How functional is your pelvic floor and does it support you during post-natal workouts?
The following 4 Steps will get you back on track. It is a fact that new mothers are spending more time at home in the early post pregnancy months so squeezing in a high quality recovery session while your new little treasure is watching is a convenient way of kicking off your recovery journey.
Are you doing your Kegels? How many times have you been asked this question ladies? In this blog article, we will look at why it is so important to find the right place to start when it comes to post-pregnancy exercise and explore why the Pilates repertoire has exactly what you need during this time.
Did you know that there are three different muscles that are required to work and co-contract for optimum support?
Did you know that the position you are in while performing your Kegel’s also matters?
The role breath plays in post pregnancy recovery cannot be understated, because breathing efficiently can help to decompress and expand your ribs. It brings awareness to the role your ribs, abdominal muscles, deep core stabilizers, gluteals (buttocks) and inner thigh muscles play in restoring pelvic floor health.
Following the birth of your baby, your body goes through many adjustments as your center of gravity changes. Along with the added postural demands of caring for a young baby, we must pay attention to take a progressive approach to rebuilding control and strength.
Step 1: You have been cleared to exercise by your doctor and are at least 12 weeks post pregnancy.What’s next?
Continuing with your Pelvic Floor work is my answer each and every time, as it is your hammock of support in your pelvis upon which your other core muscles will need to rely.  So the question you should ask yourself before you pick up your desired activity again post-natal is: Have I done enough work on my pelvic floor and deep core to be able to support it? You should also be checked by your doctor or women’s health professional, whether you present with a diastasis recti and how much of a separation you have. It is vital to understand this, as it provides your baseline for starting the work on your deepest layer, the TA. During the initial stages, your Teacher will get you focusing on the relationship between your abdominals, your back, your breathing muscle and your pelvic floor. [3, p.152-155] There are certain exercises you should be avoiding if you do have a separation of the abdominal wall. The guidelines for postnatal movement indicate the exercises to omit. They include traditional sit ups, double leg lowering & teasers, roll ups for some clients, lifting anything heavier than your new born baby. In fact, these exercises are not beneficial, regardless of how long it's been since you delivered your baby, if you have a separation of the abdominal wall (diastasis recti) of more than one finger's width. [3,p.154-155]
Step 2: The role of breath work in Pilates can release stress and anxiety for new mum's.
There is convincing evidence that Pilates can put a spring back in your step. It all starts with breathing. It is our first principle of movement in Pilates. “Above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”– J.H. Pilates. Pilates will bring your awareness to your breathing diaphragm and how it coordinates with your pelvic diaphragm. A trained post pregnancy Instructor will focus on relaxation and flowing movement sequences which can help ease post natal anxiety.
In this clinical study on the effect of 30 min Pilates, performed 5 times per day for 8 consecutive weeks, participants were evaluated on their physical & mental fatigue and motivation to exercise. We learn that Pilates was effective at reducing mental and physical tiredness following an at Pilates home exercise program. (Singapore Med J. 2015 Mar; 56(3), Effect of Pilates exercises on postpartum maternal fatigue) Taking time out for yourself is an important commitment you make to assist your journey to recovery. Remember, the only thing you need to do, is to start somewhere.
Step 3: Gentle movement sequences that follow a progressive approach will uncover where you need to spend your focus.
Every post-pregnant body is in need of some TLC. Did you know that there are many different exercises that refer to your ‘’Kegel’s’’? Your pelvic floor is complex and just like any other exercise, the way you perform them can have a massive impact on your outcome. A specifically designed post natal recovery program will focus on getting familiar with the shape of our pelvis and the muscles that support your pelvis in movement.
It is likely that you carry a lot of tension too and Pilates is excellent for releasing and calming the nervous system. Do you suffer from low back tightness due to a weakness in your core muscles? Some clients report neck and upper back discomfort which is unavoidable when spending long hours breastfeeding a young baby and indeed throughout every stage of pregnancy due to the postural adaptations that take place. [2, p.31]
Step 4: Assess your ability to move on prior to joining your pre-pregnancy activities.
Recovery from pregnancy is a process and while the early months can have a big impact on your mood and energy levels as discussed above, additional Pilates exercises are layered on in a progressive manner. Over the course of six to nine months, you can regain your strength by applying varying loads to the body and increasing your ability to exercise more vigorously without getting injured.
Understanding where you need to focus your attention to release some tension and strengthen the deeper core musculature gently and in a structured manner can really help along the way.
Blandine Calais-Germain, Andre Lamotte, Anatomy of Movement, Exercises- revised edition, 2008, p.38
Blandine Calais-Germain, The Female Pelvis, Anatomy and Exercises, 2003.
Jennifer Gianni, Fusion Pilates Pre & Post natal Teacher Training, Comprehensive Training Manual, 2013,13th Edition