The conversations that circulate within society around pregnancy and childbirth focus a lot on the different stages and changes that occur during pregnancy. However. very little time or thought is given to how you are going to approach your first few weeks during your postnatal recovery.
Pregnancy and birth are two big physiological events in someone's life and when something creates structures and tissues to change within you, they won't just 'bounce back'. They will often need a rehabilitative approach to help educate muscles and tissue back to full function. It is such an important aspect of your recovery and approaching this phase with a plan can really help your long term health and fitness too.
Here are 5 reasons why you should consider following a postnatal plan to help you back to full health:
1: The first stage of any good postnatal programme will include breathing, pelvic floor and deep core retraining exercises. These muscles are the ones that will have altered or stretched the most during a pregnancy and it is essential that they are retrained in supporting your pelvis, hips, rib cage and back. Most of these muscles are autonomic in how they work - they work without us generally knowing that they are working - when they change from a pregnancy, this autonomic reaction can reduce and make them less efficient - so a rehabilitative approach in retraining and reteaching them is essential for all new mums, Pilates and Yoga style exercises are perfect for this
2: You have probably had 9-12 months of not exercising in a 'normal' way for you. You may have worked with less load than normal, not been able to do as much due to pain and you will have definitely been exercising in an altered posture which isn't your 'normal'. Whenever there has been a change to your exercise routine, particularly a regression there needs to be a progressive plan in place to get back to where you want to be.
3: With a structured plan in place it allows you to both progress and regress. There are so many factors that contribute to how and why you can make gains with your strength and fitness. Fatigue, nutrition, sleep, stress etc. Some weeks may not go to plan or symptoms such as pain or pelvic floor dysfunction may develop, even if you have felt fine up until that moment. If you have a structured plan in place and you know that you weren't feeling these new symptoms at a particular point, then you can return back to that point and gradually work your way back up again.
4: It takes the thinking out of the next few weeks - It allows you to see what your next few weeks will look like without having to work it out for yourself
5: Most of the time these plans will address pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recovery and your general strength - the tool that helps improve most of these problems is your return to full body strengthening, so having a plan in place that builds your confidence with exercise and strength will really help some of the most common postnatal problems that a pelvic health physio will see in clinic.
If you feel that you want some help with your postnatal recovery then Jenna Topham and myself have created a fantastic and progressive return to strength and exercise programme, called Strong Like a Woman - Postnatal Programme.
The Strong Like a Woman Postnatal Programme is an online training programme for women who want to make a safe and confident return to exercise after having their baby. Combining the knowledge and expertise of women’s health physio Rosie Cardale and pre & postnatal personal trainer Jenna Topham, the programme has been specifically designed to support your recovery from pregnancy and birth whilst building a strong foundation to rebuild your strength and fitness.
You’ll receive 18 weeks of programming, which you can start as soon as you feel ready after having your baby. The first 6 weeks are physio led, with programming designed to support your healing post-birth. Weeks 6-18 are PT led with 3 workouts a week, giving you the structure you need to continue to rehabilitate safely whilst increasing physical strength and fitness.
You’ll also receive a whole body of resources and information which have been designed to build your confidence in, and knowledge of, your postpartum body. You’ll learn more about your pelvic and core health, and will complete the programme with the knowledge and techniques to continue your journey in rebuilding strength and fitness
This programme can easily be completed at home or within a gym a setting if you have access to it. If you decide to do it from home you'll need:
A light/red resistance band
A pair of dumbbells and/or a kettlebell
(Non-essential) access to a gym or barbell with additional weights from Week 12 onwards
As always, it is worth seeing a pelvic health physiotherapist before you start any of these programmes to ensure it is the right thing for you and your postnatal recovery.