If your postpartum class involves these types of activities walk (No Running!) towards the exit!
Desperate to get my “pre baby” body back after my first vaginal birth I did everything I could to lose my post baby weight. I started running in the evenings, committing to exercise videos during baby’s naptime, one in particular 5 Minute Abs to lose my “mommy tummy”, and lifting dumbells. Months into my postpartum period I experienced symptoms of pelvic and hip pain and I wasn’t sure why. The symptoms just got worse after my second delivery. For quite a while, I assumed it was just a natural consequence of giving birth and I should just deal.
Doctors usually give you the green light to exercise at a 6 or 8 week postpartum checkup. What they FAIL to mention is that any woman who gives birth, vaginal or cesarean, is at HIGH RISK for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Your abdominals and pelvic floor are still naturally healing for up to 6 months after delivery. Obesity, older age, smoking, and chronic cough add to the risk.
Your abdominals may separate during pregnancy to accommodate for the growing baby, a condition known as Diastasis Recti. After delivery, they will begin to spontaneous heal, but intra- abdominal exercises like sit ups and crunches can exacerbate the problem by causing your tummy to bulge.
As if that’s not enough, the weight of the baby presses on your pelvic floor organs and muscles making them stretched and weak. The time it takes the pelvic floor to heal and recondition will depend on the length of active labor, if you had an episiotomy or tore and to what extent, and if precautions and corrective exercise are adhered to in the postpartum.
A lot of exercises found in a boot camp style class can increase your chances of getting pelvic floor dysfunction.
Just say No! to High impact activities: NO Running! NO Jumping Jacks!
These create a lot of downward pressure on your pelvic floor.
Just say No! to intra-abdominal pressure : NO Sit ups! NO Burpees! NO Heavy Weight Lifting!
These create intra -abdominal pressure pushing on your pelvic floor.
If your pelvic muscles are too weak they won’t be able to properly support the pelvic organs. Symptoms of pelvic pain, incontinence, and prolapse are likely to occur.
Not to mention the hormone Relaxin!
If you were like me you weren’t aware postpartum women have the hormone, relaxin, in their body after delivery which can sometimes last up to a year if continuing to breastfeed! Relaxin is a hormone which is manufactured in your body during pregnancy so your pelvis can open up to let your baby work his/her way out. I knew it was a concern during pregnancy, but after?
Why didn’t anyone tell me I still need to be cautious of stretching?
Postpartum women are easy prey when it comes to losing weight quickly and getting back their “pre baby body”. I know, I was one of them! They’re more than likely to have a lot of stress, be overly tired, and have body image issues making them vulnerable to a lot of unhealthy options that offer a quick turnaround for something that shouldn’t be a rush. After all it took almost a year to bring the baby into the world. How can you expect to heal in such a short period of time?
It’s not just boot camp either.
You should begin healing your core and pelvic floor directly after delivery and gradually add in exercises your body can accommodate. Then, even yoga and pilates, What!?! (Downward dog and Front Planks I’m giving you the evil eye right now!) should be avoided or modified based on your level of recovery. Weight loss is achievable and can be an overall goal, but the main focus should be more energy, feeling good, and reconditioning your weakened core and pelvic floor.
Postpartum women are a very specific population in the fitness industry. Make sure you find someone that specializes in the field to help you through your recovery process.
Here’s to exercising safely!