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Regaining your body as a new mum - you can!

Being a new mum is a wonderful experience but it is also a time of immense pressure on our bodies.  Some of us develop physical problems resulting from pregnancy, childbirth or from carrying our ever-heavier little ones during the first few years.  There is no doubt this presents a huge physical challenge - but all is not lost ladies.  Generally our bodies recover with time but there is a lot we can do to help ourselves along the way.  I've even worked with a few mums who report feeling stronger now than ever before!

Common areas that need some attention after childbirth are the abdominal wall and the pelvic floor.  These muscular structures have helped us carry and protect our babies while being loaded and stretched beyond their usual limits.  Our pelvic floor may have torn during childbirth or we may have needed an episiotomy.  As a result some people experience temporary incontinence which can be an unwelcome surprise.

Our abdominal muscles have been gradually stretched over nine months, and therefore take time to return to their normal tone.  Additionally, the rectus abdominal muscle (your six pack muscle) often splits down the middle to allow for your expanding bump.  It should slowly join back together in the centre - but sometimes we experience problems with the re-joining - this is called diastasis recti.  The abdominal wall may also have been cut for a c-section, leading to a temporary weakening of the lower abdominals.

We can also be particularly vulnerable to bouts of neck or back pain - in fact these are some of the most common complaints for new mums who visit us at the clinic.  Often straightforward treatment can being this under control.

Everyone's body, pregnancy and birth experience is unique and we need to focus our exercise depending on our personal circumstances.  Although there is a lot we can do ourselves, if you are feeling confused or have a particular problem such as diastasis recti it is best to be guided by a trained professional.

The first two weeks - even after an uncomplicated birth, we need time to heal and will probably feel very delicate.  This is normal, and is a time to go easy on ourselves.  You should be given pelvic floor exercises by your maternity team and these are a good start.

2-6 weeks - as the weeks tick by, hopefully you will be feeling stronger and more energetic.  However even for highly motivated fitness mummies out there it is best to still avoid certain exercises.  Particularly avoid sit ups as they can actually prevent your tummy muscle from re-joining in the centre!  

A good tummy exercise to start with is to lie on your back with your hips and knees bent.  Put a folded towel under your head to avoid straining your neck.  Find the two prominent bones at the front of your pelvis and then imaging these two bones are like two magets and as you breathe out you wre going t let them attract each other towards the midline of your body.  This should contract the deep layer of your abdominal muscles - in fact you can check by moving your fingers slightly inwards and downwards from those prominent pelvic bones.  If you press when doing the exercise you whould feel the muscle slightly harden underneath your fingers.  Start by doing this 10 times, and then build up to holding the contraction whilst you breathe in and out 10 times.

Your 6 week check - you ae the best judge of what feels right and what doesn't, so if you are concerned about any new or persistent symptoms please tell your GP during your six week check.

After your 6 week check -- all being well you will now be ready to increase your activity level, with the challenge being fitting activity into your busy day of feeding, cleaning and changing nappies!  Even 10 minutes of floor exercise at home each day can make a huge impact on you feeling strong and comfortable and so if you can find the time, I would definitely encourage it.

For those who feel extra guidance or who want to book times in their diary to make sure they do do some exercise, you are welcome to come and see us at any stage of your recovery.  When I work with ladies post-partum a typical first session would include listening to the details of your health, pregnancy and birth and doing an assessment of any current symptoms before evaluating your strength and core strength.   We will then continue with safe exercises, combined with Osteopathy treatment if needed to help you feel comfortable.  Once on track, some ladies tell me they feel stronger within the first 2 weeks with most feeling benefit after 6 weeks.  Overall, it can take a year to become fully recovered but it tends to be a positive and empowering process with gradual improvements along the way!  It is never too late to start and so even if you had your babies a long time ago it is still possible to improve your strength and stability.

Good luck everyone - you can do it!

Ellie West is an Osteopath and Pilates teacher based at The StoneHouse Clinic on the Hartham Park estate in Corsham.  For further details or to book with Ellie please contact us using any of the details found by clicking here

 

 

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