5 Things every new Mum should know before returning to exercise

Over the nine months period that you are pregnant, your body gains weight. Your weight gain may be moderate, or it may be substantial.   

There is so much pressure for you to slim down post baby at a rapid rate. This pressure is from watching celebrities in the media squeeze back into their skinny jeans just days after leaving the hospital, and the pressure you put on yourself.

As a result you race back to the gym as soon as you have your six week all clear from the doctor, however your body may not be ready to hit the gym and exercise.

Taryn Watson is a Continence and Women’s Health Physiotherapist, a Pilates Instructor and Director at FitRight Physio. Taryn shares below, her top five things that all new Mums should know before returning to exercise. 

1. A medical all clear after birth does not mean you’re ready for exercise

At the six weeks post birth check up, it’s very unlikely that your Obstetrician will check anything to do with your pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles, let alone give an individualised program for return to exercise.

That is the role of the Women’s Health Physiotherapist. These are physiotherapists like Taryn, who have specialised in obstetrics and pelvic floor muscle rehab.

At a postnatal check up with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, you will get your pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles individually assessed, as well as any other bladder, bowel or musculoskeletal issues. And your physiotherapist will work with you to put in place an optimal return to exercise program for you.

2. Don’t build a house on weak foundations – focus on your core first

It’s so important that you have optimal core strength before you start rebuilding your full body strength.  So what is the core? 

Some exercises get labeled ‘core’ exercises, but in fact are very likely to simply recruit the outer, power muscles. Some examples of exercises that would recruit the outer muscles would be the Russian twist, plank, double leg raises.

Start by working on your core training slowly by focusing on the pelvic floor and more basic abdominal exercises given to you by your Physiotherapist. 

3. Pelvic floor muscle exercises are not a ‘one size fits all'

You will need to be individually prescribed and progressed, as every birth and pregnancy are different. Your Women’s Health Physiotherapist will build your individual recovery exercise program for you, and your circumstances.

4. Abdominal muscle separation does not undergo natural recovery after 8 weeks

It is normal for the rectus abdominis muscle, or ‘six pack muscle’ to stretch during pregnancy so that the two muscle bellies move away from each other and the connective tissue in the midline is stretched

Over the first eight weeks post birth, research has shown that a certain amount of ‘natural recovery’ occurs – probably in response to the uterus shrinking back down, general weight loss, and hormonal changes.

After that, however, if there is still a significant ‘diastasis’ or muscle separation, the research has shown that specific muscle exercise needs to be implemented to heal this. It’s not as much about the width as it is about the depth and strength of the connective tissue in the midline.

5. There are no 'recipe' time lines for return to running and higher impact exercise

You should never be told that ‘at three months you can do this’ and ‘at six months you can do that’. Your body has endured a lot during pregnancy and birth, so you will need to ensure that your body is able to withstand the exercise that you want to do. Otherwise injury may occur.

A Women’s Health Physiotherapist will give you the all clear to exercise once they are happy with your recovery. 

Make an appointment

If you are an expectant Mum , a new Mum or you may be a Mum with older kids, it’s definitely worth your while to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist to have a check up, to make sure that you can return to exercise safely.

To book an appointment and view the list of clinics in Perth, visit: https://www.fitright.physio/fitright-initial-assessments/

Author:  Vanessa Geraghty McGann - Owner & Master Trainer - PTV Personal Training & Wellness Coaching. pt_v@live.com.au.