The care that we give our post pregnancy body is just as important as the care which we provide for ourselves during the 9 months. During the 9 months of pregnancy our abdominal region stretches to make way for the growing foetus. Once a woman gives birth the organs, ligaments, muscles etc remain in those locations. Our body is not like a lacky band whereby we stretch it, let go and it goes back to the original form.
There are a few things that we can do to assist our post baby belly heal and return the items back to where they were pre-pregnancy.
1) Coupled with moderate cardio, a postpartum workout should focus on building up the muscles of your torso (which took a beating when you were pregnant). Every new mum can benefit from core strengthening. “The rectus abdominal muscles are stretched during pregnancy in a way that makes it impossible to exercise them during that time." Some women also experience a separation of the abdominal wall muscles, which is called rectus abdominis diastasis. Exercises that target this condition can bring the muscles back together again and a woman's physio is a great port of call to get the low down.
2) A postpartum belly band, wrap or our supportive leggings band (folded) is sometimes recommended, since they can help your C-section incision heal. But you may have seen women with vaginal deliveries touting the benefits of these products as well.
While postpartum belly wraps won’t actually cause weight loss, they may provide some benefits. They help tighten your stomach after pregnancy, improve circulation, reduce swelling through compression, and support the abdomen and lower back. What’s more, these postpartum belly bands may be especially helpful for those with diastasis recti.
Ask your doctor or woman's physio if you want to use a belly band and remember, you still need a healthy balanced eating and exercise plan to help your body heal...
Nadine is a Brisbane Mum of two, a personal trainer, Emergency Military Nurse, blogger and a health and fitness enthusiast. Nadine has lived and breathed fitness for many years and was motivating the troops at F45 until she went on maternity leave.
During both pregnancies Nadine suffered from severe HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) or extreme morning sickness where she had to be hospitalised a number of times due to dehydration/monitoring. For those of you who know Nadine would appreciate that she gives everything 110% and will train anywhere/anytime. Due to unforeseen circumstances Nadine went into labour 6 weeks early and underwent an emergency caesarian. She then spent the next few weeks going back and forth to the special care nursery-pumping around the clock to nourish her little one.
For Nadine, exercise is like brushing her teeth, it is part of her day so when she made the conscious decision to NOT return to exercise postpartum it was a big thing. Listening to her inner dialogue and body is an important message for all Mums. Some tend to rush back into a regime which they may not be ready for mentally or physically- the fourth trimester is just as important as the first three…
“As you guys know I made the very conscious decision to NOT return to ‘Training’ at 6 weeks when I was cleared to begin ‘light’ exercise. Hear me out tho!! It’s interesting seeing me talk about my birth because birth trauma is REAL and what we experienced to bring Beckham here safely was incredibly scary for all involved but that is a story for another day perhaps, this is something I deal with everyday…. Anyhow this isn’t just about my birth experience….because….I hadn’t felt ready and I had to listen to that internal dialogue. I knew my recovery was going to be longer in duration due to what occurred physically and mentally for me and I know that i have had to be very meticulous, careful and very structured and progressive with my recovery. Slow and steady is absolutely what is needed for me and my body. Physically and mentally my mind and body have been through the wars. And my body has needed REST and a chance to do some internal repair on its own.-mind, body and soul without the additional stressors….Irrespective of my birth experience, I also DECIDED that the 4th trimester was something again that I wanted to immerse into, to truly soak in the time with my newborn and my family…time I’ll never get back, time to bond, time to find our groove. And without the added pressure or ‘postpartum bounce back’ that seems to be on the trend which I refuse to enter into….
Project ‘get my body back’, and some rapid postpartum mum bod has been so far out of my priorities it is not funny. That may seem interesting for someone whose life is revolved so heavily around health and fitness…(if your new to my page you may not know that I have a background in personal training, group coaching, have my online coaching and mentoring business, published fitness modelling and heavily involved in this industry) BUT and that’s not to say others that return sooner are doing the wrong thing, I would hope we are all guided by the professional advice and pave our own path unique to our journey, but what I am saying is this is MY journey and my decision making and SLOW RETURN is and has been my PRIORITY.
But THIS to me is HEALTH! Its looking after ME in all life pillars- the physical sense, the emotional sense etc etc. I have had times where I’ve wanted to get back into it. Let’s not lie. BUT it was in those moments I reminded myself of THIS. Newborn life is fleeting and Ive focused my time and energy into my baby, my family and my WELLBEING OVERALL and gentle walks with Beckham a couple of days a week and that is it, focusing on nutrition especially when a prep baby is exclusively breastfed and that is my HEALTH, my body right now is still an extension to someone else aka BABY BECKS and will be for a while. These decisions have been easy to make-especially when it involves a MIRACLE baby that was born prematurely after a traumatic birth and him being in hospital in special care for the first few weeks of his life and heck a whirlwind pregnancy with trials along the way from the get-go, trust me when I say that we were a bees dick away from our birth being the catastrophic WORST day of our lives with the outcome being potentially VERY different…now as a result; my core and abdominals have needed and will be needing progressive rehab work just like anyone would need to; but perhaps on a grander scale due to what occurred that day. Which i too have been and will continue to be working on. My c-section fortunately and unfortunately had to be rapid, had to be severe, had to be rough and was complicated to say the VERY least. What happened had to happen in order to BRING our baby out alive.
