1. Your 6-week check up is not enough
When a woman goes through her six-week check up with her caregiver, much of this appointment may be focused on her baby. Things like a pelvic floor assessment and abdominal separation check are not standardised assessments, yet we need to know the outcome of these tests before we move into a more formal exercise environment if we are to ensure we are exercising safely and effectively. Making an appointment with a women’s health physiotherapist at around the same time as your six-week check would be a really great and proactive step into ensuring you understand your body from the inside out.
2. Your body is different
Know that before you move back into the same exercise you were doing before you became pregnant, you must go through a period of rehab, or as I like to call it ‘rebuilding from the inside out’. Many women I meet report that they have had their six-week check-up and they “feel okay” and don’t understand that it’s not okay to just leap back in. Start slow and build your fitness, safely and sustainably.
3. All trainers aren't educated the same
Just like your obstetrician wouldn’t look after your knee surgery, a strength trainer should not be looking after your precious postpartum body! Some personal trainers very much work with the general public and others tend to specialise in one specific area of fitness. What we sometimes forget to consider as mums is that the trainer or group that we know and love and have worked with for a really long time might not have the skill set that we need right now.
Checking up on trainers' experience and credentials can be a really great way of taking control of your own body and ensuring you get a specialised and safe workout. I believe that the more we can offer postnatal women in terms of education the more she will be able to keep herself safe in any exercise environment – that offers her autonomy, strength and confidence.
4. Understand rebuilding from the inside out
Understanding your body from the inside after having a baby is very important. There is no use building a fancy house on crappy foundations and so taking time to understand your pelvic floor and abdominal wall can be imperative to moving forward on your exercise journey in the best possible way. Your appointment with a women’s health physio is the first step in this process before working with a qualified and specialised postpartum fitness professional.
5. Focus on basic movement patterns, done well
Is the next step on your post-baby exercise journey. If you can’t squat, lunge, push and pull well you will struggle with all of the fancy exercises that you might like to try down the track – think kettle bells and battle ropes (all the fun stuff) Take some time to master the second layer of basic movement patterns done will with some twists and carries and you will be setting yourself up not only for year more of exercise but to be in the best possible shape to do the physical job that is motherhood.
6. Stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weak ones
Finally, before moving back into a more formal exercise environment it is useful to begin to target the muscles that may have become tighter or weaker during pregnancy and postnatally. In the majority of postnatal women, we’d look to stretch the chest muscles which become tight from rolling the shoulders forward in pregnancy as well as cradling and breastfeeding, strengthening the back muscles that help to support a better posture. Alongside these muscles women generally benefit from stretching out tight hip flexors and strengthening the glutes.
When venturing down the road of exercise as a new mum the road is all too often littered with advice and comparison, all of which does not help you to feel good at all! So, my advice is to remember we are all so different! Every pregnancy is different, as is every birth experience and every postnatal experience. There are no right or wrongs, only what is right or wrong for you, right now. Take the time to listen to your instincts, move at your own pace and if and when you feel ready, seek the advice of someone who really understands where you are at and forget the rest of the noise!
Jen Duggard's Body Beyond Baby is the go-to place online for women to find mum-focused fitness services that are all accredited, experienced and partnered with women’s health physios so you know you are in very safe hands.