Returning to sport and exercise post baby: common questions.
When your body has transformed to grow a baby we are often left with many questions afterwards about returning to sport and exercise. Here are some common questions:
What is safe exercise post baby?
When I can I return?
What can and can’t I do?
Where can I go that allows me to exercise with my baby?
Is there a creche facility at my local gym?
Can I return to netball, football, etc?
What are these new body symptoms I’m having?
Will they affect my ability to exercise safely?
Is my instructor trained to recognise post baby body changes and symptoms?
Is my exercise tailored to suit my altered post natal body needs?
Most ladies want to begin exercising and resume their preferred sport for many reasons.
For the majority it is often to improve their appearance or get a bit of “me time” back and help to have a breather from the new responsibilities that come with being a “mummy”.
Exercise and sport have wonderful positive impacts on not just our physical body, but also our mental, emotional and social health wellbeing.
It is a way of meeting other mums/dads/carers for some “adult conversation”. The effects of staying home day in, day out with a baby can start to take it’s toll on most of us rather quickly.
We need human conversation and interaction to function and feel just that, human instead of a sleep deprived mummy zombie.
It’s a bit of a minefield out there when you look for information when returning to sport and exercise post baby. Some of the information out there via social media that shouts the loudest isn’t often the best or correct advise for new mums.
Many mums may boldly leap back into their trainers and go off for a run without fully understanding post natal recovery and find that their body starts protesting.
They might find that they leak wee or even poo (look up “runners trots”) when running or just find they need to empty their bladder urgently and frequently on route, when they didn’t need to before pregnancy or birth.
Another common symptom that may occur if exercise is to intense to soon is abdominal coning or a bulging tummy with exertion. When you belly morphs into a party cone shape that’s your body’s clever way of feeding back to you, your exercise may be to intense at this period.
All the words below are signs of diastasis recti: a separation and thinning of the linea alba that runs down the middle of your rectus abdominal muscles (your six pack abdominals). This is completely normal and occurs in 100% of pregnant women towards the end of their pregnancy.
Some ladies may get pain in their pelvis that they didn’t experience before pregnancy.
Ladies who feel a pressure, or low dragging sensation in their vagina when returning to exercise or sport should take caution when proceeding with exercise. If you do feel a heaviness in your nether regions that is worst at the end of the day or after a lot of heavy lifting/carrying of your baby then you really need to get assessed by a women’s (pelvic) health physiotherapist for pelvic organ prolapse.
Luckily there is a change in the tide and many wonderful fitness instructors out there are paving the post natal recovery revolution. They are providing education and exercise plans that empower you with out adding to your overloaded intra-abdominal load.
If you are interested to know more take a look at Adore your floor, Girls gone strong, burrell education, physiomum, absolute.physio, mutusystem, pelvicroar, munirahudanipt, mypelvicfloormuscles, mothers.wellness.toolkit, themummycoach, the pilatespt, to name just a few awesome ladies out there.
For ladies looking for a fitness instructor who specialises in pelvic health care you can look on the resources page of my website to find your nearest instructor <<<here>>>.
Common not normal
The key thing to know when exercising post baby are that the above symptoms mentioned are NOT normal and should not be accepted as post baby body. Yes its common a lot of us leak and yes its common of lot of us have a separation of our tummy muscles BUT we don’t have to put up and shut up as our mothers were led to believe.
We need to raise awareness of HOW to identify if you need to regress to progress in your exercise training.
We need to empower ladies to be able to self select if these symptoms are their story post pregnancy and birth.
Strategies to help you aim towards your desired sport and exercise are crucial as no sport or activity should never be off limits. There are some brilliant return to running guidelines that have been produced this year by Emma Brockwell, Grainne Donnelly and Tom Goom (all wonderful physio’s). You can find all the information <<<here>>>.
Originally most women who had a vaginal birth were told return to activity at 6 weeks post birth and as a general rule of thumb, ladies post c-section were encouraged to wait 12 weeks. The return to running guidelines encourage vaginal birth ladies to wait at least 12 weeks before they return to running.
That doesn’t mean no exercise.
It means start gradually with gentle exercise and build up towards your desired goal.
Better education amongst health and fitness professionals who are advising post natal ladies to return to sport and exercise is crucial. 85% of gym goers are female and a whopping 90% of those have had a baby at some point in their lives. Once post natal, always post natal.
Here’s a quick checklist for you to consider with your workout:
- Leaking wee/poo/wind?
- Coning/bulging your abdominals out with exercise/movement?
- Feeling a heavy pressure/ bulging in your vagina?
- Experiencing pain in your pelvis when exercising?
You are performing exercises that are increasing your intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) and this is not helpful to your body at THIS stage.
REGRESS to PROGRESS.
Look for alternative exercises that allow you to gradually increase your control and load on your body.
Find a specialist post natal class that ASK you about your pelvic floor and abdominal muscle function BEFORE you start exercising.
If you returned to running to quickly, try inclined walking and some exercises that will strengthen your gluts and core before trying again.
If you want to return to netball, football, basketball, etc look at increasing your cardio vascular fitness with exercise like a cross trainer or inclined treadmill walk first. Target the muscles that need training like your lower limb strength and control for jumping or kicking. Break down the movement and build up your body strength gradually.
Incorporate upper body and lower body strengthening exercises. You will most likely be lifting a baby a lot so learn techniques that help you lift better.
Become aware of your posture and alignment. Many mums post natal become very rounded in the shoulders from copious hours spent feeding and holding your baby. Once you notice your posture isn’t great, alter it, realign your spine and congratulate yourself for noticing and adjusting.
Find a way to reconnect to your body, your BREATH and your all important core muscles.
I am biased with my Pilates training and background but I love how it allows me to tune into my body and CONNECT everything together. I use yoga to move and flow but Pilates to strengthen and rebuild my inner core system.
If you would like to follow my online LIVE Pilates classes that occur twice a week in my private facebook group you can get all the details <<<here>>>. I focus primarily or regaining your foundation core connection and provide different levels with watch points for you to assess the right level for your body.
It’s so important as ladies we have goals, we are given a helping hand on reaching them and then we grab them with both hands.
Let’s get empowered and return all ladies to their chosen sport and exercise safely.
Marie Fell is the founder of The Pilates Physio UK who now lives and works in Luxembourg. She is a qualified physiotherapist with over 12 years NHS experience in a wide array of specialisms and three years experience running her own business.
Her passion lies in Posture, Pilates and the Pelvic floor! She is an enthusiastic pelvic health activist and uses her blog to highlight areas of pelvic health that are lacking to others.
She is passionate about improving post natal care for all ladies through education. Her mission is to empower, inspire and educate others to move freely and keep healthy and teaching Pilates with a clinicians hat on allows her the best of both worlds.