Postnatal exercise in Perth
Childbirth is a natural process, and therefore the body is designed to recover given the correct stimulation.
Benefits of exercise
The benefits of exercise are both Mental and Physical. Exercise is proven to reduce depression and anxiety and help with a feeling of psychological wellbeing. It improves sleep quality and as we all know helps with weight reduction alongside a balanced diet. What people don’t always know is that it has a positive influence on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can reduce the risk of developing type II Diabetes as well as colon and breast cancer.
As new Mums it is important to regain muscle strength and endurance to help support our joints, maintain bone quality and ensure we are fit for the tasks ahead. Due to the effect of pregnancy hormones creating laxity in our ligaments, it is important to do low impact activity for the first 4-6 months post birth and perform a gradual return to previous activities, to ensure the body is ready to cope with the stress and strains placed upon it. As the baby gets older and bigger, he/she will get heavier to lift and carry and we therefore as mums need to get stronger at the same time so our body is better able to cope with the added weight and avoid injury.
Getting out walking with baby in the buggy is one of the easiest ways to start your return to activity after birth. Start with shorter flatter walks, with a break along the way. A post-natal exercise group run by physiotherapists is another good way to do activity with the confidence that you are working correctly, in a supportive group environment. (see the end of the article for more information about exercise groups in Perth)
Pelvic floor muscles
Pelvic floor muscles act as a natural sling to support the contents of your abdomen. They also have an important role in control of the bladder and bowel and sexual function. For this reason, both men and women are encouraged to exercise these postural muscles throughout their life.
During pregnancy and childbirth, the pressure placed on the pelvic floor muscles increases with the growing baby and the release of pregnancy hormones which, cause relaxation of the ligaments around the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles may therefore become weak during pregnancy and need encouragement to regain their strength and endurance post birth, just like any other muscle in the body.
There are simple exercises you can complete regularly through the day in standing, sitting or lying down. To begin with try to activate your pelvic floor muscles, by tightening the muscles around your back and front passage and the birth canal. A simple analogy is it should feel as if you are trying to prevent yourself from passing wind and urine. In the initial stages try and hold for 2-3 seconds then release and relax again. Repeat this action regularly through the day especially during activities such as sit to stand, coughing, sneezing and lifting your baby. A physiotherapist is able to help you learn to do this correctly as straining or bearing down can have the opposite effect.
New mums are often keen to regain their flatter tummy as soon as possible post birth. Abdominal muscle strength is very important in helping to protect the back and have good posture, however the stretching of the tummy muscles during pregnancy means that they need time to recover length position and activity. For this reason sit ups/crunches are not recommended in the first 6-8 weeks post birth. During your 6-8 week post-natal check up your Doctor/physiotherapist should examine your stomach muscles and advise you on return to these activities. There are some simple exercises, which can be done to encourage mobilization of the lower back and abdominal muscle strength. These are called pelvic tilts and abdominal bracing.
Looking after Mum post birth has to be a priority, as you have to be fit for purpose, as there are no days off or duvet days when you are so important. Looking after your back is essential, as the muscles helping to support it are in a weekend state with poor endurance at this stage. Your posture and how you support baby during feeds can have a profound influence on your post-natal recovery.
Some useful tips include
- When standing tuck your bottom under you and draw tummy muscles in, as if you are tightening a belt
- When bending or lifting, bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible
- Sit in a comfy high backed chair, which is not too low, so going from sit to stand holding your baby is achievable without straining
- When feeding place a stool under your feet and use pillows to support your arms and baby
- Avoid lifting heavy and/or awkward items
- Set your change table up at waist height and if you have a toddler, encourage them to come and cuddle you while you are sitting rather than lifting them up.