Royal Bumps and normal bumps, tips on getting your body back post birth.

So on Monday …… the newest addition to the Royal Family made an appearance. With Kate in labour there were people camping outside the hospital, live feeds recording the hospital and all sorts of chatter going on. Now I understand the excitement but thinking back to the birth of my first child, personally I was pleased to see they were given some privacy. The whole labour experience can be so challenging, unexpected and yet at the end there’s the amazement of meeting that gorgeous baby that you have been carrying around for 9 months. Those first few days are overwhelming, emotional, tiring and a big change to life.

The thing that I’ve found sad is the media chatter around Kate’s baby bump still being present a few days post-birth. Now in my mind that’s completely natural and normal. After 9 months of growing a baby your body is going to just spring back to it’s previous shape after a couple of days. It’s made me, as a pregnant lady and a antenatal Pilates instructor, think about the pressure on new mums. Yes, we wants new mums to look after their bodies, to eat healthily, to restart exercise when it’s safe to and to get that body confidence back…… but there can be far too much pressure. Having said that everyone’s bodies are different and if you have exercised through your pregnancy you are more likely to lose the weight quicker. Here I am 8 days post-baby number 1 back in my “comfy jeans” but certainly not back to my normal size and shape, who knows how I’ll be after baby number 2.

Bump to Birth Pilates: 8 days post baby.
Bump to Birth Pilates: 8 days post baby.

My advice:

  • It’s taken 9 months to grow a baby, it will take time for the baby weight to come off, be patient.
  • A few days after birth light exercise such as gentle walking and pelvic floor exercises should be safe.
  • Don’t engage in any high impact exercise until you have had your 6 week check from your GP and have built up to it. Jumping straight into high impact work can cause more damage than good. Strengthen your core and pelvic floor first.
  • Build your exercise back up slowly and steadily. Start with gentle walking, some light resistance work perhaps and think about a post natal Pilates class to strengthen your core and pelvic floor safely.
  • You may have diastasis recti (a gap in your tummy muscles) so certain abdominal exercises will not be suitable, post natal Pilates will help with this.
  • Try not to succomb to the cakes, biscuits and chocolates that are often around 😉 yes you need extra calories when breastfeeding but it’s better to get these from nutritious sources such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, lean protein, nuts and seeds. Keep the “treat foods” as treats.
  • Relaxin is a hormone that makes you more flexible and supple than usual, this hormone is still around post-birth so take care when stretching or in yoga moves.
  • If you are still bleeding post-birth be cautious not to overdo it, if the bleeding gets worse then rest.
  • Remember you have a new baby to look after and will be up in the night, so rest is also important.
  • Specialist post natal classes are fantastic – look for a cardio class such as a boot camp or aerobics class to complement a Pilates class. You can often take your baby to class with you.
  • Be active, take time for you and be kind to yourself!
Pilates with Priya: Post Natal Pilates Class

Abdominal Seperation can be Fixed!

I love working with my post-natal mummies (and that’s not just because I sometimes get a baby to cuddle), one of the key things we focus on is strengthening the core post-birth.

As part of these classes I often perform “rec checks” on mummies to see how their tummy muscles are, that also means we get exciting moments when we realise Pilates has done it’s job and the muscles are back in line again – WHOOP WHOOP!

Here we are in action:

Pilates with Priya: Post Natal Pilates Class
Pilates with Priya: Post Natal Pilates Class

Here’s some more info on what I mean:

The six-pack muscle (Rectus Abdominis) runs from your breast bone to your pubic bone and is joined together with a strong fibrous sheath called the Linea Alba.  In some pregnancies, the Linea Alba becomes a little darker in colour and is visible on your stomach.  This is called Linea Negra which simply means “dark line”.

You may have heard people talk about your abdominal muscles “splitting”.  Your muscles don’t “split”, because they’re already in a separated state, as they’re held together by the Linea Alba which I mentioned above.  A split muscle is like a torn muscle, so if you’ve ever torn your hamstring, for example, you’ll know what this pain is like!  What happens to the abdominal muscles during pregnancy, is completely painless, you aren’t aware of it, and I like to refer to it simply as abdominal “separation”.

The Rectus Abdominis stretches vertically (up and down your stomach) to accommodate baby bump at your front, and when it can’t stretch any further up and down, it then starts to separate horizontally (from left to right).

I guess it’s a little bit like the Linea Alba is heavy duty cling film stretching apart.  The muscles don’t separate in every pregnancy.  It depends on a number of factors.  The separation can take place above the belly button, below the belly button, or both.

Doing Pilates-based exercise and lots of pelvic floor work during pregnancy and immediately after birth is the best thing you can do to help your muscles re-align.

Why not do 5 “draw up and hold” abdominal/pelvic floor exercises now?  Breathe in, filling your belly with air to prepare.  Breathe out, draw your tummy muscles in and draw your pelvic floor up slowly and keep holding on (like you’re stopping yourself going for a wee).  Stay there and breathe in to hold.  Then breathe out and slowly relax the pelvic floor/ab muscles.  Repeat this again, throughout the day.