Exercises to get back in shape after pregnancy
The following post natal exercises are suitable from birth onwards. These exercises are gentle enough to do following the birth of your little one but will help to get you back in shape quickly.
The exercises are suitable for those who have had a normal birth with no complications, those who have had a caesarean and those who have diastasis recti (separation of the outer abdominals) unless otherwise stated. If at any time during exercise you feel any pain, stop immediately.
Caution: Do not start these exercises until you can pass urine normally.
Whilst pregnant, your pelvic floor worked very hard as your baby used it as a trampoline! Hopefully you did lots of pelvic floor exercises throughout your pregnancy however it is important to continue with them in order for the pelvic floor to regain strength, prevent prolapse and strengthen bladder control.
The pelvic floor exercises can be done either sitting, standing or laying down. You may find it more difficult to do them standing up but do practise and it will get easier. Whether sitting or standing tighten the pelvic floor muscles as if trying to prevent passing wind and water, hold for as long as you can and then release. Ensure that you don’t hold for so long that there is no release at the end.
It is also very important to do quick, strong contractions of the pelvic floor. Do as many quick and strong contractions as you can, aiming for the last contraction to be as strong as the first.
Transverse Abdominal Exercise
This exercise is key to getting you back in shape and getting your tummy flat. It is particularly important if you have any separation of the abdominals (diastasis recti). It will help to bring the outer abdominals back together and will strengthen the deep transverse abdominals.
Initially, do this exercise lying down with the knees bent, feet hip width apart. The pelvis should be in a neutral position. Place your hands on your tummy, as you inhale allow the ribs to expand out to the side. As you exhale, draw the tummy back towards the spine and imagine the ribs coming closer together. Try to exhale through your mouth and it may help to make a ‘swoosh’ noise as you exhale.
Your pelvis should stay in neutral, you should not push the lower back into the mat. The shoulders should stay relaxed.
Caution: If sitting is uncomfortable you could consider hiring a ‘Valley Cushion’ or Post Natal Cushion to help you sit more comfortably. Speak to your midwife for more details.
Shoulder rolls help to release tension in the shoulders and neck which may have become very tight with the demands of a new baby!
Sit on a folded towel (or cushion as above) with your legs crossed or bent out in front of you – whichever is more comfortable.
Lengthen through the spine, imagine sitting a little taller. Keep the shoulders wide and as you exhale, lift the shoulders to your ears and circle back and down. Do five circles in each direction.
You can do this exercise whenever you sit down to release tension.
Caution: If you have diastasis recti then only do this exercise under supervision from a professional to ensure you do the exercise correctly.
This exercise helps to shorten the rectus abdominals (outer abdominals). Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip width apart. Your feet should stay flat throughout the exercise. Arms relaxed by your side, shoulders feeling wide. Pelvis and spine should be in neutral. Buttocks should stay relaxed.
Inhale to prepare and as you exhale engage the deep abdominals (as in Transverse Abdominal exercise above). At the same time, start to tilt the pelvis by drawing your ribs down toward your hips and draw your pubic bone up toward the ribs. The pubic bone will only lift a little and your lower back will gently press down toward the mat.
Inhale to maintain and then exhale as your uncurl and return the pelvis and spine to neutral.
As you do this exercise, feel your tummy scoop towards the spine and imagine bringing the pubic bone up toward the breast bone.
Remember that your body has undergone many changes over the last nine months or so and your body will not immediately revert back to your pre-pregnancy shape. However, with time, patience and the correct exercises you can regain your shape. Try not to pressure yourself into doing too much too soon.