AdviceThe post natal period is a time when you need to take care whilst excercising

How soon can I exercise after giving birth?

The guidelines are 6 weeks for a normal birth and 10 weeks for a cesarean. In either case please wait until your doctor has said it is safe for you to start exercising again. If you have recently had a baby and are planning to attend an exercise class always check that your teacher has studied and passed a recognised qualification in Postnatal exercise instruction. This is very important because your needs are very specific. Plus, if they don't have the right qualifications they won't be insured. Always make sure your teacher is insured and if they are teaching a pram based workout make sure that they have had permission from the relevant authorities to do so.

Benefits of Postnatal Exercise include:

  • · Socialising;
  • · Improving strength & flexibility;
  • · Adding structure to your day;
  • · Getting back in shape;
  • · Retoning pelvic floor muscles;
  • · Spending time on yourself;
  • · Alleviating postnatal depression;
  • · Correcting/ regaining posture;
  • · Learning a new skill;
  • · Improving self esteem;
  • · Looking & feeling better: and
  • · Feeling fitter.

How should I feel while I am exercising?

You should be able to maintain a conversation whilst being slightly breathless.

How should I feel after I have been exercising?

You should feel good and like you have engaged in physical exercise. If you feel exhausted or are sweating excessively then you may have done too much.

Are there any professional bodies that Postnatal Exercise teachers belong to?

Yes, the Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors.

I have heard of something called Relaxin. What is it and what relevance does it have to exercise?

Relaxin is a hormone produced during pregnancy that relaxes ligaments and fibrous tissue. Its main purpose is to allow the pelvis to widen to accommodate your baby as it grows and of course allow the baby to leave the body during childbirth! The hormone affects all other joints of the body making them more susceptible to injury. The increased level of relaxin can stay in the body for up to 6 months after giving birth. This means you need to be careful not to over stretch or take part in high impact activities during this time

Posture after pregnancy

During and after pregnancy it is important to try and maintain good posture. Here are some tips:

  • · Shoulders back and down. Imagine you are trying to draw your shoulder blades together. This opens out the chest and relaxes the shoulders.
  • · Chin up. Try not to let the head and neck hunch forwards. Keep the chin and head upright. Imagine a piece of string attached to the top of your head being pulled up.
  • · Hips forwards. Locate the bony part at the front of your hip bone. Imagine these are your headlights pointing forwards. Next look at yourself sideways on in the mirror. Is your lower back showing an exaggerated arch? If so the front of your hips need to come forwards more. There will still be some arch, just less exaggerated.
  • · Stomach activated. You have several sets of stomach muscles. The ones you want to work are the Transversus Abdominus. These act like a corset as they wrap around your trunk. Activate these by imagining you are drawing your belly button towards your spine. Try and engage these muscles throughout the day as they will support your back, strengthen your stomach and improve your posture.

How do I do pelvic floor exercises?

  • · Imagine you are holding in a wee. Hold that contraction.
  • · Imagine you are trying not to break wind. Hold that contraction. Don't clench the buttocks.
  • · Contract and draw the vaginal muscles up towards the centre of the body.
  • · Hold all three of these contracted areas for about 6-10 seconds.
  • · Keep breathing all the time and do not hold your breath!
  • · Repeat 10 times and work up to being able to perform 100 contractions per day.
  • · There should be no external movement. All muscle contractions should be internal.

Abdominal Exercises

Pregnancy causes the abdominal muscles to stretch significantly causing them to become very weak. It is important that you give the abdomen time to recover properly before embarking on vigorous tummy toning exercises. Total recovery can take six weeks or longer depending on the individual case.

You should start with basic pelvic tilts and general posture correction.

When you are sure the muscles have fused back together you can start to do some shoulder raises whilst lying on the floor with your knees bent.

Once you start to feel stronger take more of your back off the floor and over time progress to a full sit up. When doing any of these exercises make sure your abdominal muscles do not dome as you lift up i.e. On the upward movement your abdominal muscles should not raise up, they should contract and remain flat try putting your hand on your abdominal area to feel it contract.

If you are unsure whether your abdominal muscles have realigned themselves I can perform a 'rec check'. Alternatively you can ask your doctor to do this for you or you can follow the instructions on the Powerpramming Inside Out DVD.