After the marathon of pregnancy comes the ultra-endurance test of motherhood itself. Becoming a mum is a huge shift, both physically and mentally, so acknowledging the change in our bodies and minds and continuing to make time for our recovery and emotional adjustment can be very helpful.
Sometimes pregnancy can change our physique permanently. Our expanded ribcage and pelvis may not go back to where they were, for example. But it's all part of the amazing job our body does to grow and give birth to our babies. It's not always easy to ignore societal pressures to 'bounce back' to pre-pregnancy size or weight, but try to think about your postnatal recovery in terms of 'bouncing forward' to embrace the new you.
Postnatal fitness can really help after having a baby for a number of reasons. It can:
- Re-strengthen your body after the marathon of pregnancy and childbirth.
- Prepare you for the long journey of motherhood to come - building strength and endurance for carrying your little ones, pushing the double buggy and then needing to be more active as your babies become toddlers.
- Boost your mood with endorphins and offering valuable 'you' time, as well as easing the anxieties of early parenthood.
- Provide the perfect antidote to the hours spent holding or feeding your little ones with stretches for your neck, shoulders and back.
However, going too fast or too hard risks causing permanent damage, so finding postnatal specific classes or exercises that protect your recovery and taking a gradual approach is well advised. Postnatal instructors should ensure that you’re working safely and tailor exercises to your stage of recovery. Mum specific classes also mean you’ll meet other mums with little ones and build another valuable social support group.
Postnatal exercise should also take into account a few common issues experienced after giving birth. For example, while the abdominal separation (diastasis recti) created by pregnancy is still in the process of closing, it's really important that you don't work too powerfully into the abdominal muscles and modify common exercises to work safely until you have managed to close the gap. So no planks, crunches, sit ups, roll ups, excessive or fast twist movements and strong back bends until that gap is closed.
Moreover, the continued presence of relaxing in your body (especially if you're breastfeeding) makes it easy to overstretch and strain your muscles and ligaments if you overdo it. It also creates a looseness in joints such as your knees, ankles and hips that high impact exercises such as running can put too much pressure on.
Your pelvic floor also needs to be rebuilt after supporting the weight of your babies, even if you've had a C-section. And it's something that needs lots of work to make sure you feel comfortable going to the toilet, having sex and also to protect you from leaks. This is big picture stuff to ensure a healthy and happy future for you.
Our bodies have been through enormous changes during pregnancy and childbirth. They need time to heal before trying to return to pre-pregnancy physical exercise. By looking after yourself and taking the right approach, you can come out the other side as a fitter, stronger and healthier you. We've partnered with Busylizzy Family Club who provide Twins Trust members with two free Zoom classes each month so you can exercise safely and conveniently at home.