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Archive for the ‘Post Natal’ Category

Baby – Check!  Support bra – Check!   Trainers – Check!  Running … hang on a minute!!!

It’s my experience that regular runners  (both before and during pregnancy) want to get back to running as soon as possible after baby is born.  However, do so with great caution…

Going back to (or even starting) a running programme isn’t recommended for at least six months after baby has been born, and possibly longer if you are breast feeding or have had post-pregnancy problems.

Running is categorised as a ‘high impact’ activity (where both feet are off the floor at the same time), much like jumping, hopping and even hopscotch!   It is a form of cardiovascular (CV) exercise which means it has a host of benefits – but there are some considerations…

The desire to get back to ‘your old self’ and the longing to lose the baby weight, plus the ease and accessibility of running make it a popular exercise choice.  However, even an experienced runner needs to tread cautiously when returning to fitness.  If you are not a natural running and have not run before – now is not the time to start!  Leave it till you feel absolutely back to your old self!  However, walking is excellent for everyone!

Benefits of CV exercise

If your CV workout is at the right frequency, intensity, type and for the right time (FITT), it is valuable in helping with post natal recovery:

  • increase circulation promotes blood flow through varicose veins and aids reabsorbtion of excess fluid as a result of pregancy,
  • the improved efficiency of the hear and lungs to transport and utilise oxygen
  • the increased endurance of the leg muscles will make everyday tasks easer
  • may be helpful for reducing weight gained during pregnancy
  • therapeutic to help deal with stress and anxiety by assisting dispersal of the hormone adrenalin.

Joins and relaxin

The hormone relaxin  continues to affect the body post natally and as such makes exercise choices somewhat limited during the early months of being a new mum.  If you are breast feeding, these effects last longer.  Low impact exercises choices are available (where one foot remains on the ground – walking!).  Excessive movement around the pelvis, especially during weight bearing exercises may stress your SJ joints or your pubis symphsis (your pubic bone) which can aggrevate existing conditions or cause a new problem to develop.

The Q-anlge (the angle between your knee cap (patella) and the front of your hips (ASIS)) is greater in new mums, which means the pelvis is a little wider and can predispose a new mum to anterior knee pain and other syndromes. Knees are particularly vulnerable to injury and misalignment with the repetitive action of stepping and cycling; the length of time exercising has to be balanced with the amount of physical activity you expend during the day – just by being a new mum!  Ankle stability is also at risk due to the quick lateral movements and directional changes that can occur in many ‘aerobic’ activities.  Correct posture and technique are important throughout every exercise session.

High impact exercises are extremely stressful to the pelvic floor and are associated with pelvic floor dysfunction.  Decreased support form the ligaments that support the pelvic organs and muscle imbalances increase the risk of prolapse!

Abdominals

The abdominals  have been stretched and weakened and will reduce the stability of the torso and spine.  The muscles inside need to be working (contracting) first before limb movement (which is exactly what Pilates can help with!).  Moving limbs whilst the abdominal and back muscles or not contracted can lead to long-term problems.

Breasts

High impact activites are unsuitable for breast-feeding mums; the breasts are heavy and may leak with excessive movements.  Any movements what bring the arms closer to your chest will need modification (think of the arms swinging during the running action!).  Breast milk is not affected with moderate-intensity CV work –read here for more details.

Weight loss

Easy one in principle – use more calories than you take in!  However, if it was that easy, then we would all be slim!  Exercise is often used to help with weight loss, but food intake also needs to be considered.  However, if you are breast feeding you need extra calories! Perhaps a sensible choice would be to wait after breast feeding to begin a weight loss programme?

Putting exercise into your’s and babies routine…

Daily walks with baby in the pram are most suitable as an introduction to exercise.  If it will form a regular part of your routine, then 10 minutes at a time is a good starting point.  If you can’t manage daily walks, then increase the duration when you do go out (to get the same benefits of daily exercise). Every new mum should follow these suggestions as the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Try to walk at a pace that means you are able to reach 4-6 on the rate of perceived exertion scale (see here for more details)

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How to improve your post natal posture

pn better posture 2010

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One thing is for sure – your abdominals change during pregnancy! 

The abdominals provide a muscular support around your trunk and start at the ribs and end at your pelvis.  It helps to provide support for the spine and internal organs.   As baby grows, they are required to work harder and afford more support.

Having strong and healthy abdominals will offer support for you and baby.  But first, let’s look deeper at these supporting muscles…

Having strong abdominal muscles during pregnancy has many advantages – they:

  • Support your back
  • Support the increasing weight of baby
  • Assist during the second stage of labour (when you push)
  • Will help with postnatal abdominal recovery
  • Work with the pelvic floor muscles and so help prevent stress incontinence.

