Before you get back to exercises after having a baby, read this.
When you have a baby, the last thing you need to do is go to the gym to lose that baby fat. Whilst the desire to get our body back into shape is a natural one, it is important to understand how your body has transitioned during pregnancy and respect the time it needs to recover before exerting it. This is not about rest or ideas that your body is not strong. I want to talk about something that most post natal exercise videos and classes do not mention: how diastasis recti naturally occurs in the body after pregnancy and what it means for post natal exercise / exertion.
So what is diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti is the separation of the right and left abdominal muscles which occurs naturally to accommodate the foetus as he or she develops and grows.
Eventually, the muscle wall closes in time after you give birth, naturally. Most Obstetrics and Gynaecological institutions say that this period can be anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks or longer and that during this time, women should be recovering, before gradually resuming exercises when her body feels ready.
Mistakes that women after pregnancy make...
A common mistake that women make is get rid of ‘baby fat’ baby belly fat by going to the gym and doing sit ups, ab crunches
If a woman does these kinds of exercises whilst the abdominal is still open, the wall can remain open for years. I have seen this occur with many of my clients.
So crunches are a NO NO.
Safe postnatal exercises
Women who are ready to go back to movement and exercise after giving birth need to do exercises that lengthen the abdominals to encourage them to come back together again, and restore the strength in those muscles so that they learn to work together again.
Remember they have been apart for 9 months or more. Keep reading to know more about safe exercises.
How long should you wait?
Whilst the advice found online advises women to wait 4 to 8 weeks in general, you will find all kinds of cultural variations across the world.
What I have experienced and seen through my clients is that at around 6 months post natal, the abdominals rejoin, with no exercise. Whilst every woman is different, 85% of my clients that I have seen postpartum, the stomach only truly rejoins after 6 months. So this is what I would recommend.
If however you want to start earlier, what they can do? I would advise yoga and pilates as good places to start, however be sure to take one to one classes where the instructor can guide you through correct postpartum techniques that focus on reconnecting the abdomen wall. Pilates will not only help with your diastasis recti but will also help your spine to heal after pregnancy reducing or completely removing back pain.
The restrengthening of the wall is important not just aseptically, but because it is crucial in order for you to develop core strength once again.
Another thing to be cautious about are following online videos which encourage exercises such as leg raises, which can create imbalances in other areas of the body whilst the abdominal wall is still recovering. This can create long term issues in the body such as hernias. I talk more about it here.
So breathe, relax and listen to your body before diving into exercises.
Remember that your body has changed, shifted itself to accommodate your baby, so it needs time getting back together. This is important for your long term body health.
I’m here to guide you through :)
If you want to find out whether your body is ready or if you think you might be ready to get back into movement,
then you can book a free 20 minute assessment (online or in studio depending on what works best for you) where we can see if your body is ready to begin exercise.