Someone doesn’t recover from birth trauma overnight. Im a resiliant person but Im not immune from that- it rocked me and Dane too- because our birthing partners experience it too lets not forget them. And it still does. It takes time. And I work on that in various ways everyday. We are appreciative and grateful with what eventuated in the end but it was a harrowing experience that perhaps I’ll share one day.
In a nutshell, taking this time slow but smart, meticulous and planned, progressive in nature and ensuring reassessment on all fonts along the way, but more importantly being discerning of where I focus my time and energy while I recover has been my priority. I know where my body ‘can go’, what it ‘can’ look like, what it is ‘capable’ of doing and achieving. But doing that in record time would be foolish and detrimental long term. Pregnancy and birth is short term, my postpartum is FOREVER. AND I choose to honour and look after that!!!!!
I’m 4 months postpartum this weekend. I now move into a new phase of my rehab. Take note, in my opinion I started rehab day 1- it just looks different which is MY VARIATION OF NORMAL. And being in a ‘gym’ hasn’t been part of it until now. 4 months postpartum now involves a progressive program that I have taken time to develop with so much intention and will be assessing as I go, and with the necessary health professional checks and advice along the way with a women’s health physiology which also will be ongoing! This new phase isn’t some crazy step up, its simply simply the next part of my progressive step in my current rehab and restrengthening this mind and body. The bi-product of all of this of course will be some aesthetic change but again the focus isn’t that solely!! Im excited to be entering this phase and Ill be sharing it with you and I hope my journey will and can inspire others to also LOOK AFTER AND TAKE MUCH CARE IN THEIR POSTPARTUM JOURNEY……”
*Nadine has released her birth story on Dear Mama Project Podcast if you are interested in hearing more.
Push-ups are the best way to work that upper body while you're pregnant. Push ups are a great way to build strength so you are better equipped to hold and lift your little one.
Muscle Groups Trained & Benefits:
The push-up strengthens the muscles of the upper body including:
- deltoids (shoulders)
- upper back
- triceps (back of arms)
- Upper body strength may be utilized during labor and delivery for support and stability in some squatting positions.
- Upper body strength will most certainly be utilized postpartum as you care for baby!
- Upper body strength helps to maintain alignment and core stability.
- In combination with core activation and diaphragmatic breathing, TVA (transverse abdominis) and core are strengthened.
Some ask is it safe to do push ups during pregnancy or early postpartum?
Anytime your abdominal wall is “loaded” i.e. putting extra pressure on the tissues by doing pushups or planks, you can worsen your diastasis recti. We still do pushups, but in a functional way so as not to load the abs. Below is a general guide as to each trimester and then postpartum we suggest working backwards once you have the all clear.
First Trimester Push-Ups
- Start in a modified push-up position with hands and knees on the ground.
- Be sure your hands are directly under the shoulders as you lower down towards the ground.
- Push back and return to starting position and repeat.
Second Trimester Push-Ups
- Start in push-up plank position.
- Reach the right hand sideways during the push-up.
- Alternate sides bringing one hand to the center between reps
Third Trimester Push-Ups
- Stand facing a wall and extend your arms onto the wall just wider than shoulder width apart.
- Bend your elbows until your nose almost touches the wall.
- Reverse the movement and push your body back to the starting position. Continue for 15 reps.
*exercise in pregnancy should be checked with a qualified physician
DR or better known as Diastasis Recti is quite common amongst Pregnant/Postpartum Mums and without the knowledge or bing assessed many don’t even know they have it. Some woman wonder why years after childbirth they still have the pouch even though they have done what they can through eating right and exercise.
Taryn Watson from FITRIGHT wrote a great blog last year on it. Recently we also attended an information session from @fit_triplet_mum
Here is some of Taryn‘s post:
Abdominal Muscle Separation During and After Pregnancy
It will never cease to amaze that a little human being can grow to full development for nine months in a woman’s belly. One of the inevitable consequences of this, however, is that there has to be a lot of shifting and stretching of the surrounding organs and tissues to allow this to happen!
The “six pack” muscle, or Rectus Abdominis muscle, is actually two muscle bellies with a line of connective tissue down the middle. From about 18 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby starts taking up more space above the pelvis, the midline tissue has to start stretching, and the six pack muscles move apart from each other.
This separation is called ‘Diastasis Recti’, or DR, and is helped by the fact that pregnant women have a hormone in their body called Relaxin, which allows connective tissue to be stretchier.
MYTH TO BUST – The abdominal muscles do not ‘tear’ or ‘split’, but the connective tissue between them does need to stretch and this is a very normal consequence of pregnancy.
In pregnancy, after the muscles have begun to stretch, it is highly recommended to minimize use of the six pack muscle. This means after approximately 16-20 weeks of pregnancy, avoid anything that causes ‘doming’ or triangling of the abdominal wall during exercise or daily activities. This may include:
- Russian Twists
- Pull ups/chin ups/Muscle ups
- Getting up from the bed/bath/couch
Daily movements can usually be modified to avoid doming, by rolling completely onto your side to get up from a reclined position.