Postpartum exercise is important, but there are some important do’s and don’ts to know before you start.
What should you stay away from?
Postpartum exercise: What NOT to do
1. Set unrealistic expectations
Pregnancy and birth are two of the most taxing things your body can go through. Think about how you would talk to someone who just had another massively taxing experience. Would you tell them they should be back to work in 6 weeks? Or pressure them? Hopefully not! Give yourself the same patience and support you would someone else. Remember that your body will heal – the process just takes time!
2. Engage in negative self-talk
Even the most confident and secure women sometimes find themselves surprised by how they feel about their postpartum body. That’s because so many of the things that women experience don’t fit within the impossibly narrow context of Western beauty standards. Instead of allowing others’ standards to decide how you feel, practice gratitude for what you have in your life and what you love about yourself. Always remember that your body is like this because it allowed you to bring your child into the world. Being able to do that is a gift in and of itself.
3. Consume media that makes you feel worse
When you’re feeling down about your body, don’t watch shows that make you feel even worse. The same goes with social media. You don’t need that additional pressure when you are already having your entire life and self-image changing. Instead, choose to engage with material that depicts and supports a wide variety of bodies. That helps reinforce that the truth – that all bodies are beautiful!
4. Rush yourself
Rushing your body won’t help with postpartum exercise. In fact, it can cause distress or even lead to injury. Even when you want to hurry, remember that postpartum recovery is a journey and it takes time. Instead of rushing yourself, try to enjoy your journey and see it as a natural part of your pregnancy. This may be a challenging time, but it is also special. As much as possible, try to remember that this is part of the incredible experience of building your family.
Postpartum exercise: What you SHOULD do
1. Allow the body time to heal
This goes along with not rushing yourself. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. At the same time, accept how you are feeling. If you want to rush your postpartum exercise, ask why. What is driving that want? By thinking about that, you may find underlying pressures that you have internalized. One of the best things about the postpartum period is that it allows you to explore those internalized pressures and learn and grow from them.
Get the rest you can when you need it. This may mean calling on your support systems. Do it! Don’t worry about asking for help whenever you need it. You may also need to cancel some plans. That’s fine. Do what you need to and trust that others will be able to accommodate. If you are finding that your support systems are not stepping up, let them know that you need more help from them or ask more loved ones to join your support team. Remember that there are also mommy groups and support systems available if you need them.
3. See a pelvic floor specialist
It is important to assess the state of your pelvic floor and core before you start postpartum exercise. A pelvic floor specialist will be able to discuss your floor and core with you. Once you establish the condition of your pelvic floor, a specialist will give you the information you need to plan your exercise regime. Caring for your pelvic floor now, you will help you today – and for the years to come!
4. Start small
Begin your postpartum exercise with simple exercises, such as:
- Connection breath
- Isolated muscle contractions
- Pelvic tilts
- Knee rolls
- Back mobility
Once you progress with these, you can move on to more compound and functional exercises.
5. Focus on posture and walking
Posture is something you can remind yourself of throughout the day. When you notice your posture slipping, take a moment and correct it. Then focus on walking. Start with 10 minute walks. Then start accumulating several of these walks throughout the day. Remember that you can do this with other exercises too, splitting up repetitions and doing them over the course of the day.
6. Work out with friends
It is easier to engage in postpartum exercise when you have the support of other women that are dealing with the same postpartum process. Don’t know anyone? Join a group for new moms and find other women looking for a circle. It really helps to know moms who are going through the same things at the same time you are. Who knows, you may find a new best friend for yourself and your child!
7. Know when to call a professional
If you have urine leaks or feelings of heaviness in the pelvic floor during any movements, call a professional. This may be a sign of something more serious needing medical attention.
If you are having problems with postpartum exercise or motivation, remember that there is help and support available to you!