Having a baby is one of the most joyous, beautiful, and fulfilling things to go through in life. It does put your body through a lot, though, when it comes to carrying and delivering your baby.
Some women find this journey more manageable than others, so know that it’s an entirely unique experience for everyone, never comparing your journey to others.
I personally found it extremely difficult mentally and physically, especially with my first pregnancy, birth, and recovery.
Everyone would say that it would be “easy” because I was a personal trainer and Pilates instructor. It didn’t turn out this way, but I was glad I had the knowledge and ‘feeling’ of good Pilates technique to help me build back up from extreme pelvic floor prolapse, coccyx, and internal bruising where I could not sit or walk properly for months, loss of bladder control, extreme pubic symphysis and lower back pain and a seven finger abdominal separation (rectus diastasis).
This regression was debilitating for someone who thrives on feeling core muscles and staying active for a living!
Here are my postpartum recovery tips and ways to ensure you do Pilates and exercise safely for your body:
- Get your doctor’s okay – ensure you get medical clearance to exercise first and foremost, even if you are keen to get back to exercise. This is generally 6 to 12 weeks depending on the birth you have.
- Check if you have ‘rectus diastasis (abdominal separation) before exercising. Ideally, your physiotherapist checks for this or can check yourself at home (I have a video on my Youtube Channel which can show you step by step how to check for this).
- Self Test: Place one hand behind your head, knees bent. Keep your lower back in a neutral spine. Place the other hand, fingers pointing towards your feet, just below your belly button.
- Pressing down on your belly, lift your head shoulders as if you are doing an abdominal lift, and hold for a few seconds. If you feel a ‘gap’ or ‘ditch’ when pushing your fingertips into your belly, then you do have abdominal separation. Feel how many fingers can fit there to gauge how large it is.
- If you DO have rectus diastasis – avoid movements like abdominal lifts/crunches, roll-ups, oblique twists, planks, side bending, or anything where you curve your spine with the load. Instead, do transverse abdominal type exercises supine and anything side-lying without bending at the waist till you have fully healed it.
- Exercises like knee floats, knee sides, leg circles, pelvic floor activation, pointer, and four-point kneeling and single-leg side raises are great.
- Integrate leg and back work in seated or standing positions that provide you with support, using equipment that you have like fit balls, chi balls for knee alignment, resistance bands.
- If you DO NOT have rectus diastasis, slowly introduce your Pilates repertoire, progressively targeting your whole body paying attention to excellent technique. Be mindful that it will likely feel different for a while as your core and internal muscles and organs continue to reset from the pregnancy and birth. This can take time. For some women, it may be a few weeks, and you feel like your fit self again. For others, it can take months and over a year till you get back to normal.
I personally recommend you do bodyweight exercises, including as much Pilates mat work as possible, so you really connect your mind and muscles, plus use apparatus that you have available at home or a studio near you in conjunction with this.
For new moms, a huge element is also ‘time’ and prioritizing your baby. So doing short bursts of exercises, even for 10 or 15 minutes, is great for your energy and to your body without overdoing it.
I would personally do 10 minutes a couple of times a day for the first 5 months or so of my first pregnancy, as this was realistic for me at that time.
Always listen to your body and reach out if you need any help on this.
Power to your core.