Postpartum Recovery – Progressive Exercises for Post Pregnancy

So often I am asked what exercises are safe and appropriate to practice during postpartum recovery. This is especially important to think about if you are looking after a diastasis, incontinence or prolapse. It’s never too late to start but it’s important you begin with exactly what your body needs. Remember you’re recovering from 9 months of downward pressure on your pelvic floor, a dramatic shift in posture, decreased pelvic stability and a crazy rollercoaster of hormones. It’s a lot!

So here are 4 simple steps to help regain your core strength, reduce back pain and get your abs into shape.

1.      Breathing

Don’t underestimate how powerful and effective deep breathing exercises can be. Your diaphragm is one of your core muscles (it sits at the top of your core and acts like a “lid” keeping everything in place). For 9 months your diaphragm has been gradually pressed upwards to accommodate for the baby. Now that it has the space, allow it to move!

Practice this – sit up straight and place your hands on either side of you rib cage. Breathe in deeply to a count of 8, feeling the ribs open sideways into your hands. Exhale slowly for a count of 8 feeling the ribs release back into the centre.Repeat x 10.

2.      Wake Up Your Deep Core Muscles

Now it’s time to “wake up” the deeper core muscles. Getting this area to activate will be crucial for your postpartum recovery. When you are activating the deep core, think of it as a subtle connection. You should be able to feel the muscles engaging like you have a corset wrapping around your waist. You also want to activate your pelvic floor gently. Think of stopping the flow of urine and stopping gas. All these contractions should be subtle.

Practice this – lay down on your back with feet flat on the floor. Gently connect the deep core muscles. Holding your spine stable, slowly lift one foot off the floor. Place it back down then repeat. Make sure you keep your pelvis and spine still. Practice 10 x each side, using your exhale as you lift the leg.

  • Add Some Challenge To Your Postpartum Recovery Exercises

Once you’re able to hold a connection of your core muscles, start to add some challenge and endurance to your exercises. Remember to engage the core and pelvic floor gently rather than clenching. You should never feel pain or discomfort in your lower back. If you are, that is a sign the core muscles are not engaging correctly, and you should regress to the previous exercise.

Practice this – laying on your back, try lifting one leg at a time. Hold and breathe deeply, making sure to keep the core engaged. Avoid doming or “popping” your belly out. Hold 10 x breaths.

4.      Increase Load and Stability

Once you are comfortable engaging your core muscles and adding challenge, now it’s time to practice adding more load. It is also helpful to practice your core connection as you’re doing more functional (or “everyday”) exercises such as squats, lifting your baby and pushing the pram.

Practice this – hold a full plank for 5 seconds, then place knees down. Repeat 5 times. Work up to 10 seconds, then 15. You could also try lifting and lowering one leg as you hold a plank.

Conclusion

Your core muscles won’t “bounce back” to normal without some assistance. While you may be motivated to get back into shape as quickly as you can, taking your time is key. As much as possible, be gentle with yourself during your postpartum recovery. Heal and reconnect. Remember that resting is beneficial to your nervous system and hormones – this will make your recovery quicker in the long run.

Please reach out for more information or with any questions.

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