Postpartum Movements to Strengthen Your Core and Expedite Recovery
What to Realistically Expect Your Body to be Able to do During the First Few Months Postpartum, and Tips to Build Your Core and Pelvic Floor
Question: I’m several weeks postpartum and feeling feeling pretty weak and way too tired for workouts. What should I realistically expect my body to be able to do during this time? Do you have any suggestions on how I can start building my core and pelvic floor muscles back up?
Answer: Physical recovery from pregnancy and birth is an ongoing process that can take many months. From stretch marks to sex, being a mother comes with a new physical reality. You can find a balance between having patience with the process and intentionally investing in your physical health, recovery, and nourishment. Just as each pregnancy and birth is unique, each recovery is, too. For example, some couples may be ready for lovemaking after six weeks, yet for some it might take much longer. Other factors, like sleep (or lack thereof, we should say), hormonal swings, scars from surgery, lack of self-confidence, and stress can make physical intimacy and recovery more of a challenge.
During this precious time in your life honoring your body and its current needs should take precedence over vigorous workouts. Do what feels right for your body on any given day. Whether it’s a brisk walk around the block or simply turning on your favorite tunes and dancing around with your precious new baby, find joy in moving your body. Stay in tune with your self and you will know when it’s time for more strenuous activity. In the meantime, strengthening your pelvic floor is a really good idea.
Healing After Baby
The birth process gave you a beautiful baby, but a weakened pelvic floor came along for the ride. Here are some gentle movements for strengthening the pelvic floor that you can weave into your day.
KEGEL BREATHS. Breathe in and engage the pelvic floor muscles (this should feel like you’re trying not to pee). Hold for ten seconds, then relax. Build up over time to ten reps.
KEGEL BRIDGE. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and palms by your hips. Breathe in and engage your pelvic muscles; then lift your hips slightly. Hold for ten seconds, then relax. Work up to ten reps over time. If Baby needs playtime, have her sit on your belly. Babies make great personal trainers and cheerleaders!
BELLY BREATHING. This can be done whenever, wherever. Simply sit, stand, or lie down, and completely relax your abdominal muscles as you inhale (like you’re inflating a balloon). Then, engage your pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles as you exhale by drawing in your belly button (deflating the balloon). You can alternate a smooth, slow breath and a more vigorous, pulsing breath, saying “hut” as you exhale forcefully.
POSTURE. While standing, tuck your chin in to elongate your neck. Then pull your shoulders down and back, and tighten your abdominal muscles while pulling your belly into your backbone. Tighten that pelvic floor and practice Kegels.
We explore this topic more in our newest book The Healthy Motherhood Journal.
“Progress, not perfection” can be a valuable mantra while your body heals and strengthens. Compassion—with yourself and your partner—during the process is a valuable form of nourishment to give yourself. You’ve got this Mama!
Martha, Hayden, and Erin Sears