You know the drill. To resume exercising after giving birth, you must wait that magical number: 6 weeks. But, what's the deal with the 6 week wait, anyway? Well, for starters, it is your first appointment after giving birth in which your doctor will see you to be able to determine your healing. Also, if something is going to go wrong with your body and the recovery process, it is most likely to happen within these initial 6 weeks. Personally, I was doing lunges, squats, and some walking around 1-2 weeks after giving birth. I felt up to it so I started small and did a few reps at a time. I credit this to helping me to bounce back fast after giving birth. However, not every woman should or can do this so soon. Every pregnancy and every woman is so different that each will have her own, unique experience, and her postpartum recovery rate will depend on factors related to her health and any complications that may have occurred during delivery. The truth is, the longer you wait to exercise postpartum, the weaker you will become and the more muscle mass you will lose. Now, this is not to say that you should be running on the treadmill for 5 miles the day you leave the hospital. But, listen to your body and take it EASY. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, they say it's OK to gradually resume gentle exercise if you were physically active until giving birth as long as you do not have any complications or conditions that might make exercise dangerous. There are so many benefits of exercising postpartum as it can reduce pain and help your body to bounce back like a rubber band! It can also heal heal Diastasis Recti, that pesky postnatal condition in which both halves of your abs split apart, forming a gap. For C-Section mamas, things can get a little tricky and more strict than the usual mother who gives birth-you must be careful not to rip open your stitches. This is a super common issue and it isn't fun to go through so please be careful! A few great postnatal exercises to start with are:
- Light, gentle Yoga: Poses such as the Downward Dog, Modified Cobra, Cat Pose, and Cow Pose. These are known to be great and soothing for C-Section mommies whose incisions are healed up enough.
- Walking: Anyone and everyone can benefit from a simple walk!
- Kegels: Great for every mommy. Find the muscles you use to stop urinating. Squeeze these muscles for 3 seconds. Then relax for 3 seconds. Your stomach and thigh muscles should not tighten when you do this. Add 1 second each week until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds each time. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times per session. Try to do this at least 3 times a day. Don't do Kegels while you urinate. Doing them during urination can hurt your bladder.
- Heel Sliding: Great for mommies with DA. Lying on your back, tighten your abdominal muscles and do a pelvic tilt. Slowly slide out one leg at a time while trying to maintain your pelvic tilt. You can progress to sliding both legs out together as long as you can keep the pelvic tilt and not allow the back to arch. Always bring legs back one at a time.
- Pelvic Tilt: Great for mommies with DA. While lying on your back with your knees bent, tilt your pelvis backward as you tighten your abs and exhale. Try to bring your belly button to your backbone as you push your low back into the mattress/floor. Hold for 5 seconds, inhale, and relax.
- Bridges: Lying on your back with knees bent, contract your abdominal, buttock, and pelvic floor muscles, and raise hips up off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and relax down slowly. The farther your feet are from your buttocks the more challenging it will be. Bridging can also be progressed by lifting one leg while up in bridge position - but you must be able to keep hips level to do this.
- Bracing: An isometric contraction of the TVA by contracting the muscles of the abdomen and holding them tight without movement. When bracing, imagine that you are getting ready for a punch to your belly, or preparing to lift a heavy object. The goal is to tighten the muscles without sucking in, or expanding your abdomen. To activate the TVA with bracing, you will maintain an isometric hold in this position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat several times.
- Hollowing: a technique to activate the TVA that occurs as you suck in and compress the abdomen. To perform this technique, contract your abdomen and pull your belly button back toward your spine to make your abdomen as small as possible. Once you've completed this movement, maintain an isometric hold of this compressed position for 6 to 10 seconds. Release and repeat.
No matter what you decide to do, always listen to your body and take things easy. If you feel safer to wait the 6 weeks out, then so be it. After all, you know best!