Pregnancy and child birth can take a toll on a Woman’s body including ligament laxity, decreased abdominal strength, and reduced bladder control. Exercise might be the last thing on your mind after giving birth and caring for a new born baby, but it is important for recovery and return to full function. If labor and delivery should result in a cesarean section, simple function such as getting in and out of bed and off a chair is painful and difficult. Starting with functional exercises such as rolling in bed, transitioning from sidelying to sitting, and getting onto hands and knees are challenging core exercises you can perform in the early stages post-operation. Walking is a great exercise for the early days, as initiating abdominal exercises can be harmful immediately post-surgery. Eventually, no matter how your baby was delivered, focus of exercise should be on light to moderate aerobic exercise as well as abdominal and pelvic floor strengthening exercise. You should not start any exercise program until cleared to do so by your doctor. Some suggestions for core exercises are as follows:
Kegels: (Pelvic floor contraction exercises) Contract your pelvic floor as if you were attempting to stop the flow of urine. Kegels should be performed first lying on your back, and then can progress to standing, kneeling, and with daily activities.
Abdominal bracing: Start by lying in hooklying (lying on back with knees bent and feet planted on floor), gently draw belly button into spine as if you were putting on a tight pair of pants.
Bent knee fall outs: In hooklying keep abdominals drawn in as above, and slowly drop one knee to the side then return to neutral while maintaining abdominals drawn in and not letting your hips rock.
Kegel and abdominal bracing should be used throughout your day with all functional activities. Think about combining Kegel and abdominal draw in exercises while lifting and carrying your baby and with household chores.
Since you have now introduced more carrying and lifting with a new baby in your life, from car seats, to diaper bags, to your baby himself, you will be lifting and carrying all the time. Keep in mind that you need to focus on your abdominal draw in with the lifting, but these activities can also over work your upper body as well. Here are a few suggestions to keep your arms and upper body healthy post-partum:
Doorway stretch: Place arms on sides of doorway and place one foot in front, shift weight forward onto front foot until gentle stretch is felt in shoulder/chest.
Seated Row: In seated position, with abdominals drawn in, uses resisted band to pull back and squeeze shoulder blades together.
Foam roller stretch: Lie on back with foam roller from head to tail bone, bring arms out to the side to a comfortable distance and relax shoulders.
If you are to have any pain with these exercises, please contact your physical therapist or physician.
The road to recovery can be challenging while learning how to care for your baby, but initiating a good core and aerobic workout can make your return to prior level of function smoother and quicker! Enjoy your new baby!