Postpartum Goals: Get Your Strength and Mobility Back
August 17, 2017 4:09 pm
Pregnancy is one of the biggest changes a woman’s body will every go through. It is remarkable that a woman’s body is able to grow and accommodate a human being; muscles expand, organs shift, and blood volume doubles to create space for the tiny human. This change happens over 40 weeks, but, unfortunately, many women end up living with the after-effects for years!
Once you have had a baby, you are considered postpartum: even if you are a grandmother, you are still considered postpartum. This is not a negative label, but a record of what your body has done; however, this becomes a problem if you are not able to get your body back to its original capabilities. We often see women who have not been able to reach their goals or exercise at the same level of intensity as they were before their children – even 10 years later!
This is not about getting back into your size six jeans and rocking a bikini at the beach: this is about getting your strength and your mobility back! Not to mention the freedom to do the activities and exercises you want. Do you want to get back to Cross-Fit six times a week? Or maybe you will only run if something is chasing you… whatever it is, you can achieve that.
During pregnancy and birth, your pelvis expands to accommodate the baby and allow for delivery; we have hormones in our body that allow for this to happen – women are made for this!
So, what happens after delivery? Your hormones don’t switch off like a light switch and your pelvis doesn’t automatically come back to it’s original size. I know this is contrary to what we are told in the media – remember when Kate Middleton was outside the hospital just HOURS after the birth of Prince George, and people were criticizing her for still having a baby bump? Ridiculous!
Our Instagram and Facebook pages are bombarded with women who got their six pack back 3 months after giving birth and doing lunges in their living room holding their baby. For some women this might be totally appropriate; however, for a lot of women it is enough to go for a brisk walk while pushing the stroller, carry their 15lbs baby around and put them in and out of the car 3 times. With so much contradicting information how do you know what’s right for you?
- Recognize that everyone’s pregnancy, delivery and postpartum states are different – don’t compare yourself to your best friend who gave birth 2 months before you.
- Listen to your body! How do you feel after you do a certain exercise? Did you have pain during or after? Did you have any urinary leakage? Any feelings of heaviness? These are signs that you need to scale back. Did you feel fantastic afterwards? Great! Maybe you can gradually increase the workload.
- Consider how rested you are: If your baby is teething and you are sleeping even less than normal, it may not be the best day to try a new sprinting workout.
- Get help! A pelvic floor physiotherapist will assess your movement patterns, strength and mobility to give you strategies to reach your goals.
Typical areas of issue for postpartum women are weak gluteal muscles, weaker core, tight and/or weak pelvic floor, diastasis, pain and tension in the neck, upper back and forearms. Sound familiar? With the right exercises you can get back to your pre-pregnancy strength – or even better! The human body is extremely adaptable, but without any load or stress on it, it will get comfortable right where it is. So don’t be afraid to challenge yourself in your postpartum body once you have the right building blocks in place.
We are not meant to stay in that early postpartum state for ever. As a pelvic floor physiotherapist, I see a lot of women during their second or third pregnancy or after their second baby whose bodies are not able to cope with as well as it did the first time. From my experience, many of these women were not able to get back to their baseline.
The list of reasons is massive: pain, no support, postpartum depression, lack of resources, fatigue, and fear to name a few. Fear is one the one that makes me the saddest. Your body grew and gave birth to a tiny human – think of what it is capable of! With the right guidance, treatment and exercises you can get back to anything you want!
Often there is the fear of leakage, but know that you are not alone in having this fear. 1 in 3 women will have some type of incontinence in their lifetime. 1 in 3 makes it extremely common but not normal: ensure that you seek help from a pelvic health physiotherapist who can assess why this is happening and work with you towards a solution. Frequently the solution is not “more Kegels”! Having a full assessment will allow for a customized approach.
At Fifth Avenue Physiotherapy, all of our therapists have advanced training in assessing lower back and pelvic girdle problems (from the outside). A pelvic floor physiotherapist is able to assess the outside structures the same way as well as the internal pelvic floor muscles and their function. If you have no issues with urgency, incontinence, painful intercourse or constipation then booking an assessment with any of our capable physiotherapists is a great way to start. If you do have concerns with any of the above; are pregnant or recently postpartum then a pelvic health assessment would be more appropriate. During a pelvic health assessment we will be able to assess how things have changed since pregnancy and delivery and how you can move forward with confidence!
All too often when I see my postpartum clients they say; “Why did nobody tell me about this after my first pregnancy?” Understanding how you can get back to all of the activities you want to do is empowering! You shared your body for 40 weeks – now reward it with care it deserves!