For many of us as first time mums, having a baby is an absolutely life changing event! No amount of preparation, reading, classes, courses, old wives tales, advice (both welcomed or unwelcomed!) can prepare you for being a mum!
Once you have made it through the pregnancy and labour, been presented with this tiny baby to care for, for the rest of its life and have made it home in one piece, you fumble through the first few weeks of your baby’s life as a sleep deprived zombie – unfortunately looking after yourself and your body, doesn’t always manage to rank too highly on the priorities list!
There is always a lot of emphasis put on the importance of exercise during pregnancy and all the changes that occur to a woman’s body during the actual pregnancy itself (Fitzgerald et al. 2015). But once your baby is out, your body seems like it will never be the same again.
Understanding the physiological effects of pregnancy and childbirth is important in helping new mums to appreciate their changed bodies and regain their strength and fitness! After having a baby there are a number of significant changes that occur making it essential that you are exercising in a safe environment!
- The pelvic floor muscles are generally the most widely discussed issue postnatally in the literature (Fonti et al, 2009). Weakness of the pelvic floor can be associated with urinary incontinence and vaginal prolapse with as many as 2/3 of women reporting some pelvic floor dysfunction one year postpartum (Lipschuetz et al, 2015).
- Relaxin is a hormone that is produced in the body during early pregnancy and can continue to be present for up to a year after the birth of your baby. It causes softening of the ligaments, especially around the pelvis, allowing for childbirth to occur. Many women forget that even after birth this can lead to pelvic instability and it is therefore critical to take care during exercise.
- Rectus Diastasis is the separation of the midline connective tissue in the abdominal region causing weakness and instability Click here to see our blog post on Rectus Diastasis
- Postural changes due to breastfeeding or nursing of your new baby can lead to ongoing neck, back and shoulder pain. Koyasu et al (2015) recently identified that 73.1% of postpartum women experienced neck and shoulder pain that affected their quality of life merely one month after giving birth. Being made aware of and correcting these postural issues early on can help in preventing long term problems.
Clinical Pilates is the perfect way to achieve the exercise necessary to create the strong foundation needed for being a busy mum! Pilates can help to increase abdominal and pelvic floor muscle function and tone in a safe, controlled environment. Each Pilates exercise focuses on improving body awareness and overall posture, helping to transfer these skills over to everyday life whilst caring for your baby. Specific programs can work at improving the upper body strength essential when breastfeeding and carrying your baby. There is even evidence to support that Pilates has a significant effect on the quality of sleep in postpartum women! (Ashrafinia et al. 2013)
Q Pilates at Jindalee now offers “Baby & Mama Pilates” classes – strength training designed by our women’s health physiotherapists, to help you regain core strength, flexibility and stability following pregnancy and childbirth while providing an opportunity to find the time to exercises WITH your baby!
Written by Donnae Fowler (Physiotherapist)
Ashrafinia, F. Mirmohammadali, M. Rajabi, H. SadeghniiatHaghighi, K. Amelvalizadeh, M. Chen, H. (2013) The effects of Pilates exercise on sleep quality in postpartum women. Journal of Body work and Movement Therapies. 18(2), 190-199.
Fitzgerald, C & Segal, N. (2015) Musculoskeletal health in pregnancy and postpartum : an evidence-based guide for clinicians. Cham, Springer.
Fonti et al (2009). Post partum pelvic floor changes. Journal of prenatal Medicine. 3 (4), 57-59.
Lipschuetz et al (2015). Degree of bother from pelvic floor dysfunction in women one year after first delivery. European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Biological Reproductive Biology. 191, 90-94.
Koyasu et al (2015). The prevalence of primary neck and shoulder pain, and its related factors in Japanese postpartum women. Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 42(1), 5-10