It is common to feel disconnected from your post-partum body. The rib cage, hips, and pelvis have stretched out to accommodate the pregnancy and birth of the baby. Your internal organs which have shifted around during the pregnancy are still settling back into place. The pregnancy belly has turned to a soft baby bump. At the 6 week post-partum checkup, women are given the green light to exercise, but not the guidance on how to begin again.
When you begin a strengthening program post-partum you really need to be mindful during your exercises. Exercise may not come natural or feel the same as it did pre-pregnancy. The differences you feel in your body are due to the following:
- Weakness and overall deconditioning
- Weight gain from pregnancy
- Increased body fat
- Changes in postural alignment
- Lack of sensation or numbness around C- section scar
When your muscles are weak it can be difficult to feel them working. You may not be sure you are performing an exercise correctly. Stronger muscles tend to overcompensate for weakness; this is especially true with strengthening the abdominals.
A targeted post-partum program can give you a quicker recovery. This should focus on restoring the core (pelvic floor, deep abdominal muscles, pelvic stabilizers, scapula stabilizers, back muscles). Basically your body starting from the neck running down to the thighs including everything in between. If these muscles are not properly strengthened, your body is at risk for injury.
Having a baby is an all-encompassing transition, and when caring for our little one we tend to neglect our own needs. It is important to understand what is normal to feel post-partum and when you should contact your doctor/midwife. Be aware of these red flags that you may feel as you become more active and get back into exercise.
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
- Pressure/heaviness in the pelvis
- Feeling like something is falling out of the vagina
- Pelvic pain - sharp pain when changing positions, bending, lifting, activities with baby
- Lower back pain
Physical therapy treatment can help with these common post-partum issues. Make sure to speak with your health care provider if you are experiencing any of the above so you can take care of things early on.