I often receive questions about the post natal body. When are women no longer considered post natal and is it too late to make any changes to our bodies? Well the simple answer is once you have had a child you are always considered "post-natal".
By no means does this mean you are forever broken and you won't be able to return to activities you previously enjoyed. It just means your body needs the consideration it deserves following the amazing changes it has been through. You have grown a human! Consideration will be given to your personal circumstances and experience in pregnancy and childbirth.
The pelvic floor refers to all the connective tissues that support the pelvic organs in the body. These include the muscles, ligaments, and fascia. It's common following pregnancy, even with C-sections, that you may experience some form of pelvic floor dysfunction. This could be a pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence or pelvic pain. And while this is common, it's most definitely not normal and can be treated. In my Fit and Fearless Program I ask questions about your circumstances and refer to a Women's Health Physiotherapist when appropriate. We design our workouts to help you learn correct alignment, breathing and core activation to support your pelvic floor which helps to prevent issues in later life.
*** Did you know: Up to 50% of women who exercise will experience incontinence. Many more will probably never report it due to the embarrassment they feel around it. Don't be embarrassed, there is help available ***
Whether you make the decision to breastfeed or not, immediately after childbirth your body is still working out the hormones it needs in your body and to support your child. In the early stages, care needs to be taken with a slow, low impact return to exercise. If you continue to breastfeed, hormones present in your body while breastfeeding keep your tissues soft. Soft connective tissues lead to a higher risk of injury to any joint in the body, as well as pressure on the structures of the pelvic floor. This will continue while you are breastfeeding and take some time to settle again once your baby has weaned.
*** Myth: Have you ever heard that intense exercise or massage can cause 'toxins' to be released into breastmilk? This is false. Normal cell byproducts are filtered by the body and are not a danger to breastmilk and massage doesn’t release toxins. ***
Abdominal separation or Diastasis Rectii is a normal part of pregnancy. It involves the connective tissue between your rectus abdominus muscles called the linea alba relaxing and expanding to allow for your uterus to expand as your baby grows. Once you give birth, it takes time for the abdominal muscles to come back together. Exercise should focus on alignment, correct breathing and connection with the pelvic floor. It is recommended to initially avoid exercises that provide too much forward pressure on the abdominal wall until the tension in the linea alba returns.
*** Tip: During and following pregnancy, learn how to get up from lying position to prevent putting too much pressure on your abdominal separation. From lying, roll onto your side, use your hand to push up into a seated position. This is how you should get up from a massage table too. ***
As a mum, we are tired. All. The. Time. Especially in the early stages when your sleep is constantly broken by the needs of your bub. When you are already fatigued, your workouts should be focused on giving you more energy, as opposed to draining you. Strength training with bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, kettlebells and dumbbells are a great way to build a stronger body without exhausting you.
Years after having children, our bodies go through the change of life and we enter menopause. This time of life involves a change in hormones again. The lack of Oestrogen in the body causes a weakening and thinning of the supporting structures of the pelvic floor, resulting in pelvic organ prolapse. The body may not show the stresses caused from a vaginal delivery until menopause so it's important to be aware of the changes in our bodies and seek help when we are concerned. With exercise, low impact, strength training with a focus on changing position to reduce the pressure on your pelvic floor is needed so you can continue exercise well into menopause.
*** Did you know: 50% of women who have had a baby will have some degree of prolapse in their lifetime ***
It may seem like pregnancy really does a number on our bodies, but there is hope. Referral to a Women's Health Physiotherapist can help to complement your training program and provide treatment suitable for pregnancy experience. We have developed our Fit and Fearless Program to educate you on pelvic floor, core and full body strength training. Workouts are modified taking into consideration your fitness and stage of life. It is aimed at forming a strong foundation for your body to return to activities that you love and enjoy.
Contact Us with any questions about your post natal body and how to get started with exercise.