Whether you have had an easy or difficult delivery, your body has a lot of recovering to do. Your tummy muscles & pelvic floor have been stretched over a prolonged period &, unfortunately, we are not like a new rubber band that springs back again easily. We are more like an old band that has been left in the sun & lost some of its spring. Your muscles need recovery time & encouragement to achieve their normal length & strength.
First week post birth
Immediately post birth REST is the magic word. Your hormones are settling, you are sleep deprived & you might be a bit bruised & swollen. You need to balance the care of your baby with recuperation.
For those with bruising & swelling applying an icepack is a good time to lay down & rest. You should always have a cover the ice & never sit on it - pressure & ice can damage the tissue. Therapeutic ultrasound from Genesis Physiotherapy (if you are in St John of God Hospital Subiaco) will speed up the resolution of pain, bruising & swelling. Gentle pelvic floor contractions frequently will encourage the muscles to fire again.
Getting up & moving around is also important. It will encourage the swelling to go down & your organs to function well to recover from birth. Many will have swollen legs & ankles & walking around will allow the muscles to assist your lymphatic drainage. If you are sitting, imagine you are on a plane & frequently do your ankle circles & pumps. But, remember to temper activity with rest!
Your tummy will feel like a squishy ball sticking out front in the first week. The muscle fibres do not spring back to shape quickly. The gap (diastasis) does not change either. You can encourage their recovery by wearing a supportive garment or getting a tummy band (tubigrip) from the midwife. Genesis Physiotherapy has a short information session 3 times a week (if you are in SJOG , Subiaco) where you can find out which exercise are best & perhaps arrange further follow up.
Once you have been home for a week or two you may start to feel as though you can go back to your usual routine of exercise. However, your body is far from ready. You have weak pelvic floor & core muscles & need to take care.
How big is the gap in your Tummy? There is information about this in the abdominal muscle page on this webpage.
Does your pelvic floor feel o.k.? You may not be leaking but still have a significant way to go. Do you feel confident that you are contracting your pelvic floor muscles correctly? It is important that your technique doesn’t further compromise a group of muscles that have already taken some punishment. You can check the page on pelvic floor on this website, but if you are still struggling by 6 to 8 weeks you need help. At Genesis we can check this for you and then give you an individual program to follow.
General exercise needs to remain low impact for at least 6 weeks to allow your core & pelvic floor to recover. If you think you are ready, you can try jumping up & down on a full bladder to see how you feel. Did you leak, or feel as though you could leak? You need to stay low impact with your exercise & maybe seek help from Genesis.
If you could jump comfortably on a full bladder you are probably ready to start some more vigorous exercise. BUT …. You need to ease in slowly. F45 or Crossfit is still some way off. Gradually increase the intensity & listen to your body.
You are overdoing it for your pelvic floor if you start to leak (generally bladder or windL), you feel heavy in the perineum or you can feel a bulge in the vagina. If these happen be prepared to back off & maybe seek guidance from Genesis Physiotherapy.
Breast feeding tends to prolong the effects of relaxin all over your body. All your ligaments are softer than normal & your core is weak. This means you are very prone to injury, particularly with high energy propulsive movements (e.g. burpees, star jumps, kicking, boxing).
Listen to your body, if it hurts or you feel straining, chose a lighter option or some expert guidance from our therapists. High energy exercise may also cause a drop in your milk supply if you are not hydrating well.