Why not exercise in the 1st 6 weeks?
The hardest thing for me to tell a lady who is very early post birth is – STOP exercising or Avoid running. Mentally women want and need to get back out there, if they have always been big exercisers they don’t expect things will change when they have a baby. They wanna get straight back out there.
Well, some do! I am generalising, but I do still get a lot of ladies coming to me having already started running at 4 weeks post birth cos they felt fine and great!! I don’t want to dampen anyone’s spirit but the most important piece of advise I can give is “YOU WILL get back to your exercise BUT lets let your body heal 1st”.
No matter what sort of birth someone has had it takes about 6 weeks for the body to recover from it. I am not setting that date – that is just the natural process and time it takes for a post natal body to heal. We can’t just speed up the recovery, but we can slow it down by getting back too soon.
Our body goes through a LOT when the new baby arrives. Even if someone feels great, those first 6 weeks postnatally are such a crucial time for rest, recovery & actually getting used to being a mum to a new baby or a new baby with a toddler.
What happens in those 1st 6 weeks post birth?
A woman’s full recovery after pregnancy where the body changes in so many ways, then the birth itself, can take a lot more than 6 weeks. In the 1st few weeks post birth it is a time when the uterus, muscles and ligaments need to shrink down. No matter what birth someone has had they need time to allow the trauma in the birth canal, a C-section scar & internal scars in the uterus to heal. Remember, the placenta was attached to the uterus – it needs time to mend. Also, if someone had a ventouse, tears, episiotomy – they need time to heal and nit back together.
What is the best thing to do in the 1st 6 weeks post natally?
Rest & recovery – no matter how boring someone may find it – will help the long term recovery. Yes of course get out and get walking with babes in the buggy – start gently then build. Again going straight out and doing a 5 mile walk a week post birth will not assist that internal mending.
Start thinking about the pelvic floor exercises. Start doing them BUT PLEASE remember it is just as essential to focus on RELAXING the pelvic floor as engaging it. So yes – as I describe – a gentle squeeze/close of the anus (ie hold a fart!) and a gentle close of anterior vulvar area the then visualise the whole pelvic floor is like a hammock being tightened and lifted upwards. Then it totally relaxes and lengthens out again!
So if you do the squeezes also do the relaxation. It can be done when breast feeding, at night in bed or any time you remember.
Also think about relaxed breathing – visualise it filling the diaphragm, helping expand the ribcage and visualise that beneficial oxygen being sent down through the diaphragm, through the tummy and gently going to the pelvic floor.
Massage the tummy – get the important oxygen to all areas of the tummy.
Think about the posture and how to push the buggy – avoid arms straight, body bent forwards – think about pushing through the bum, soft elbows and breathing around the park!
Finally, start trying to eat some healthy fruit and vegetables. Protein is essential to help build the tissue back up, Vitamins help mend the tissue. Try and get sleep if any opportunity arises!
Then before you know it you are 6 weeks post birth and your body will be more supported going back to some GENTLE exercise – 6 weeks post vaginal or 10 weeks post C section. Accept – some may NOT be ready and cant get out of the house – NO PRESSURE just start when ready. Remember – avoid high intensity / harder exercise until the deep core and glutes has some strength – usually a good 5 months post birth!
If there is any pelvic floor dysfunction or it doesn’t feel right by 6 or 7 weeks then see a women’s health physio – ask me for names or ask your GP to be referred – insist as NO it is NOT just typical of having a baby.