Getting back in shape after pregnancy
Your body goes through an incredible amount of change during pregnancy, so it’s unsurprising that it takes a little time returning to how it was before. Whilst the demands of being a new mum are considerable, it’s worth spending some time thinking about how you can support and help your body as it recovers after pregnancy.
Before you start
It’s important to talk to your doctor before recommencing exercise. A lot of changes have happened to your body, including in your heart and lungs.
Pelvic floor exercises
It may not be glamorous or exciting, but strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is essential after childbirth. It will help you avoid problems such as incontinence, and also helps support your abdomen and internal organs as you return to your routine. It’s worth knowing about simple ‘Kegel’ exercises, which are easy and can usually be done even if you have had stitches, and can be carried out whilst sitting doing other activities, such as feeding your child.
Your tummy muscles are stretched and weakened during pregnancy, so tightening them back up is important. Focus on strengthening your transversus abdominal (TA) muscles, which sit deep in your stomach. Crunches do not exercise this muscle well, so it is important to do specific TA exercises, which can be recommended by a physio.
When you have strengthened your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, you can start to consider returning to cardio work. This process can take anywhere between six weeks and six months, and it is always best to check with your doctor. In a similar way to pre-natal exercise, activity after birth should not be uncomfortable, so take notice of what your body is telling you. Wear a supportive bra during exercise, and look out for any signs of incontinence, back pain or pelvic heaviness. If you do notice these, it is best just to step down your efforts again.