As baby grows, your abdominal muscles have to stretch to accommodate him – your waist can increase by 20 inches and the midline of your abdomen may increase from 11 inches up to 20 inches!

The abdominal muscles are joined together by connective tissue called the linea alba and run from your ribs to your pelvis.   When baby needs more room, the linea alba thins and lengthens.  To say that is actually splits is quite wrong and not the image we want!   The linea alba stretches, lengthens and therefore becomes weaker as it lengthens.  The linea alba may thin out, creating a space in the abdomen.  This change is termed a diastasis.

If it were to happen, the changes begin at the belly button area and move either upwards or downwards, depending on how you are carrying your baby. It is usually not painful as it is the connective tissue that is affected. You may also notice a bump or ridge running from your breastbone down to your navel.Women who experience rapid growth of their stomachs during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from separated abdominal muscles.

Should this happen it means that your back is not as well supported, your pelvis less stable and your posture will change, and you may experience back pain.   This change in your abdominal muscles, (which happens as baby gets bigger) – is like building an extension on your tummy just for baby!  Usually after baby is born your tummy muscles revert back to their pre-natal state.

This condition is fairly common during pregnancy. About one-third of all pregnant women experience it at some point during their pregnancy and it is more likely to occur during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. However, it can also occur during labour and delivery.

Who’s At Risk of diastasis?

Every pregnant woman is at risk of developing the condition during pregnancy, but some women are more at risk. The condition appears to have some type of genetic link, so if your mother or sister suffered from it, your risk also increases.  Other risk factors include:

  • Previous pregnancy with the condition
  • Multiple pregnancy
  • Being overweight or obese

 Complications Associated with Diastasis

If you are suffering from diastasis during pregnancy or post-natally, it is important to take steps to encourage your muscles to regain their previous shape and function.  If, on your post natal check up, your muscles have not ’gone back’, then you may be referred to your local specialist Physiotherapist for specific exercises.   If left untreated, separated muscles can cause health complications, including:

  •  Chronic lower back pain (due to the fact that the abdominal muscles help to support your back and spinal column)
  • Altered posture due to weak abdominal muscles (which in turn weakens your back muscles, leading to back pain)

That does pose the question of whether we should be working the abdominals during pregnancy…  It is important to do certain exercises during pregnancy in order to help with posture and possible back pain, and have some control over the abdominal muscles.

The abdominal muscles are often referred to as our ‘core’.  If you have strong core muscles they will help you maintain correct pelvic alignment and avoid bad posture.

Remember, the right exercises can help you manage the condition, but the wrong exercises will exacerbate the problem.  In class we can check for any diastasis – just ask!

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You will have probably see a specialist breastfeeding nurse – so I don’t need to go into detail of the benefits, but there are some reported benefits for you too.

Breastfeeding helps to build a strong bond between you and baby – both physically and mentally and can also reduce the risk of cot death. The body’s ability to use stored fat increases during breastfeeding and this will assist weight loss, particularly if combined with moderate exercise and sensible eating (see later for more information).

Exercising is possible whilst you are breast feeding, but just be aware that your breasts will be larger and fuller that previously, so a good fitting bra is essential. To tight and it might possibly leave you prone to mastitis. Your usual nursing bra will probably not be supportive enough. Extra fluids should be drunk to make sure you don’t dehydrate – if you don’t drink enough your milk supply may be affected.

Also some of the moves may not be suitable – anything involving lying on your front will be very difficult – you might need to think of other ways to exercise, i.e. on all 4’s.

Top Tips:

Feed baby/express milk prior to exercising

  • You will probably notice you feel less full and more comfortable. Expressing will help reduce the amount of milk and therefore load and leakage.

Nipple Pads 

  • Even if when milk is expressed or baby is fed, there is always a chance that breast milk can leak through, and arm movements across the breast can stimulate further milk flow. Wearing pads can help.

Wear the right clothes 

  • As mentioned you should have a well-fitting bra, but also the rest of your workout clothes should be comfortable. Avoid tight and restrictive clothing especially around the breasts. You will need a top that can be easily adjusted to allow you to feed baby (if need be).

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Well, going my some ‘celebrity mums’ post natal doesn’t seem to fit into their vocabulary! It seems that in no time at all that they are in their size zero skinny jeans and tight tops; tottering around on stilettos or wearing a bikini three weeks after birth. I’ve certainly not met any new mum like that!

If you put pregnancy on a time-line, it has taken 9 months to prepare baby for the world, and in reality it can take up to a year to get back to your ‘pre-pregnancy’ body, and that’s fingers crossed that everything goes back the same!

