Guest blog post by Erica Getz, Pelvic Floor PT
Solstice Training + Recovery
I remember the first time childbirth was described to me as a marathon: a many-hours-long event, your body is physically pushing itself to the limit and sometimes moves past the limit, emotions are fluctuating, and little to no snacks! Just like prepping for a marathon, it is possible to strengthen and lengthen the body for your “big day.”
The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all individuals get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and two days of muscle strengthening each week. The recommendations are no different for the average pregnant woman. However, if you do not have a recent history of physical activity, pregnancy is not the time to start training for that 5k. Instead, less active individuals may find low impact activities safer and more comfortable. As always, please clear any new exercise regime with your birth team (midwife, obstetrician, primary care doctor, etc) to make sure your body is ready.
Your body, not the sky, is the limit for exercising while pregnant! Make sure that you feel comfortable with what you are doing. Especially as baby size increases, it can be harder to catch your breath so adjust exercises accordingly. Some of my favorite prenatal exercises include:
Yoga: especially when you pair your poses with intentional breathing and eyes closed. This can help build a brain-body connection and work on introspection (observation of one’s own mental, physical, emotional state).
Resistance Bands: get out those booty-bands! Tie around your ankles for a little harder challenge. You can also get a nice work out with your arms when using resistance bands.
Modified Single-leg RDLs: “Kick-stand” a foot behind you to keep your balance in check. As you bend forward, bring your opposite hand to the forward leg. You should get a nice hip opening stretch on that stance-leg.
After birth, women are often told that they cannot exercise for six weeks, but after those six weeks, medical providers clear the patient for everything! Straight from birth to marathon? I think not. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that it is ok to start to get back into exercise within two weeks of child birth if you had a normal vaginal delivery and had a healthy pregnancy. With an abdominal birth, you may need to wait a bit longer.
What I will cover are some immediate rehabilitation and gentle movements you can do until your body is ready to be more active. I’m a movement professional, but Mama, please listen… REST. REST. R.E.S.T. Find your tribe to do work for you. Hire a postpartum doula. If expenses are tight, look into services by Momsbloom.org. At minimum, that first week after birth you should be relaxing, napping, and taking care of the baby. You should not be tending to chores, pets, or other kids if you can help it. Below are some ways to encourage your body to move while honoring and respecting the massive work it just did!
Legs straight in bed, “windshield wiper” your legs left and right. You can even rotate legs in towards each other and out. This movement should be coming from your hip, not your ankles or knees.
Lie on your side with the top arm overhead if it is comfortable. Place a small pillow or folded blanket under your rib cage to create a slight curve. Take a deep breath in, encouraging the side of your body to expand.
If you feel comfortable, forward fold over a large pillow while in a sitting position. Relax the back of your neck. Take a deep breath in, expanding through the back side of your body.
Abdominal birth: gently place your hands as close to the incision site as comfortable and take gentle, nourishing breaths, focusing positive energy to your belly.
While sitting or lying down, tighten your abdominal muscles gently as you exhale like you are whistling or blowing bubbles. As you exhale, your belly should become flatter and abdominal muscles should engage. Try not to use the muscles close to your rib cage, instead use the muscles around your lower belly. This can be very challenging.
While lying on your back with both knees bent, slide one heel in-and-out from your bottom. Repeat on the opposite side. Another option is keeping one leg flat and sliding along the bed (like a single leg snow angel).
Perform a sit-to-stand while gently trying to engage those lower belly muscles. Sit down slowly, over a count of five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
These are just some ways to invite movement back into your body. If you notice increased soreness in your bottom (perineum), more bleeding, more pain, hold off! A physical therapist, doula, or midwife should be equipped and ready to help with recovery and return to movement. You don’t need to wait for your six week check up to seek out help from a physical therapist. We can be ready as soon as you are. Follow along on Instagram and I’ll demonstrate these exercises for you @solstice.training.recovery.
Disclaimer: This information is designed as an education aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to pregnancy, postpartum, and women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician or nurse midwife.