Returning to exercise post pregnancy
As females we have this extra amazing thing that our body can do – its called pregnancy! Although this is generally a joyful time for most, the implications for exercise post can sometimes last a long period of time. What are common issues with pregnancy and how can you get back into exercise safely.
Pelvic Floor issues.
No matter what kind of delivery you have, Caesar or natural there has still been considerable extra weight sitting above your pelvic floor for a good 3-6 months which can affect its integrity. Some common signs that you might have some issues with your pelvic floor include slight leakage, urgency, not needing to go at all or not being able to reach the bathroom at all. If you experience these symptoms your first stop is your local women’s health physiotherapist who can assist with gaining back control and getting you back into exercise. If these symptoms only occur during exercise or training you need to look at the type of exercise that your doing and dial it back a bit to what you are able to do without issues as well as doing some specific pelvic floor strength training. Remember your pelvic floor is a muscle to it needs training too.
This is an issue that can effect a lot of females as the baby grows and the body changes to accommodate. A rectus diastasis is when he facia between the stomach muscles or rectus abdominus increases in size causing gapping between the muscles and decreased control and strength through the abdominals.
If you have this it should have been identified with your midwife or physiotherapy follow up appointments. If not it is worth exploring as this will affect your return to sport.
Sacro-iliac pain or low back pain
This is one of the most common issues that women have during pregnancy and can sometimes continue to affect them post – even though the baby has been delivered. The pain in this area develops because of the hormonal changes and the effect on the muscles and ligaments with the bodies ever changing shape and weight distribution. If you do get this during pregnancy – it is something that can be treated, it’s not something that you have to put up with.
So what does this mean for exercise post pregnancy?
This is not the same for everyone, it depends on your pre pregnancy level of exercise, the type of pregnancy you’ve had(complicated vs uncomplicated), the size of your baby and the type of delivery. I know there seems like there are a lot of variables, but really there are, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. The first thing that I must say is listen to your doctor or physio with the guidelines that they have for you and adhere to this. Complications of starting exercise too early can be quite debilitating so don’t try and fast track this. Not everyone can do a marathon within 9 months of having a child so don’t try and compare yourself to others.
Once you have been given the all clear for exercise is about slowly building on your amount, intensity and type of exercise that you’re doing. Starting with low impact exercises such as swimming, walking or cycling are great ways to improve your fitness without too much pressure on your pelvic floor. Once you are comfortable with this then slowly get back into higher impact exercises (ie running). Starting with something like a walk/run is a great way to slowly increase your fitness and allow your body to adapt.
As for strength exercises start with body weight exercises that are more about control and position. Slowly work into the harder exercises as your body allows you too – again don’t push too hard too soon.
Remember your body is amazing and has just achieved an amazing feat – respect it and slowly get back into things in order to decrease your injury risk and improve your fitness at a healthy rate!