Nothing gets me fired up more than the media’s portrayal of post-pregnancy moms with flat, toned abdominals. Let me assure you, if you have extra skin and seem to have completely lost all connection to your abdominals, you are the norm! Now, what do you do to get some tone back and what exercises are safe? When is it okay to do boat pose, chattaranga, or (gasp) jump back to down dog? These are all questions I get on an almost weekly basis here at Evolution Physical Therapy and Yoga.
First, all women recover from their pregnancy at different rates. Every pregnancy is different, due to duration, size of the baby, medical conditions during the pregnancy (such as high blood pressure), age of mom, and the number of pregnancies she’s had. All of these factors, plus prior exercise level and genetics, play into the recovery of abdominal and skin tone.
Recently, I have seen more women going right into strenuous exercise programs as early as six weeks post-partum, or even sooner. This is understandable, as the desire to “get your body back” ASAP is important, but the safe return to exercise should be the priority in the first few months. Pushing the body beyond its limits early on can result in long-term joint instability, pain (in any joint from ankle on up), pelvic floor laxity resulting in incontinence, upper back and neck pain, as well as wrist problems.
The post-partum body needs protection, understanding, and gentle return to exercise in safe ranges. This is a time to listen to your body and when something doesn’t feel quite right, pay attention.
Here are a few key things to look out for: if you leak urine with sneezing or coughing, don’t start running. The pelvic floor needs time, and sometimes re-training, to support the abdominal contents that rest upon it. If your wrists hurt while changing diapers, don’t start doing push-ups or down dog – you will further aggravate a vulnerable joint. If you can feel a separation in your rectus abdominis muscle above or below your umbilicus, don’t start doing crunches, you can further pull the muscles apart. And if the bone at the front of your pelvis hurts (the pubic symphysis), don’t do lunges or yoga poses that rotate your pelvis (such as triangle).
These are just a few of the things to be mindful of after baby is born. The physical therapists at Evolution offer several workshops addressing some of these problems, such as Belly Back After Baby, or Beyond Kegels. And if individual attention sounds more your style, call for a New Mom Consult. The New Mom Consult is a full PT evaluation and is covered by insurance.
~ Andrea Trombley PT, RYT

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