After having my first daughter I remember being shocked by how weak my abs and pelvic floor felt when I started exercising again.
I had kept up with my Pilates and walking routine throughout the entire pregnancy so I didn’t expect to feel as though I had lost so much strength.
This was incredibly eye opening to me because it showed just how tired the postpartum body is. I exercised, I had a smooth delivery, and I didn’t have a C-Section…and I STILL felt weak.
It made me realize how many women probably return to their exercise routines either too soon or too vigorously.
Unfortunately our culture puts an unnecessary amount of pressure on women to bounce back quickly from pregnancy and having a baby. We are constantly bombarded with stories about celebrities who get their “body back” after baby and who sheds the weight fastest. I wish this wasn’t true of our society, but unfortunately it is. So all we can do is decide for ourselves that it’s more important for us to honor our bodies, trust our intuitions and block out the messages we receive from the multi-billion dollar diet & weight loss industry.
After 10 months of carrying another life, the postpartum body needs time to heal, even after you receive clearance from your doctor to get back out there again.
The good news is that my strength came back rather quickly. It took more time than I imagined, it took patience and it took work, but I hadn’t lost it. My body was simply recovering and tired.
Postpartum exercise is important to help you re-gain your strength and confidence. It’s also been proven to reduce the risk for postpartum depression, which for me, is quite motivating.
Here are a few important things to consider when returning to Pilates after pregnancy:
1. Do not resume exercise until you’ve received clearance from your doctor or midwife to do so.
This is important. By returning too soon you can do more damage than good.
2. Check yourself for Diastasis Recti before beginning a postpartum exercise routine.
Diastasis Recti is the separation of abdominal muscles along the linea alba (connective tissue that runs down the center of your belly). It’s normal to have a small ab separation after pregnancy, but anything more than 2 fingers wide requires special care as you return to exercise. Use my at-home test for Diastasis Recti and speak with your doctor/midwife or a qualified physical therapist if you have concerns.
3. Take it slow.
There is no rush! In fact, pushing your body too hard too fast will likely set you back in the long run. Start with gentle routines (like this postpartum Pilates workout), take breaks when you need to, and truly listen to your body.
By taking the slow and steady route I was able to get back on my feet, re-gain my strength and run a half-marathon at 6 months postpartum. There was no need to push myself beyond what felt comfortable to get back in shape.
4. Pay attention to your pelvic floor.
Pilates is great because almost all of the exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. I’ve spoken with a lot of moms who felt like any kind of cardio/running/jogging put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on the lower extremities. Returning to cardio or running without also re-strengthening the muscles that supported your baby, placenta, etc. etc. for months on end could cause long-term problems.
5. Mind your posture.
It’s natural and normal for your posture to change during pregnancy. It’s part of the beautiful process that is required to support an 8 lb human in your abdomen (it sounds so weird when you say it like that doesn’t it?). Breastfeeding, bottle feeding and holding babies affects your posture as well. So be sure to incorporate exercises to strengthen the core and upper back. Of course, Pilates is great for this.
Check out my YouTube channel for tons of free Pilates workouts and stay tuned, I’m currently putting together a postpartum Pilates program for all of the new moms out there. I can’t wait to share more details with you soon!
Did you have a good or bad experience returning to exercise postpartum? I’d love to hear your thoughts.