At PMPP we have always erred on the side of caution when advising women when they can resume exercise post baby. We always suggest women discuss with their obstetrician before resuming any exercise. We also require clients to have their 6 week check-up and gain clearance before commencing or returning to Clinical Pilates.
Being a new mum myself I have realised just how vital it is to ease slowly back into exercise post-baby. I admit I was a bit of an exercise junkie before getting pregnant. Throughout my pregnancy I exercised daily, either swimming, walking or Pilates. It came as a rude shock the day after my emergency c-section when I realised I literally had no abdominal muscles. I couldn’t even get myself out of bed!! It was a week before I could walk down the corridor without help. It was at this point that it started to dawn on me just how hard new mums are on themselves.
We all have these grand plans that we will bounce back into shape and straight back into exercise once bubs arrives. We don’t stop to think just what trauma our bodies have gone through. Not only the 9 months of carrying a baby with our bodies changing shape, ligaments stretching and backs carrying more load. There’s then the physical exhaustion of labour itself and for those who have had c-sections, undergoing and recovering from major abdominal surgery.
For the first 6 weeks post baby all I did was walk, and for me this was plenty. The physical exertion of lifting and carrying a baby was more than enough other exercise, especially with the sleep deprivation! At 7 weeks post my obstetrician cleared me to start Pilates, yoga and even said I could run. He advised no gym/weights for 3 months. My first attempt at Pilates was trying some floor exercises at home. I couldn’t even hold both legs in table top position! With some daily practice I could feel my core slowly coming back. I however, began to realise it was going to be a long time before I was back to pre-baby strength.
I attempted my first very slow run at 8 weeks, which felt amazing. It was liberating to be out of the house without bubs in tow! I did progress my running very slowly over the coming weeks, but still developed some groin pain and eventually quite severe lower back pain. I came to the realisation that my core strength wasn’t up to scratch. This was despite having spent 10 years prior doing Pilates. High impact exercise needed to be left at the door until I focused on building my core back up. I immediately booked myself into Pilates classes as clearly what I was doing at home was not enough.
Around the same time several of the mums in my mothers group were developing similar problems. Lower back pain, hip pain, pelvic floor symptoms and one even developed a prolapse. Almost all the injuries could be put down to overdoing exercise. Too heavy weights, too much high impact or high intensity training, and certainly not enough core or pelvic floor exercises. Everyone was suddenly on a mission to get their pre-baby bodies back! But unfortunately in the process they were getting injured.
It was at this point I realised that we all really needed to cut ourselves some slack. It took us 9 months to grow a human, so realistically it would probably be 9 months before we could get back to our usual level of exercise. Injury prevention, focusing on core and body weight strength exercises, was way more important. I started doing boxing for cardio as it’s less impact than running or interval training. I also ramped up my Pilates classes to help build core and pelvic floor strength. Even after just 2 weeks of attending Pilates classes I felt my core was significantly stronger and my lower back pain almost resolved.
So to all the new mummas out there, remember you are AMAZING. You grew a human, you’re now bringing up a human, and you’re sleep deprived! Give your body time to recover. Discuss appropriate time frames for returning to exercise with your obstetrician. Chat to your physio for advice on core and pelvic floor exercises. Take your time, prevent injuries and embrace your changing body shape!