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Postnatal Factors When Returning to Exercise

 

Kangatraining is amazing in so many different ways (see more here).  But the most important is that it is specifically designed for postnatal mums and takes into consideration the main factors (and risk areas) that affect mother’s following pregnancy, birth and the life after having a baby.

After we give birth, the focus can be on ‘losing the baby weight’ and doing this as quickly as possible.  The problems with this as not only will it negatively impact your emotional state (which is pretty vulnerable as you are adjusting to having an baby, sleep deprievation and you still have a lot of intense hormones left over) it also doesn’t take into account the changes that a woman’s body goes through in pregnancy, labour and life after with a baby.

It is SO IMPORTANT to give your body adequate recovery time otherwise you are an increased risk of injury.  Your start date to begin exercising depends on:
– YOUR pregnancy and labour
– YOUR recovery
– Any recommendations from your health professional
As someone who had a lot of postnatal issues, I would recommend any mum seeing a Women’s Health Physiotherapist to improve recovery and to ensure safety before exercising.

At Kangatraining, we recommend starting between 6-10 weeks postpartum following a vaginal birth or 12 weeks following a c-section.  This can seem like a long time however this recovery period assists to reduce your risk of postnatal related injury.  The reason that it is longer for a caesarean section is this is considered MAJOR abdominal surgery and we want to ensure that you have healed both internally and externally.

There are three main factors that impact on your return to exercise – your core, pelvic floor and hormones.  Each of these have been factored into the Kangatraining program which is why it is a great and safe workout for postnatal mums.

CORE:
Our core undergoes a tremendous amount of stretching and separating in all directions during pregnancy.  These muscles are weakened and require particular attention when we start exercising again as we have increased vulnerability to injury.  The most important muscle is our transverse abdominis (TA) – the deepest muscle.  We want to strengthen this muscle as it is pivotal in reconnecting our core.  This is why we focus on the TA in Kangatraining.  If you can activate the TA prior to any exercise and throughout the day, aim for good POSTURE and slowly rebuild and strengthen will help with your recovery.

It is also important to have an assessment to see if you have any ab separation (Disastasis of the Rectus Abdominis aka DRAM).  This is when you have a midline separation of the linea alba of the recti muscles of the abdominal wall.  Anything more than 2cm or visible bulging on exertion is considered diastasis.  Before you start Kangatraining, your ab separation is assessed and if it is present, we modify core exercises and refer you to a physiotherapist for specialised treatment.  DRAM can cause back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction and posture to name a few.

If you do have DRAM or are early in the postnatal period, it is important to know the types of exercises that will increase your separation or hinder your recovery including:

  • sit ups, curl ups, crunches
  • abdominal exercises with equipment
  • hundreds
  • V Sits
  • Double leg lowers

PELVIC FLOOR:
If you had the same experience as me, I heard a lot about my pelvic floor and how overstretched and weakened these muscles became during pregnancy and how important it was to start exercising them as soon as possible.   It’s not only important to start rebuilding these muscles but to also make sure you aren’t adding strain or pressure to them before they are ready, as the risk of incontinence and prolapse is higher in the postnatal period.    To protect your pelvic floor, avoid exercising too early (just enjoy gazing at your baby), avoid high impact activities such as running, jumping, sport or wide stance exercises such as wide legged squats or ballet.  All of this can put pressure on your pelvic floor and no matter how fit or toned you are (or were), engaging in these activities too early or before you have restrengthened your pelvic floor, actually can reduce your pelvic floor muscle strength and cause long term bladder and bowel problems or pelvic organ prolapse.  Considering that 1 in 3 women have bladder leakage after a baby, it is very important to take precautions.

One thing that you can start doing as soon as possible after birth (if recommended by your health professional) is your pelvic floor exercises (eg kegels) as restrengthening these will assist in your recovery.  Try to complete both slow and fast exercises and if you are not sure if you are doing it correctly please see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.

HORMONES – RELAXIN:
The other factor is hormones or more specifically the hormone Relaxin.  Relaxin increases elasticity and impacts joints and ligaments which is great in pregnancy and delivery (think everything moving out of the way for your baby) but it does stay in our bodies for up to 4-6 months postpartum (or longer if you are breastfeeding).  This means that (again) your risk of injury is increased if we over-extend our joints or engage in high impact, fast or twisting movements.  And trust me, having an injury with a baby is not fun!  Because of Relaxin, low impact exercises are the way to go; low impact means keeping one foot on the ground at all times, which includes walking, low impact aerobics, dancing or specific postnatal classes.   But don’t worry, you will still get a great workout without all the risk factors!

Exercises to avoid in the postnatal period due to relaxin and to protect your pelvic floor:

  • high impact exercises such as running, jumping
  • deep and wide legged squats
  • anything that requires quick and sudden stop/start eg netball
  • flexibility enhancing exercises and stretches

Please take care of yourself before you start exercising as you just created and grew life which is amazing!  So be kind to yourself and when you are ready to start, make sure that you are starting exercise that is SAFE for postnatal mums.

For more information head to: www.continence.org.au  or your local Women’s Health Physiotherapist

Kylie Lau
Kangatraining Instructor
Approved Babywearing Consultant