It seems socially acceptable and expected for a woman to adapt her exercise during pregnancy to make it safe and appropriate (and rightly so!) but once the baby arrives there is often a rush to return to "normal" with rigorous physical activity.
If it takes 9 months for the body to adapt and change to grow a baby, we should see the 9 months after as just as important for the body to regain strength, for hormones to calm and for things to return "as they were".
The advise given to re-start exercise after birth is to wait 4-6 weeks after a vaginal birth and 12 weeks after a caesarean (once the doctor has given the all-clear). All too often I have had women turn up to my classes with babies as young as 10 days old - though I am in deep admiration of anyone who can get themselves up and out of the house with a baby that young, I really would advise that they wait the allocated 4 weeks as a minimum to give the body time to heal.
Though it may seem frustrating if you have always had a regular exercise routine, it is important to follow a post natal course for the following reasons:
- To adapt exercises for the diastasis recti (the gap between the abdominal muscles)
- To rebuild the pelvic floor strength
- To work with any pelvic girdle pain or issues
- To rebuild deep core strength
- To ensure that we counteract the repetitive and heavy demands of looking after and feeding baby with postural exercises
- Not over-stretching as joints and ligaments are more supple and pliable after birth
Diastsis Recti - sounds scary but is perfectly normal. It's the separation of the rectus abdominus muscles. They separate to make space for the baby.
It seems that for some women, the muscles return to normal fairly quickly, whilst for others it can take months or even, in some cases, surgery. The important thing to know is how big a gap you have as you can't work your abdominal muscles too much until it is safe to do so. Deep stability work and safe, gentle abdominal exercise will help muscles knit back together but this shouldn't be rushed.
Rebuilding strength from the inside takes time but ensuring that you build from a strong and safe foundation without rushing is well worth the time and effort. I would strongly advise every woman to take the time to find a post-natal Pilates class to ensure that she is in safe hands.