After giving birth to your beautiful bundle of joy and savouring those special moments together, there may come a time when you might look at yourself and realise things weren’t quite the same as they were before. What was once flat or firm can be stretched or loose (some describe it as wobbly): it can be quite upsetting. The initial aesthetic issue is exacerbated once you find that core strength has been lost, which is made clear once your back starts getting sore as it compensates for the loss of strength.
There’s no need to worry however – pregnancy pushes the body to the limit, and this is a very common response to carrying around a baby for 9 months! Many new mothers will be pleased to know that a few simple exercises can help rebuild your core into the strong set of muscles that they once were. Here we look at five easy ways to build that core back up.
How to start rebuilding strength
Although it might be tempting to start with exercises you might already be familiar with, ab crunches and sit ups are not recommended initially for postpartum mums due to the considerable stress they can place on abs and they are not as effective at targeting core muscles. To be on the safe side (which we always recommend) it is best to consult a doctor after you’ve recovered from your delivery, just to ensure that you’re able to effectively manage the impact of these exercises again. A pregnancy-savvy physiotherapist is invaluable at this stage as well.
Starting off slowly
Although some doctors will generally recommend that exercise can commence six weeks after giving birth, this is completely dependent on the circumstances of the new mother. Most women can start well before this time even after a caesarean section. There are a few simple exercises that allow for you to start strengthening your pelvic floor, the strengthening of which is necessary for effective core exercises later on.
Strengthening the pelvic floor requires the gentle bracing of the abdominal muscles by drawing in these deeper abdominal muscles below your navel and towards your spine and holding this position for as long as possible. Regularly practicing this technique correctly (feeling downward pressure on your pelvic floor muscles indicates incorrect technique) allows for these muscles to be properly redeveloped.
Walking is also an excellent form of exercise to engage in when you’re ready to start exercising again due to its low impact, and as a bonus it can be highly cathartic activity.
Beginning more focused exercises
Once you’ve started building up strength in your pelvic floor muscles and enough time has passed, it is now possible to start more focused core exercises – we give two great examples here to start your off.
The yoga boat, otherwise known as navasana, is a simple seated yoga position and is an excellent way to start strengthening your core. This exercise first requires you to sit with bent knees – after this, you are required to brace your core and lean back so that your thighs are resting between 45 and 50 degrees relative to the floor and your shins are parallel to the floor. You are then required to stretch out your arms and hold this position for 30 seconds, during which you should feel the successful pressure on your core.
Squats are an excellent and easy way to activate a diverse assortment of core muscles and are particularly useful as they occur so frequently with taking care of a baby, so learning to do them properly should be a priority!
To perform a squat, stand upright and with your feet slightly turned out, inhale before you squat down – your knees should follow the position of your feet and be pushing outwards (not in or straight). On your way up, squeeze your glutes and quadriceps and push your hips forward. Exhale as you return to your original standing position.
Begin your recovery strategy today
There are dozens more great exercises designed to help rebuild strength after giving birth. If you’d like some more suggestions, tips and tricks, get in touch with Dr Tom Cade today.