Part 7 of 9 in the postpartum mental health series.
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This was originally a Facebook post, but my husband told me it was too long. So, I made it into a blog post. If you would like to learn about the other postpartum mental health tips, join the free C Section Recovery & Beyond Facebook group. For more personalized support, join the Empowering C-Section Mamas online postpartum support group
After a pregnancy of modified & reduced exercising and at least 6-8 weeks with low or no exercise (not to mention adjusting to an abdominal scar), exercising can be a daunting task. The first exercise I thought I should do at 6 weeks was a forward plank. I figured it would be low risk and a gentle, full-body way to get back into the habit of exercising. Boy was I wrong. I basically crumpled to the floor, tears streaming down my face, sure that my incision was opening internally and I would never heal.
I did heal and so will you. And luckily, there are many things you can do to make your life easier and safer. Here are things to avoid and things to do those first few months postpartum-
🚫 Avoid for at least 6-12 months, or until confirmed no diastasis recti 🚫:
– Twists (like, Russian, criss cross/bicycle crush, windmill, leg circles, etc)
– Crunches (sit-ups, double-leg lifts, anything with legs and arms in the air with bum on the ground [think “V” shaped], body curls, etc)
– Forward planks (including push-ups)
– Exercising for too long
– Anything that causes pain in your linea alba (the line radiating vertically from your belly button)
👉 First 6ish weeks
Keep it short and sweet. You’re focusing on healing from pregnancy, birth, and surgery. NOT losing weight or getting fit.
– Walks (start with 5 minutes and ease slowly upward every week)
– Kegels (take slooow, deep breaths as you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles up up up and in during the slow inhale, release during the gentle, slow exhale)
– Pelvic drops (take slooow, deep breaths as you push your pelvic floor down down down and out during the inhales [imagine you’re filling up a balloon in your pelvis] then release and relax during the slow, gentle exhales)
– If you want to be an overachiever, use hand weights up to 2-10 lbs each. (but seriously, give yourself a break).
👉 6-12 weeks
Ease into exercise. No longer than 30-45 minutes at a time. Can be a few times a day, but not for long periods of time. Your focus is reconditioning your body to exercise and getting back into good habits, still not losing weight. You may have lost weight pretty quickly, especially if you’ve only had a single pregnancy or two, but some women gain weight while breastfeeding or don’t lose any weight at all. Either way, don’t worry about it. You’re still healing.
– Longer walks
– Leisurely swimming
– 10-25 minutes of Pilates, yoga, cycling, or other full body workouts (using postpartum/prenatal modifications and avoiding routines that specifically target strengthening the core).
🏆Great exercises to do🏆
– Pelvic tilts
– Single leg lifts
– Single toe touches
– Arm workouts like single arm rows, milkmaids, bicep curls, etc
– Other exercises that don’t strain the abdomen or cause pain in your linea alba
– Child pose
– Sun goddess
– Warrior 1
– Warrior 2
– Pigeon/half Pigeon
Others that don’t strain your core or cause pain in your linea alba
👉 3-6 months
Slowly increase at your comfort
– Swimming laps
– Bike riding on level surfaces
– 25-60 minute workouts (still avoiding “core busting” techniques)
👉 6+ months
Woohoo! You’ve made it six whole months and progressed so far. If you know you don’t have diastasis recti (you can’t feel any abdominal separation), you may begin all exercises. If you aren’t sure, or show signs of a sagging belly, especially if pretty much everywhere else on your body isn’t noticeably overweight, you may have diastasis recti and should avoid ab exercises until you have strengthened the other muscles in your core. If you haven’t been exercising regularly up until this point, follow the steps and pattern outlined above. Ease into it. No one was meant to go straight from nothing to athlete. You gotta go through the beginner stages first.
What are your favorite workouts?
Want exercise accountability and other mental health tips? Join the Empowering C-Section Mamas online postpartum support group. First call is Jan 5 @ 6:30 MST.
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You are an excellent mother.
Lots of love,