Bouncing back after pregnancy, there is a lot that has been written and spoken about this and not only society but also women pressurise themselves to get their pre-pregnancy body back immediately after child-birth.
As a new mother, you have just created a universe inside of you and have either been cut open or pushed through a tiny opening to bring this little human out into the world. And that is no small feat. Hope you realise how powerful and strong both physically and emotionally you really are. I did. And as a new mom, I was in awe of my body. So why would I or you want to bounce back? Why not move forward!
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In a survey of 7,000 women, 61% of new moms said they expected to be back down to their pre-pregnancy weight by their baby’s first birthday but one to two years after having their baby, 86 percent of women say they are nowhere close to that goal and that they actually still looked five-month-pregnant. It’s not your fault. We have been conditioned to believe that it’s possible to suddenly look like someone on social media whose belly had deflated like a balloon the moment the baby was out. It may be true for a few but for most of us, it’s time for a reality check.
Giving birth to a baby requires a lot out of us. Our body has changed forever from the inside out whether it’s physical, hormonal, mental and emotional, during the process. But have we educated ourselves about these changes? Are we aware about these changes? Do we know how to heal these changes? I wasn’t aware of any of it in spite of being in the fitness industry for years now and I didn’t know how to take care of these new changes either. It took me over a year of constant research, training and self execution to get my answers. And I can’t wait to share it with you all here.
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Let’s begin with this. When the doctor gives us the green signal to start exercising post six weeks after delivery it doesn’t mean we are miraculously ready to start running marathons or lift as heavy as we were pre-pregnancy. Aren’t we still bleeding, aren’t we still raw down there, aren’t we still dealing with the aches and pains of labour? What the six week green signal given by the doctor actually means is that we need to start the process to recuperate, to heal and to strengthen our body from the inside out through specialised training. It’s time to prepare our body again for our new fitness journey.
Let’s answer the What, How and When?
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What happens to our body post pregnancy ?
Diastasis recti or ab separation is a common condition among women post pregnancy which is a separation of the deeper layers of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy to make way for the growing foetus. After childbirth, that gap may close naturally but generally it doesn’t improve on its own, and in many cases the tissues get too stretched and lose their elasticity and, therefore, their inability to retract back into position. This causes the famous baby pooch or mummy tummy but ladies more than aesthetical reasons the biggest fallout for this is lesser spinal support which may lead to something as uncomfortable as a constant backache or later something as serious as a slipped disc. And of course then there is the less talked about urinary incontinence due to the weakening of the pelvic floor. Have you noticed a little pee leaking out when you suddenly sneeze or laugh out loud? Embarrassing and normal but normal doesn’t mean you need to live with it. Good news is that all of the above is reversible!
So how can we reverse this?
With postnatal-recovery specialised breathing, movement and exercises, and it can be divided as:
- Transverse abdominal breathing/ Diaphragmatic breathing to train the abdominal muscles to start closing the gap
- Pelvic floor healing exercises (beyond just kegels)
- Diastasis recti healing with specialized core workouts and breathing (Not crunches or sit ups)
- Posture correction training with proper core engagement
When can we start this healing process?
Transverse Abdominal or Diaphragmatic breathing can start off within two days of delivery. It’s a great way to start reconnecting with your abdominal muscles and start the pelvic floor healing.
Second step is to research on diastasis recti self-check videos. This self check should be done at around six weeks with your gynaecologist’s permission and even better is that she /he does the test to determine your gap.
Try to invest in a well trained and experienced postnatal exercise specialist in your area who can guide you on proper core exercises to start healing the diastasis recti or ab separation. And pelvic floor exercises are a must too. And no in this case your personal trainer may not be able to guide you if they have not taken specialised training. Please don’t take chances with your body.
Also Read: Meet Sucheta Pal: First Zumba Master Trainer In India
If hiring a post-natal specialist is expensive then follow core workouts from the experts either via online group classes or pre recorded sessions. And yes you can start this process whether you are a mom of a one-year-old or a 10-year-old. Its never too late!
But most importantly you should start whenever you feel ready and not when someone tells you that you should be ready. Listen to your body because no one else knows it better than you and recognise how strong and powerful you are.
As a mother myself, I can tell you this, today within one year of child birth via C-sec I can lift heavier, jump higher and dance longer than I could ever do pre-pregnancy. And the best part is that as a stronger woman I am a happier mom. And a happy mom = A happy baby. All I did was to give my body the right method of healing and strengthening it deserves and of course time.
Unfortunately, there is very less awareness for this healing and strengthening process for new mothers. I do wish that just as there is so much focus on preparing us women for labor and breastfeeding it’s time we dont forget our women as soon as the baby is out. It’s time that we start focussing on strengthening our body from the inside out and stop focussing on weight loss or getting rid of the mummy tummy.
So on that note, instead of bouncing back, I wish to encourage you to look forward to discovering the new you and all that you are now capable of.
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Sucheta Pal is Zumba® Ambassador & Lead Educator. The views expressed are the author’s own.
Picture Credit: Sucheta Pal