Surveys show that 70 percent of moms are unsatisfied with their bodies, even nine months after giving birth. While there are a lucky few who quickly take off all their pregnancy weight, they don’t always regain their same body composition. No matter how fit you are throughout your pregnancy, you’ll need special “training” for your new role as a mother. Pregnancy and childbirth significantly challenge your body, but fortunately these challenges are all manageable with a sound exercise program.
After recovering from childbirth and getting a handle on the sleep deprivation and challenges of caring for a newborn, you might feel compelled to try to get right back into your pre-baby workout routine. But your body is different now, and it is important to take other factors into consideration.
Why Can’t I just Go Back to My Pre-pregnancy Workout?
Postural Changes. Many changes have happened to your body during pregnancy. The weight of your uterus, your baby and your growing breasts have likely pulled your posture out of alignment. Your hips have probably tilted forward (an anterior pelvic tilt) and your shoulders are probably rounded. Almost 80 percent of women complain of back pain during or after pregnancy. Much of that pain comes from this postural mal-alignment.
- Your Post-baby Workout should focus on strengthening your back muscles to pull and stretch your chest and hip flexors.
Your Pelvic Floor. The weight of the baby and uterus and the process childbirth have probably weakened your pelvic floor muscles.
- Your Post-baby Workout should emphasize kegels and other pelvic floor exercises (yes, those same ones that you did during pregnancy).
Your Tummy. Will your abs ever look the same again? Maybe, but it will take time. For now, it is important to take it slow. You have lost great strength in your abs during pregnancy. Many moms also experience diastasis, which is a separation of the abdominal wall that occurs during pregnancy due to the growing uterus. It is also sometimes referred to as the “baby bulge” or “muffin top.” Jumping in to your old ab workout can make the problem worse.
- Your Post-baby Workout should include exercises that “knit” these muscles back together, such as abdominal bracing, leg slides and planks.
What Should I Do Instead?
The best postpartum workouts combine cardio and strength and will, quite literally, focus on “bringing a moms body back.” Do more back exercises than push-ups. We need to get rid of the exercises that are pulling us forward, and introduce new movements that pull us back.
Here are some great ways to get started:
Super Mom. This is a great exercise for the core and lower back. Begin face down on your stomach with your arms and legs extended. Squeeze your glutes, engage your core and lift both arms and legs toward the ceiling. Hold for three to five seconds and come back down.
Plank With Row. Because moms are short on time, compound exercises are a great way to target multiple muscles. Get in to a plank position. Work to keep your hips down and square to the floor and pull a weight or tube in to a row. Lower and repeat on he other side.
Hip Bridge With Leg Slide. This exercise targets your glutes, hamstrings and abs. Lie face-up with your legs bent and knees hip-width apart. Engage your core and raise your glutes. Slide one leg out, keeping your hips up, and then bring it back in and switch sides.
Squat With Kickback. Sit back in to a squat while standing on an exercise tube or holding light weights. As you lower in to your squat, press the tube back, activating your core, upper back and the backs of your arms.
Why does my body feel worse now than when I was pregnant?
There are many reasons for not feeling good after having a baby. Postpartum depression, a sense of being overwhelmed and lack of sleep are just a few reasons you may not be feeling your best. However, many of the movements of motherhood cause your body not to feel good.
- Pushing a Stroller. Most moms hunch over when pushing a stroller. Instead, keep your shoulder blades retracted and lead with your chest. Keep your abs pulled in and your wrists in a neutral position.
- Carrying Baby. Holding baby on the hip with one arm can cause muscular imbalances. Instead, make sure to alternate which side you hold your baby on.
- Nursing and Feeding. Hunching over the baby can cause back and posture problems. Instead, bring your baby up to you using a pillow or nursing props and be sure to sit in a proper chair.
- Carrying a Car Seat. Unfortunately, these indispensable items also wreak havoc on our bodies. If you hold the car seat with one arm, be careful to keep your spine in neutral alignment. Better yet, hold your car-seat carrier like a laundry basket whenever possible so that your body is balanced.
- Front-pack Carrier. Worn correctly, this can be a great workout. Worn incorrectly it can be a postural pain. Keep your spine in neutral and abs pulled in. Make sure to pull your shoulders back and try not to round forward.