Explained by Certified Pre/Postnatal Pilates Instructors
Is postnatal recovery necessary?
Pregnancy and childbirth are one of the most life-changing events that a woman will go through in her lifetime. Particularly during the 9 months of pregnancy, the woman’s body goes through so many changes that alters the condition of the body and thus requires a bit of “rehabilitation” post-pregnancy. As the body grows during pregnancy, the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles are stretched, the pelvis is tilted more forward, the ligaments especially around the pelvis become looser, among others. The effects of all the changes during pregnancy and after childbirth are commonly echoed by post-natal women as feeling like “they are in a completely different body”, the feeling of “losing connection down there”, the loss of muscle tone in the abdominals, and possibly problems with lower back pain or hip pain.
That’s why it’s important for new mommies to pause and take time to help their bodies recover and heal from what their body went through during pregnancy and childbirth. Pilates is one of the best exercises that could help restore the post-natal body. Even just doing mindful breathing a few hours from giving birth can help start them off on their journey towards healing!
What’s the differences between Prenatal and Postnatal exercises?
Post-natal Pilates exercises focus on helping reconnect with the deep muscles in the pelvic floor and abdominals, help restore proper alignment in the pelvis, help address back, shoulder and neck pains commonly experienced by new mothers, and slowly restore overall strength and muscle tone.
On the other hand, Prenatal Pilates focus on helping the body through pregnancy and preparing the body for childbirth.
(Instructor of Focus’s Prenatal Reformer Group Classes)
The benefits of Postnatal Pilates exercises and how does it help with new Mums?
During pregnancy, your organs move and make space for the growing baby. The diaphragm, which is your breathing muscle, pushes up and is likely to have stopped working properly. The ribs spread and the abdominals stretch to accommodate the baby. The pelvic floor muscles have to handle a tremendous amount of pressure from the growing baby. Even with a C-section, the pelvic floor can still take a beating. The back muscles often overcompensate and tighten to make up for lack of abs and to handle the extra weight in front. This causes the back muscles to be overactive and tight.
Here are some benefits of doing the exercises:
- Practising correct breathing mechanics and the right exercises to get the diaphragm functioning should help to move organs back in place, get abdominals firing, and strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Working on your posture, i.e., assess for other imbalances that may have been exaggerated by pregnancy, will help everything come together.
- Like most exercises, postnatal Pilates exercises help to restore both your physical health and mental health.
- Following birth, your body’s hormone levels begin to return to their normal level. For some women however, this can result in mood swings, and feelings of anxiety and irritability.
- Exercise helps to relieve stress and improve your mood and sleep. Physical fitness means better stamina to help you cope better with the new demands of motherhood.
- Taking part in a group exercise can be a social activity. Meeting with new mothers and engaging in a shared experience can lend additional valuable support which enhances mom’s mental well-being.
- Alongside with a healthy diet, a good exercise program helps to encourage weight loss.
When can one start to do Postnatal exercises?
For uncomplicated vaginal deliveries, it’s usually six weeks after birth. Wait until your first postnatal doctor’s check-up before you head back to the gym or start an exercise program.
For C-section births, you can expect a possible increase in this timeline by a couple weeks from a vaginal birth as it is a major abdominal surgery. It is best to wait until you are ready and can comfortably move, but don’t wait too long to start walking or resume light activities.
What are some exercises in our Postnatal group classes?
- Footwork: Strengthens the leg muscles, helps with postural awareness and body alignment, as well as hip, knee, foot and ankle mobility and alignment.
- Bridging: Mobilises the spine and ribs, opening up the front of the hips, and improves strength of glutes and hamstring muscles.
- Book Opening: Improves posture as well as shoulder mobility, mobilises the spine into rotation.
- Dead Bug: Helps with trunk control and hip dissociation and gentle abdominal strengthening.
Click here for a video of the exercises.
Margaret Lim, Instructor
(Pregnancy & Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist (PCES) Certification)