. Even if you had the most active pregnancy paired with an easy, smooth delivery and you’re feeling incredible postpartum, you still need healing and recovery time. This doesn’t mean that you have to sit around for 3 months hanging out on your couch (although, if that’s all you feel like doing, that’s cool ;)), but it’s also not best to return to running and powerlifting post-6-week-check-up. At all.
I often tell my clients that we need to retrain before we strengthen. We want to master our movement patterns and a well functioning body, so we don’t load crappy movement patterns and a body that isn’t functioning well. Makes sense, right? It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and that disaster could come in the form of serious stuff, like your pelvic organs making their way out of your body. Do I have your attention, now? 🙂
I’m not saying this to scare you, it’s just a reality that we need more education on. Let’s keep our uterus where it’s supposed to be in our body, yes? YES! It’s going to take WAY more work to undue potential issues that downright bad and dangerous exercise programming can do to your body (…trainers – pay attention).
The simpler and less time consuming way is to exercise postpartum as if you’re rehabbing an injury. My postnatal clients all go through a very specific core + floor restoration program (stay tuned!) to do exactly this – RESTORE function from the inside out so we can avoid major issues down the road.
(Kim Vopni lecturing on Day 1 at the Bellies Inc. course!)
This post today is inspired by an incredible pre/postnatal exercise intensive I took in Vancouver with the Bellies Inc. crew. They are 3 Canadian gals who are all involved in women’s health: 2 pre/postnatal exercise specialists and 1 pelvic floor physiotherapist. The weekend was really great being able to pick their brains on all things pre and postnatal training. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the weekend, from the instructors themselves:
1). “The stuff you’re gonna learn is gonna freak the shit out of you.” Ha. Hahaha. This quote came when we were chatting about pelvic floor physiotherapy. It’s gonna freak the shit out of you in the best way possible, though – promise.
Most people don’t even know physiotherapy for your bits even exists. It does and it’s amazing. I’ve been to a couple sessions with my clients and it’s incredible. Having any pain, anywhere? Go see one. Never had a baby? Go see one. Just had a baby? Go see one. Had a baby 20 years ago? Go see one. You’re a man? Go see one.
2). “If you’re leaking, it’s only going to get worse if you’re not doing your exercises.” Leaking ANY amount of urine at anytime is not normal. This goes for leaking during exercise, sneezing, coughing, jumping on the trampoline, laughing, etc.
Despite the ole, “Well, I’ve had 2 kids so of course I leak while I run”, reasoning, it’s not normal. Common? Yes. Treatable? Ohmygosh, yes! See your friendly neighbourhood pelvic floor physiotherapist ASAP. Best part? Often curable within a few sessions and with a few exercises. Look here for a pelvic floor physio in Canada.
(Assessing alignment and untucking bums!)
3). “Recovery starts when you’re still pregnant.” Adore this. You need to consider your postpartum recovery while you’re pregnant, and ideally before you’re pregnant. Yes, self-healing will happen but you’re going to need some things to help you through.
Are you going to wrap your abdominals to help heal a diastasis? (Side note: The best wrap ever is coming from Bellies Inc. You guys are going to love it). Do you know which rehab exercises are appropriate? Have you mastered your rehab exercises during pregnancy so ‘muscle memory’ can be on your side when you’re living in a sleep deprived state?
(Practicing hip flexor releases. Check out the length through the right leg!)
4). “You might as well just walk through a closed door.” Can you guess what we’re talking about here? Birthing on your back. I pretty much tell every pregnant gal I see to please, please, please try any position to labour and birth in other than your back.
Of course, there are situations when this is impossible, however, often this position can be avoided. You are basically trying to push your baby against gravity and up a freakin’ hill when you’re on your back. Your pelvis is closed shut. Tough for your pelvic floor, core, and for your babe. Read this quick post for muuuuch better birthing positions!
5). “Quite honestly, the mother is an after thought.” This is scary, but from everything my ladies have told me about their experiences birthing, especially in a hospital setting, it seems to be true in many cases.
Absolutely, baby’s health is of extremely high priority. No one is arguing that. But, to send mum away after major abdominal surgery without any indication of a recovery plan or physiotherapy referral is insane.
All of the above plays into your exercise plan post-babe. This is about taking care of YOU for the long-term. I get that you’re anxious to get going and hop back to where you were pre-pregnancy. You need to take your time and retrain well. When you do, you’ll be much further ahead and back to the activities you love much sooner.
Remember – postpartum is forever, not just the first year after pregnancy.