Firsthand Advice on Postpartum Exercise
Three months ago I was lucky enough to welcome my baby girl into the world! She arrived during lockdown in pretty dramatic circumstances, but that’s another story!
This blog is instead aimed at sharing some of the things that helped me during my pregnancy, and my (ongoing) postpartum recovery. It’s anecdotal, personal, and by no means constitutes medical advice. This is merely my personal experience which I hope may be useful to others.
MY JOURNEY BACK TO EXERCISE, POSTPARTUM
Finding comfortable movements
Whether it was a walk, a restorative yoga class, or Pilates inspired resistance training, finding some kind of exercise that felt good and comfortable throughout my pregnancy was SO important not only at the time, but even more so postpartum. My labour resulted in an emergency Caesarean section, and during the first few weeks as my scar healed I found it impossible to use any core strength. Thankfully keeping my arms and legs strong during pregnancy meant that I was able to find other ways to safely pick up my baby, get out of bed, stand up out of a chair, and other essential everyday movements without straining the area around my scar.
Building core strength
I started reengaging my deep core as soon as possible. I gently began reconnecting to my pelvic floor and transversus abdominis using Pilates breathing exercises the day after my daughter arrived. At this point I couldn’t get out of bed unassisted, so it really was deep internal work, but starting this recovery I feel set up a good foundation for the weeks of rehabilitation ahead.
Go at your own pace
I accepted pretty early on that ‘bouncing back’ is not a thing! This takes work! Pregnancy, labour, and birth (however you do it!) asks so much of the female body so the motion that the changes that happened over the previous 40 weeks are reversed in a blink of an eye is foolish. I think the post partum recovery should be enjoyed and celebrated. Don’t get me wrong there have been moments of frustration, but relearning how to enjoy movement in my new body has been a pleasure and opened my eyes to the human body’s amazing ability to heal!
Make it part of your new routine
Although we do not have any family available nearby to regularly help us with childcare, I was extremely lucky that my husband was able to take an extended paternity leave. This meant that I had a little more time to dedicate to my rehab exercises during the first few months, however I lowered my expectations of having a consistent amount of time to exercise each day pretty early on.
Of course there are so many factors with childcare, looking after other children, work etc, that sometimes making time for recovery may seem impossible. There have definitely been days where I just haven’t done anything except try and keep my baby alive! However finding even 5 minutes to do a few stretches or breathing exercises all adds up and have helped with my recovery.
Everyone has a different experience, and that’s okay
A final thing that I think can affect most people (myself included) is comparison to others. Some women may be ready to safely return to traditional exercise sooner than others, whilst some women may not feel like exercising at all. In my 10 years of teaching Pilates to pre and post natal women, and then experiencing it for myself, there is no doubt that everybody and every pregnancy is so, so different. Therefore no two recoveries can be the same and acknowledging that and taking it at your own pace is absolutely essential.
If you’re pregnant now or starting your postpartum journey back into fitness and exercise, I hope this helped give some insight and maybe some tips you can take away. Of course pregnancy experiences are different, so it’s no wonder that postpartum is just as personal and subjective! Ease back into things slowly. Your body is incredible and remember - you just gave birth to a human! Fitness will come back in time, be patient and consistent.
I am sharing my ‘go to’ postnatal exercises over on my Instagram @gracehurrypilates if you’d like more detail, or please send me a message with any questions you may have and I will do my best to reply.