Very often I hear new mums talking about getting back into shape, putting their old jean back on – and for some this will be possible at some stage. Yes, there are the ‘lucky’ ones who do snap back into shape, without any apparent effort, but in my experience they are the exception to the rule.

Our bodies have gone through a huge change – not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and physiologically. As a new mum we need to concentrate on what our body is doing – after all, we can’t control anybody else’s, can we?

Even though you are not still pregnant there are specific hormones in your body that can stay there for up to 5 months – and if you are breastfeeding they can stay even longer. These hormones have the effect of relaxing your joints – which is an indication that any programme of activity should be considered carefully and not just launch into your pre-pregnancy routine. If nothing else you will have had at least 9 months break from that activity – and so any health gain you had would need to be restarted.

When you attend an Experience Pilates class you will be welcomed by someone who has been there and got the T-Shirt! As your Post Natal Pilates expert I will make sure that every move is perfect for you and use my expert knowledge to help get you back in shape – all the way through your post natal recovery.


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Welcome back to Exercise!

You’ve had your baby – your life will never be the same again! A routine is slowly developing and everyone wants to see the new baby!   With all this excitement about your new arrival, one other special person can be over looked – YOU!

As a new mum (whether it’s your first or fourth), we very often put our needs last. Everyone (even the dog) comes before our needs.

That is where time for your (and baby) come in. Why not take part in something that is beneficial to both baby and you? Exercise is one of those lovely times when you can be together. Forget the washing/bottles/pads/cleaning – have some time to yourself.

Post Natal Pilates is a fantastic way to start getting back into shape…

But before you attend your first class – why should you bother?

Benefits of Post Natal Exercise

As far as workouts go, the pregnancy period, giving birth and the early postpartum days will be the toughest workout you have ever had! Beginning suitable exercise at the right point will be your biggest ally in getting you mind and body back into shape. 
During your pregnancy your heart and lungs have grown strong and adapted to the change in your body, as well as your leg muscles, and the increased workload it needs to progress you through your pregnancy. In short, your body is fitter and stronger by being pregnant! Now would be the time to maximise these gains and start a progressive exercise programme.

There are many areas that post natal exercise can help – both within your boy and also your mind…

Recovery of Abdominal Muscles:

  • Pregnancy can increase the size of your abdomen by up to 20 inches – that’s a lot of extra skin and tummy! 
  • Working the deep abdominal muscles (the one you use when you cough and sneeze – and during the second stage of labour during a vaginal delivery), will help reduce the appearance of the tummy, gain core strength and also can help if you have had diastasis recti (a condition where the linea alba of the abdominals lengthen and thin to allow more room for baby).

Increase tone of the Pelvic Floor Muscles:

  • If you have had a vaginal delivery your pelvic floor muscles will have worked very hard! Even if you had a c-section they certainly don’t take a back seat. Episiotomies and other interventions can take their toll on your pelvic floor.
  • Specific pelvic floor exercises (combined with deep abdominal work) have been shown to reduce incontinent and aid recovery. 

Endurance and Stamina

  • As previously mentioned you are fitter now due to the improved heart and lung function.  
  • Keep this momentum going by doing something that keeps the training effect up – walking with your pram is PERFECT.  Now that Spring is here, the weather is getting better and there is so much new life springing into action for you to talk to your baby about.  
  • Also you will be getting some much-needed Vitamin D (both important for you and baby), and help increase your mood.  Aim to get out at least 5 times per week for about 30 minutes.  

Burn Baby Fat!

  • With the increase in endurance and stamina mentioned above, another very important effect of exercise is the reduction in body fat.  You know you have burned fat because you get warm (maybe sweaty) and that your breathing and heart rate increases, making you feel breathless.

Lighten the Load and Lift Your Mood

  • Exercise has a massive effect on people’s mood – it’s not just the benefits of being outdoors that matter – it is also what happens to your insides – especially your brain. Endorphins are released during exercises and help give your body a ‘natural high’; there is much research to confirm this.
  • That, and the chance to have a good chin-wag with other new mums all helps with our mental health.

Move Well

  • Often we carry our babies (and older children) on our hip on the same side.  We also have nursing/feeding positions that are not ‘normal posture’, and pick babies up from Moses baskets and cots.  In short, there is a lot of mending forward and twisting – all of which can take its toll on your body; especially your back, neck and shoulders.
  • With post natal Pilates you will learn how to hold baby so you don’t put strain on your back – that there are other ways of carrying baby and also how to lift correctly and safely.

With all the advantages of exercise – what are you waiting for!

Post Natal Pilates classes – click here…

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