5 tips for getting back into physical activity after pregnancy
9 months of pregnancy and giving birth, whether natural or caesarean, puts a prolonged strain on the body and causes a number of physiological and chemical changes that won’t just disappear overnight. It is common for pregnancy, labour and birth to exacerbate physical problems including back pain, joint pain and can cause a weak bladder. Unfortunately, if not managed correctly, these issues can be made worse by vigorous exercise. Pregnancy hormones can also affect joints and ligaments for up to 6 months after birth, putting you at greater risk of injury on your comeback trail.
After pregnancy it is important to get back into the swing of things slowly, and if possible, under the guidance of a women’s health physiotherapist for the best results. Regular exercise after you’ve had a baby will strengthen and tone your muscles, aid recovery from labour if you gave birth vaginally, and increase your energy levels, helping you to feel less tired. On top of all of these benefits, regular exercise will help you to lose weight and increase your fitness levels.
- Consider seeing a specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapist for an assessment
One of the most important things to remember post-birth is that you don’t have to do everything alone. Getting back into physical activity after pregnancy is a complex scenario and can be made more difficult by a host of pre-natal conditions and complications during labour. Taking the time for a full assessment by a women’s health physiotherapist will help give you a clear view of your body’s capabilities and help to avoid any injuries. Our women’s health physiotherapist, Monique Bain, have expert skills in assessment and treatment of pelvic floor muscle function and dysfunction, as well as other musculoskeletal issues associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Women’s health physiotherapy areas of expertise:
- Urinary incontinence or reduced bladder control
- Bowel incontinence or constipation
- Urge incontinence and overactive bladder
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Painful sex
- Pregnancy-related pelvic pain – see Aquatic Natal Classes
- Post-natal care including abdominal separation
- Focus on strengthening pelvic floor and abdominal muscles
Pelvic floor exercises are important for women at all stages of life, and are doubly important post-pregnancy as your pelvic floor muscles come under great strain during pregnancy and childbirth. Your pelvic floor contains a group of muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus and bowel. Pelvic floor muscle weakness can result in incontinence and even prolapse of the bladder, uterus and bowel. You can start doing gentle pelvic floor and abdominal exercises the first day or two after the birth and many physiotherapists recommend partaking in aquanatal exercise classes that will focus on pelvic floor activation.
Pregnancy can result in your abdominal muscles literally splitting down the middle. It is imperative to ensure your muscles have healed properly before you engage in any vigorous abdominal exercises, such as abdominal crunches. Don’t do any strenuous exercise in the first 12 weeks after the birth and if you feel any pain, stop.
- Start with low risk exercises
The main thing to remember when getting back into it, is that you can’t just pick up where you left off with your exercise regime. Once you have consulted your physiotherapist and when you feel up to it, start with a gentle walk while pushing the pram. As your body gets used to this you can gradually increase the time and pace of your walks, building up to a 30-minute walk every day if you feel up to it.
Other exercises that are safe after pregnancy include:
- swimming and aqua aerobics (once the bleeding has stopped)
- low-impact aerobics
- light weight training
- Treat yourself to a post-natal massage
Post-natal massage can help in your recovery from birth and relieve tension and stress. Our experienced practitioners are experts in post-natal massage techniques and the functions of the body post-pregnancy. A post-natal massage at the hands of our women’s health physiotherapists or massage therapist is safe, backed by scientific methods and advisable no matter what form your birth has taken, whether natural vaginal, assisted, induced or caesarean. A post-natal massage will assist in reducing swelling and sore muscles as well as providing emotional space and relief. New mums find that a massage helps to ease tension and soreness as a result of using different muscles during breast feeding, carrying and lifting a new baby.
Benefits of post-natal massage:
- Reduces aching muscles
- Improves posture and helps in the realignment of the pelvis
- Increases and strengthens the abdominal cavity
- Increases lipids, solids and casein in breast milk
- Encourages intestinal mobility and reduces constipation
- Listen to your body and don’t go too hard too soon
The main thing to remember is that your body needs time to recover from labour and birth. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time recover, and don’t despair if you feel more lethargic or weaker than before pregnancy. How quickly you should return to exercise depends on how fit you were before you had the baby, and what happened during the labour.
If participated in regular exercise such as aquanatal classes up until the end of your pregnancy, and your baby’s birth was uncomplicated, you should be able to do some light exercise and stretching soon after the birth. As your strength slowly returns, you can expand your exercise routine. If you feel tired, don’t overdo things, that is your body telling you to ease into it. Pace yourself and rest when you need to. Remember, even as little as 10 minutes of exercise will benefit your body.
To make a booking for an assessment or consultation with our women’s health physiotherapists, feel free to contact us on (02) 9428 5772 and we will do our best to answer all your questions and provide you with an appointment time.