Was your first thought upon seeing yourself in the mirror for the first time after having your baby, “where’s my six-pack?” Probably not, but that’s not to say the thought of getting back into shape didn’t cross your mind pretty quickly after those first few blissful moments with your baby.
Most women, no matter how confident they were before they got pregnant or how much they tell you how wonderful they feel now that they are mothers, have at least a few moments of lagging self-confidence after they have given birth. The entire pregnancy and postpartum process is difficult on your body so you need to realize that you are not going to look or feel the same right after your baby is born. Your abdominals will still be a bit stretched from holding that little one for so long, your joints will still be a bit floppy from a hormone called relaxin, and any injuries that you may have sustained during the birth could be making you feel some pain.
Postpartum fitness may take on new meaning but it is essential to ensure that you remain happy, healthy, and strong for your new baby. The first thing you need to keep in mind, however, is how quickly you can start exercising. Simple exercising like taking walks can start immediately—but forego uneven trails, steep ascents and descents, or strenuous paces. Leave the more intensive exercising at the gym for at least four to six weeks after the baby is born and after your doctor or midwife tells you it is ok to get a little more physical.
If you had a C-section realize that it will take you a bit longer to recover and be ready for working out again.
Manual Physical Therapy and the proper postpartum pelvic floor rehab program can facilitate a faster recovery. Sometimes after your baby passes through the birth canal your pelvis may become a bit twisted and your therapist can use both joint mobilization and soft tissue release to help you regain proper functioning and strength. Some physical therapy exercises used to get you back into shape post-baby include Kegels or pelvic floor exercises, and other gentle forms of training such as Pilates which will progressively get more difficult as you heal and get stronger.
It may be sad to not see your baby bump anymore, but you also want to look good and feel strong for your actual baby. Participating in safe, careful exercise after giving birth will not only improve your physical health and well-being, but will also make you feel better about yourself and everything around you.
By: Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
Marianne Ryan PT, OCS is the owner and Clinical Director of MRPT Physical Therapy in midtown Manhattan