Your body goes through more changes in pregnancy than a man’s will in his entire life! As a new mom, you want to restore and realign your body. Now, you have a weight (the baby) that you carry around everywhere you go. You’re sleep-deprived, recovering from pregnancy and labor, and doing all kinds of mommy movements that you have not done before. This combination can lead to all kinds of aches and pains and progressively poor posture. If you don’t restore your core and pelvic floor, you may experience challenges for decades to come. By adapting your workout for pregnancy and as a new mom to address these new challenges, you will be stronger, healthier, and happier.
Many changes have happened to your body during pregnancy. The weight of your uterus, your baby, and your growing breasts have probably pulled your posture out of alignment. Your hips have probably tilted forward (an anterior pelvic tilt) and your shoulders are probably rounded. Almost 80% of women complain of back pain during or after pregnancy. Much of that pain comes from this postural mal-alignment.
Your workout should focus on strengthening your core, glute and back muscles, and stretching your chest and hip flexors. Focus on posterior chain exercises.
Your Pelvic Floor
The weight of the baby and uterus and childbirth have probably weakened your pelvic floor muscles. That is why kegels and other pelvic floor exercises are not only important during pregnancy but throughout your life after having a baby. It’s very important to engage your pelvic floor correctly during exercise. In exercise, you want to exhale on exertion. This is the same for your pelvic floor. When you exhale, draw your pelvic floor muscles up and in. When you inhale, let them relax.
Think for a moment about how your abdominal muscles have stretched over your pregnancy belly. They have lost strength. You may also have a diastasis recti (a separation of the abdominal wall). It’s important to find exercises that “knit” these muscles back together. Jumping into your old ab workout may exacerbate the problem.
Many moms complain of a lower belly pooch. Very often, this is from poor engagement of the core. Start with very basic exercises such as a heel drop, heel slide, pelvic tilts.
Movements Of Motherhood
Many of the movements of motherhood are challenging to the restoration of your body. They pull your body forward and out of alignment. Plus, you’re exhausted so often not focused on your posture. It’s very important to think of functional movement as part of your exercise routine.
- Pushing Stroller – Most moms hunch over when pushing a stroller. It’s important to use good posture and form. Keep wrists in neutral position. Engage your core. Push with your muscles not your joints.
- Carrying Baby – Make sure to balance baby on both sides. Holding baby on the hip and with one arm can cause muscular imbalances. Keep your shoulders back and down and core engaged.
- Nursing / Feeding – Bring baby up to you using pillow / nursing props and a proper chair. Hunching over to baby will give you back and posture problems.
- Carrying car seat – Unfortunately, these indispensable items also wreak havoc on our bodies. Hold your car seat carrier like a laundry basket whenever possible so that your body is balanced. If you hold it with one arm, be careful to keep the spine in neutral alignment. Do your best to switch off rather than using only one side.
- Front Pack Carrier – Worn correctly, this can be a great workout. Worn incorrectly it can be a postural pain. Keep spine in neutral and abs engaged. Make sure to pull shoulders back and not round forward.
Pregnancy and New Mom Workout
What workouts should you do after pregnancy? Our body needs movement. Workouts will help you recover, manage stress and stay positive. But start slow and build up. Start with walking, gentle stretching, and some basic core movements as described above.
This is probably not the time for popular HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts. One, because your pelvic floor muscles are still weak. Two, because these workouts are a stressor on the body and you are still recovering. Every mom feels different. You do you. Do not compare yourself to any celebrity who bounces back after baby. Don’t even compare yourself to the mom next door. Restore your body at your own pace.
Where Do I Start?
We believe that it starts with restoring your core and pelvic floor. There are breathing and pelvic floor exercises that can help you heal and regain strength. Diaphragmatic breathing combined with pelvic floor exercises is a great foundation for rebuilding. As you exhale, draw your pelvic floor in and up. As you inhale, let your pelvic floor release. You will soon connect this in movements of motherhood and your exercise routine.
As the founder of FIT4MOM, I am a big fan of a stroller workout. Get outside with your baby! Incorporate strength training and stretching. But build up gradually and listen to your body.
You also may find that you have less time available to workout. Squeeze in some exercises while your baby is having tummy time. Or do an online workout when your baby is napping.
Honor your body. Give yourself grace. You can restore, recharge, and reconnect to your body.