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Pregnancy and childbirth are incredible life experiences that bring joy, but they also come with significant changes to a person’s body, particularly in the pelvic floor and core muscles. These changes can sometimes lead to issues like pelvic floor dysfunction or weakened core strength postpartum. However, the good news is that with the right exercises and guidance, you can regain pelvic floor health and rebuild core strength. In this blog post, we will explore a range of postpartum exercises to help you on your journey to recovery, addressing common concerns and promoting overall well-being.

Understanding Postpartum Changes

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Before we dive into the exercises, it’s essential to understand the postpartum changes that your body goes through. During pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles and the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis, undergo significant stress and stretching.

This can result in issues such as diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) and pelvic floor dysfunction, which may include symptoms like incontinence or pelvic pain.

The Importance of Postpartum Exercise

Postpartum exercise should be about rebuilding your strength, ensuring pelvic floor health, and enhancing your overall well-being. The right exercises can help:

  • Strengthen the Core:

    • Rebuilding core strength, including the abdominal and back muscles, is essential for posture, stability, and overall strength.

  • Support Pelvic Floor Health:

    • Targeted exercises can help improve the strength and flexibility of your pelvic floor, reducing the risk of incontinence or prolapse.

  • Relieve Back Pain:

    • Many postpartum parents experience back pain due to pregnancy-related changes. Proper exercises can help alleviate discomfort and improve back strength.

  • Boost Energy:
    • Regular physical activity can increase your energy levels, which is vital for the demanding role of being a new parent.

  • Improve Mood:

    • Exercise releases endorphins, which can enhance your mood and alleviate postpartum depression or mood swings.

Safe and Effective Postpartum Exercises

  • Kegels:

    • Kegel exercises focus on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. To perform a Kegel, contract the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine, hold for a few seconds, and then release. Repeat this exercise multiple times throughout the day.

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing:

    • Learning to breathe from your diaphragm can help engage your core muscles and pelvic floor effectively. Inhale deeply, allowing your abdomen to expand, and exhale while drawing your navel toward your spine.

  • Pelvic Tilts:

    • Pelvic tilts can help alleviate lower back pain. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and gently tilt your pelvis upward while squeezing your glutes. Hold for a few seconds, and then release.

  • Bridge Exercise:

    • Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground while engaging your glutes and core. Lower your hips and repeat. This exercise helps strengthen the lower back and glutes.

  • Clamshells:

    • Lying on your side with your knees bent, lift your top knee while keeping your feet together. This exercise strengthens the hip muscles and can alleviate pressure on the pelvic floor.

  • Plank Variations:

    • Planks can help rebuild core strength. Start with modified planks on your knees and progress to traditional planks as you become stronger.

  • Bird-Dog Exercise:

    • On your hands and knees, extend one arm and the opposite leg while keeping your core engaged. This exercise is excellent for core stability and balance.

  • Wall Sits:

    • Stand with your back against a wall and lower your body into a seated position with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Wall sits work the quadriceps and glutes, which can help alleviate lower back pain.

  • Walking:

    • Walking is a low-impact exercise that provides numerous benefits postpartum, including improved mood and cardiovascular health.

  • Swimming:

    • If you have access to a pool, swimming is an excellent choice for postpartum exercise. The buoyancy of the water reduces stress on the joints while providing a full-body workout.

Exercise Safety Tips

While postpartum exercise is crucial for recovery, it’s essential to prioritize safety.

Consult Your Healthcare Provider:

Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any postpartum exercise routine, especially if you had a complicated pregnancy or delivery.

Listen to Your Body:

Pay attention to how your body feels during and after exercise. If you experience pain, dizziness, or excessive fatigue, stop the activity immediately.

Start Slowly:

Begin with gentle exercises and gradually increase the intensity and duration as your strength and endurance improve.

Stay Hydrated:

Ensure you stay well-hydrated, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

Pelvic Floor Checks:

If you’re experiencing issues like incontinence, consult a pelvic floor physical therapist for specialized exercises and guidance.

Include Rest Days:

Don’t forget to incorporate rest days into your routine to allow your body to recover.

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a mother and father cradling each other and a newborn on the father's shoulder with a beige background with green water color circle and gold glitter accents

Conclusion

Postpartum exercise is about rebuilding core strength, supporting pelvic floor health, and enhancing overall well-being. By incorporating safe and effective exercises into your routine and prioritizing your health and recovery, you can regain your strength and feel more confident and comfortable in your postpartum body.

Always remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, and listen to your body to ensure you exercise safely and effectively on your journey to postpartum wellness.

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