Exercise and the First 6 Weeks Postpartum

Exercise and the First 6 Weeks Postpartum

Your focus in the first 6 weeks after having a baby should be on bonding/caring for baby and recovery, not exercise. Too often the media portrays celebrities in bikinis just a few short weeks after giving birth and praises them for how amazing they are. Guess what? In addition to those images being largely photoshopped, there is a lot more to recovery than appearance such as not peeing your pants or have organs prolapsing out of the body. And there is mental health to consider as well. When we put so much pressure on ourselves to find bikini body perfection immediately, we do so at the sake of our mental health and our physical health.

Of course, this does not mean that you cannot do gentle and simple exercises and movements. But too often, there is pressure to “get your body back” and this pressure both from external sources and in our own heads, can lead us to:
A. Not allow our bodies to proper heal postpartum
B. Make decisions that can have lasting consequences on our bodies

Six weeks can feel like a long time, but early postpartum recovery sets the stage for getting back to what you love sooner and safer. Whether that is more intense exercise, yoga or just walking around the block and playing with yours kids without compromising your body, core and pelvic floor.

Your early postpartum plan should factor in several things:

  • Vaginal tearing/episiotomy
  • Surgical birth
  • Hemmhoiroids
  • Bleeding (called “lochia”)
  • Any other complications during birth (blood loss, prolonged labor, etc)
  • Exhaustion (either from a long birth or just from taking care of a newborn, or both!)
For some, the first several weeks are going to look like a lot of resting. Maybe they are trying to catch up from a difficult birth or major abdominal surgery. For others, they may feel great! In some ways, feeling great can be tricky because it feels like we should just go back to ‘normal’ and can make it difficult for us to take the time to appropriately recover.

We recommend the 5-5-5 rule. 5 days in bed, 5 days around the bed, and 5 days near the bed. This means, for the first 2 weeks you will largely be inactive. There is a placenta sized wound within your uterus. That big of a would on the outside of your body would make you slow down, it should be the same for an inner wound. Additionally, your organs that were previously squished from a baby, now need to go back to normal and the best you can do to not be upright for extended periods of time, the better.

During this 5-5-5 time and for the first 6 weeks postpartum, we recommend several gentle exercises in the postpartum protocol of our program that we call the “Daily 7.” Here are 2 of them:

1. Candles Breathing

(be gentle and do not bear down at all. If you feel any pelvic floor heaviness while doing this, discontinue, we are trying to just gently connect with our core) 5X in a row, 1 X a day. Come onto your hands and knees or sitting comfortably. Imagine there is a cake with 100 candles between your hands if on hands and knees or in front of you if sitting. Inhale and exhale slowly blowing out all the candles. As you do so, your should feel your abs slowly moving back and at the end of the exhale they should feel very tight. Next, come to sitting and imagine there is an oval shaped object (be creative) in your vaginal / birth canal in your pelvis. As you exhale and blow candles, lift that object up toward your belly button. If there were an arrow direction, it would be pointing UP. So with candles and the up arrow, you are feeling your deep core move both up and back and it is starting at your pelvic floor. Do not squeeze your superficial vaginal muscles – the lift comes from a bit higher up than that. Do this 5X in a row, 1 X a day.

2. Floor Angels

Either reclined back or seated, do an ‘angel’ by externally rotating your shoulder so that your palms are up and thumbs reach behind you. Keeping your shoulder blades wide and your ribs down, slowly make the motion of a snow angel. This opens up those tight chest muscles from feeding and holding a baby! Shoot for a few angels per day, or when you’re feeling it from all those baby feeding sessions!

Once the 6 weeks is over, you have sufficiently rested, your body has healed and you are ready for more exercise and movement: ease back into it slowly slowly. It is all too easy to rush back into intense exercise but remember, you just gave birth, you are in a different body and you are still
healing for the first year postpartum. Your gains will be much larger if you go slow and steady over rushed and fervent.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

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Postpartum Belly Binding Should I do it?

Postpartum Belly Binding- Should I do it?

Belly Binding Basics

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what you should do with your belly postpartum. The abdominal wall has been stretched out through pregnancy and many find it extremely helpful to use something to support their body in the immediate postpartum time. However, not all belly binding is created equal and there can be a lot of damage done by what are sometimes referred to as “waist trainers.”

Be sure that:

You are not binding too tightly
Binding too tightly can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor. The goal is not to push everything in, it is to reapproximate the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscles (the ones that can separate during a diastasis recti) and give the core some additional support while it is recovering from pregnancy.

 

You have perineal support at the same time
There are many types of post-birth support garments on the market and it can be quite overwhelming to decide! Avoid any garment that binds the abdomen only. It should also have support for your pelvic region as well.

You are not binding too tightly
Binding too tightly can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor. The goal is not to push everything in, it is to reapproximate the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscles (the ones that can separate during a diastasis recti) and give the core some additional support while it is recovering from pregnancy.

You have perineal support at the same time
There are many types of post-birth support garments on the market and it can be quite overwhelming to decide! Avoid any garment that binds the abdomen only. It should also have support for your pelvic region as well.

Myths of postpartum belly binding

Myth: Belly binding will make your waist slimmer.
Reality:  Despite some celebrities showing their “postpartum waist trainers,” belly binding is not going to slim down the waist in any way. If the binding is too tight it can actually put strain on the pelvic floor and increase prolapse symptoms.

Myth: Belly binding is all you need for core recovery.

Reality: Belly binding is a tool, not a cure. It can not take the place of proper rehab of the pelvic floor, core and whole body system.

