What postnatal pilates can do for you.

When you are pregnant there is a lot of focus on keeping your body healthy, looking after yourself and putting you first. There is a lot more time to focus on exercising well, cooking good meals and thinking in general. The midwife and friends/family are asking how your body feels, how is the bump, what aches and pains do you have and giving plenty of advice. Then the delicious baby arrives and is totally the centre of attention. Your life is suddenly a whirlwind of feeds, sleepless nights, surviving as best you can. There is little time and energy left for exercise. Cake and chocolate can be relied to get you through the day or are part of a treat at playgroups. No-one really asks how your body is feeling or what they can do to help YOU, it is more about the baby.

The problem is that when you are postnatal your body is pretty vulnerable. It has been stretched, carried a heavy weight around and then birthed a baby. Now if you had a major operation you would lie in bed, rest, recover, have meals brought to you and be looked after for a few weeks. This is really what you need after having given birth. Instead you have a little person dependant on you, you cannot rest as much as you need and you cannot listen to your body.

Postnatal Pilates: why all mums need it

As a pre/postnatal specialist Pilates teacher this is an area I focus on and love to teach.

Postnatal Issues Pilates can help with:

It is hard to maintain good posture when you are sitting up feeding, especially at night. However without good posture, those aches and pains slip in. Muscles get tight in the wrong places which can cause restrictions in your movement and cause you to compensate.

Over time poor posture can cause long term pain throughout the body, so it’s not something you want to ignore. Postnatal pilates when run by a specialised teacher will put in exercises to strengthen your upper back, talk through shoulder placement with you and use functional exercises to help with those motherhood moves that you do daily.

Sitting more will also lead to tighter hamstrings, so these need to be stretched out regularly.

The key really is to find out which part of your posture you need to focus on and which muscles need releasing. A good class and teacher will highlight this to you.

There can be a lot of hormones flying around. Relaxin is a hormone that can affect the laxity of your ligaments, so this can leave you vulnerable to overstretching and potentially pulling a ligament. Learning to work within the normal range of movement for your body is the key here and not pushing yourself too hard, too soon.

Having carried a baby around your pelvic floor has taken a lot of strain. If you have then pushed baby out then that is even more damage that will have occured to the pelvic floor. Pilates will help you strengthen the whole of your core, including your pelvic floor. If you need more help in this area then check out  “Pimp Your Pelvic Floor”

Many ladies suffer from Diastasis Recti, this is a condition that is common in pregnancy and nothing to be concerned about as long as it is fixed postnatally! For some, the abdominals will naturally heal up by themselves, for others it will take more work. Exercises such as curls ups, planks and sitting up from lying on your back are not suitable and can make matters worse. A specialist pilates teacher with postnatal training will be able to help you.

If you suffered from this in pregnancy then the likelikood is that it will disappear once baby comes along. However it is always a good idea to do some strenghtening work postnatally. If your hips and pelvis were struggling in pregnancy then some TLC for them can make all the difference in the long term.

One of the common complaints I see in mums. Those babies get heavy when you are carrying them around a lot. Having a strong core and good posture when you lift and carry is so important. Pilates will help train your body so you are stronger and more able to manage this. The release exercises will also help mobilise and decrease any pain.

If you aren’t local to me, then check out my Postnatal Pilates DVD.

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!