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Feb 12

Post natal exercise

Why you need a specific women’s health physio assessment at Vital Core?

Congratulations! You did it. You grew a little human for the better part of nine months. You now have your baby and you are learning this new stage of being a mother.

There are so many new skills – feeding, burping, settling, rocking, changing nappies, delegating domestic tasks (we wish) and hopefully, sleeping yourself. It is a time of massive change for your relationships too. It is not uncommon to have a little friction creep into relationships as you each battle sleep deprivation, differing ideas on early parenting and close proximity.

Becoming a parent whilst wonderful is stressful to both mum and dad.

There’s also the tissue healing from the child birth whether that was a vaginal delivery or caesarean section. There are wounds to heal for many. Those who haven’t an actual wound will still have the lochia/ bleeding that can continue for up to 6-8 weeks.

There are also the new mother brain chemicals that kick in, potentially upsetting you emotionally. There is the risk of post natal depression or at the more extreme end, post natal psychosis.

With all this going on, why would you bother even thinking about exercising? Well for some it’s the social media pressure to ‘get their body back’ just like the beautiful insta-stars.

Vital Core physio’s viewpoint is that you should exercise because exercise helps all these areas stated above plus many more. Have you read our exercise – why is it so good blog?

Improves your general muscle strength

Babies seem small, but they are really heavy once you’ve lifted them up and and down a thousand times in a single day. Making your muscles generally stronger will build some resilience in them and decrease the likelihood of overuse injuries. Being stronger will also mean you don’t get AS tired with all the activities you have to do every day. This will help your general mood. All new mums need a drug free way to feeling happier every day.

Repairs damaged tissue

Stretched, punchy tummy. It’s one of the most common reasons new mums want to exercise.

The tummy muscles get stretched excessively in pregnancy. For many women that results in a rectus abdomens diastasis (RAD or DRAM). You can read more about it here. A weakened abdominal area tends to cause you to overload other areas, especially your back and your pelvic floor. Learning how to activate the right tummy muscles is a skill that needs to be taught and then practiced. This is what we do extremely well at Vital Core Physio!!!

The pelvic floor has nine months with the weight of a baby, enlarged uterus and a massive amount of fluid resting on it. It is usually less efficient in the post natal period regardless of delivery mode. Vaginal deliveries also have a risk of pelvic floor damage and at the very least pelvic floor muscle strain – a bit like a sports injury. Learning how to exercise the pelvic floor muscles correctly is associated with a significant decrease in incontinence issues and prolapse risk throughout the rest of your life.

Improves your general mood

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We all know that exercise stimulate endorphins – the happy hormones. These brain chemicals make us feel better. With all the stress a new mum goes through, she deserves every opportunity to feel good and happy. Exercise has been shown to decrease the chance of post natal depression as well as help with its management.

Weight management and fluid mobility

Many women want to ‘lose their baby weight’ as soon as possible. At Vital Core we promote healthy lifestyle over weight loss for the majority of our patients. The reality is that many women just won’t lose that weight for many months despite their best efforts. For many women, the body holds on to the extra fat stores “just in case”. Most women find that once they are sleeping well, eating well and feeling less stressed (and sometimes actually stopping breast feeding and returning to usual hormone levels) the weight comes off. Please be patient.

In the meantime, using exercise to get healthy and strong holds a woman in good stead for life. The exercise will also help move that fluid. The puffiness in the lower legs, wrists and face.

So how do you start exercising after a baby?

If you have been a patient at Vital Core through your pregnancy then you would have your early post natal plan. Well done to you, you are a step ahead of many women, who don’t know what to do in those first few weeks.

At around the 6 week post natal mark, most women have a check up with their obstetrician and are given the all clear to start back at exercise ‘gently’. But what does that mean? Does it mean walk this week and start running next week? Can you go to boot camp or HIIT sessions? Do the trainers at the gym know how to modify exercises for you? It can be so very confusing. This is but the first reason you need to see us.

Vital Core Physio post natal assessment

Around six weeks after the birth of your baby, we will see you and assess where you’re at. We listen to your child birth experience and ask specific questions to find out more about specific aspects. How is your pelvic floor function, your back and neck? We find out about old injuries and how you managed through pregnancy. We ask about how you are managing being a mum. Are you struggling a bit? That’s really common. Most importantly we listen to your goals. What you want to get back to. What’s important to you and why.

Real time ultrasound being used in a Vital Core physio training session to look at abdominal muscles

Then we will take you through a series of movements and tests that are specific to post natal women.

With all this information, together we will develop a plan that is firstly safe for you wherever you’re at, but also progressive so that you can work towards those goals.

Common recommendations

Pelvic floor exercises. We have so much scientific evidence that pelvic floor exercises decrease the incidence of incontinence as well as the symptoms of prolapse. Many women are unable to accurately contract their pelvic floor, especially after having a baby. A Vital Core Pelvic Floor physio can help with this.

Upper back stretching and moving to combat all the strain of lifting and holding a baby. Making a woman feel more comfortable is our first concern. If she feels better, she will move better and rest better. Nothing is more important in the post natal period!

Short distance/ time walking. Starting with just 5 to 10 minutes and seeing how you feel. Over a few weeks you can build up to 45 minutes if you feel ok.

Activation of the abdominal muscles. Contrary to many fitness instagram programs, planks and mountain climbers are not route to a flat tummy! They also won’t ‘close the gap’! Please read our blog on RAD. Before you can strengthen any muscle you must learn how to activate it. Don’t assume this will happen automatically.

Mums and bubs classes

Vital Core mums and bubs classes – three times a week

Vital Core mums and bubs classes are held three times a week. Check out our timetable here. These classes are specifically designed for new mums. We only do the exercises you need. No fluff. No fill. You will leave with some sore muscles – but this will be achieved safely.

Exercising in a small group with other mums is social and supportive. Having other babies in the room helps allege the feeling of isolation. It is a safe space to exercise, chat and learn.

Each month (the last Wednesday of the month) we host Mumchat. This is an informal coffee and chat session where we’ll have one of the physio’s talk about a relevant topic. There is no cost. It’s just another way Vital Core is trying to help the mums in out community.