Myth: You should bind tightly.

Reality: Binding too tightly can negate any positive effects by putting too much pressure on the ribcage, abdominal cavity, and pelvic floor. You should be able to take a deep breath into your ribcage while wearing your support garment, and you not feel any restriction of movement. Additionally, you should not feel an increase in pelvic floor symptoms. If you are experiencing this you either have a less than optimal type of binder, or it is simply too tight.

Myth: You NEED to belly bind.

Reality: Not everyone wants to belly bind and that is just fine. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t feel like you need to do it. Belly binding does not and should not replace a solid rehab exercise program, which is the most critical piece.

OSM garment suggestions:

We suggest shorts or leggings style of garment for postpartum recovery, as they support both the core and the bottom and are easy to move around in. Make sure you get your correct size, as these are not as adjustable as other types and you do not want to size down and get something too tight. Remember, we are not “waist training,” (which is a myth), we are supporting the recovering body.

WOULD NOT ADVISE: Waist Trainer

  • Does not support the pelvic floor
  • When too tight, can cause prolapse and other pelvic floor symptoms
  • Restricted breathing, not good for core
  • Stress the sympathetic nervous system, causing feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.

WE RECOMMEND: Recovery Shorts

  • Compression of the pelvic region.
  • Compression and support for the abdominal and back without restriction
  • Helpful post surgical birth for incision.
  • Helpful for feeling support and “held” emotionally, without feeling restriction of breathing.

Belly binding is a personal choice. If you decide to try it out, make sure to research what you buy and even then, if you notice any pelvic symptoms from use, discontinue. Belly binding is not a solution, but it is an excellent tool for many moms to aide in recovery.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

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Your Recovering Core and Pelvic Floor

Your Recovering Core and Pelvic Floor

“C’mon ladies. Let’s get you back to your pre baby body. Time to shred your core!”

Overheard in a gym class for postnatal women. These types of comments are ubiquitous in the fitness world. Seemingly harmless fitspiration types of rah rah. Harmless they are not. Helpful? Not that either. Often these types of sentiments go hand in hand with the idea that a ripped, toned core is a good core and can come with a price tag, especially postnatal, when things are healing, different and changed in our core and pelvic floor.

I have had 3 kids, all in 4 years time. I totally get the desire to get our bodies to feel and look like they did pre baby. There is a smart way to do that and way that takes into account the changes to our body postpartum. Many women struggle with leak pee, their might feel heavy in their core, they might feel totally disconnected from their abs, have an abdominal separation and they might be lacking the confidence to speak openly of these things.

Whether you are a fitness pro or a new mom, here are some very important  things you should know about your core and pelvic floor postpartum. You can be 10 years postpartum and many of these things still apply, however they are most critical for the first few years.

Diastasis recti: Abdominal Separation

A diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominals at the midline. Meaning that there is a gap in the center of your belly, above and / or below your navel. The gap can be wide, narrow, deep, shallow and is measured in finger width. It can lead to your abs feeling “saggy,” “loose,” “weak” and is best diagnosed by a doctor or PT. There are many videos on youtube showing how to do a self test but I have seen many women do the test wrong so a professional opinion is best.With a diastasis recti, it is crucial to train your core in a very specific way as you can make the gap larger with poor core training and exercises.I often hear people say: “If you have a diastasis recti, just do deep core exercises and avoid crunches.” However just avoiding crunches and doing exercises like deadbug or tabletop or navel to spine is not enough.

How you do the exercise is more important.

How you are breathing during the workout matters as does your form and alignment matters. How you train matters.One more piece of advice I often hear women with diastasis receive is to hold their abs tight all day to make them strong again. Actually that is not getting strong, that is getting tense and tension in that form can make a diastasis recti worse! So be sure that one thing you are not doing is holding your belly “zipped” in all the time. It really does not make your abs stronger.

Pelvic floor: Leak pee and heaviness in your pelvic floor

The most common, not discussed issue for women postpartum. Pelvic floor issues can range from urinary incontinence to run and jump pee to prolapse of organs into the vaginal canal. A PT or urogynecologist would be the first place to turn for a diagnosis. Sadly I have heard many many women tell me that they were told that leak pee is not resolvable and “just learn to live with it.”That can be extremely discouraging to hear and thankfully it is not true. There is a lot that can be done to resolve leak pee but we must ensure that we are not making the issue worse with our movement and exercise choices. Any activities that increase intra abdominal and pelvic pressure can make it worse.

Increasing pressure can look like breath holding, excess abdominal tension in the form of sucking our bellies in, bearing down when we exercise, and doing exercises that ab our abs bulge up or out. Again, it comes down to finding a training program that focusses on these areas and can teach you how to exercise wisely in a beneficial way.

Postpartum, your pelvic floor and core are healing for at least 1 year. Both regions have gone through extensive changes and will take time to build back resilience and prior strength. Pushing too hard at first can put strain on the core and pelvic floor and strain on the pelvic floor when it is already in a weakened state is not ideal.

In summary:

Not all exercising and core training is created equal and our postpartum bodies need to be treated not as a piece of clay to mold back to original shape but as a structure that has gone through substantial changes and needs specific training to regain strength and integrity. If I had a penny for all of the women who wish they had done things differently postpartum and learned the hard way…

There is no need to push yourself in exercise to get your body back. Rather, think of healing your core and pelvic floor in a smart fashion so you can have a functional core and pelvic floor for the long haul.

Are you ready to rock your pregnancy with a free workout on us?

We would be honoured to support you on your marvelous journey.

Free Mama Power workout video