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Post Partum Body and Exercise

Posted on: October 16th, 2012 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

Whether you had a vaginal or a caesarean delivery, your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles have been stretched and possibly damaged.  It is important to get these muscles working properly again.  Many women are concerned about losing weight gained during pregnancy and flattening their stomachs, but it is important to get into a safe exercise routine as some types of exercise can cause back pain, create difficulty controlling urine or stool or cause dropping of the uterus, bladder or rectum.

What are safe exercises to perform post partum?

1. Pelvic Floor Muscle Strengthening (Kegels)

Breathe in and as you breathe out, imagine closing the openings in your pelvic floor, then lifting the pelvic floor up towards the center of your body.  Relax the pelvic floor muscles and imagine your sitz bones (the 2 bony prominences that you feel in your bum when sitting) spreading apart to help with relaxation of the muscles.

You may begin this exercise right away post partum, but only perform this exercise if you can do so without pain.  If you have pain, listen to your body as your body is healing and wait to do the exercise until you can perform it without pain.

Begin with 10 reps, 3 times/day.  Once that is easy, begin increasing the hold time of each rep. Goal is 10 sec. hold.

2. Deep Abdominal Muscle (Transversus Abdominus) Strengthening

Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your hands gently over your lower abdomen.  Breathe in  and as you breathe out, slowly and gently pull your abdomen away from your hands, towards your spine.  You should feel a light tension under your hands if you are recruiting the correct muscle.  If you feel a bulge outwards into your hands, you are working the wrong muscle, so relax and begin again.  Once you have the correct muscle working, hold the tension in the muscle and continue breathing for 2 more breaths in and out.

You may begin this exercise right away post partum, but only perform this exercise if you can do so without pain.  If you have pain, listen to your body as your body is healing and wait to do the exercise until you can perform it without pain.

Begin with 10 reps, 2 times/day.  Once this is easy, increase the hold time of each rep.

3. Walking

For cardiovascular exercise, walking is a good choice for the first eight weeks after delivery.  Make sure you have good posture while walking.   Pointing your chest forward will help you maintain good posture.

See a physical therapist if you are unsure about performing the exercises correctly.

What exercises should be avoided post partum?

Any version of sit-ups, crunches or pelvic tilts.  It is important to train your deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles post-partum to regain your core stability.  Sit-ups, crunches and pelvic tilts work the outer layer abdominal muscles and these muscles are not responsible for your core stability.  Also, if you have a separation down the middle of your outer layer abdominal muscle (called diastasis recti), exercising the outer layer muscle can worsen the separation.

When is it safe to increase my activity level?

Once you are 8 weeks post partum, you may begin gradually increasing your activity level and returning to other classes/activities if

  • you are pain free (including back, abdomen, pelvis and hips)
  • you are not experiencing leakage of urine or feces
  • you do not feel heaviness, pressure or bulging in your vagina or pelvis
  • you do not  have a bulge in the center of their abdomen while performing exercises or sitting up in bed.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, see a pelvic health physical therapist prior to beginning an exercise routine.

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