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Postpartum Core Exercises for New Moms: Why is it important?

Postpartum Core Exercises for New Moms Why is it important

Introduction

Postpartum core exercises play a crucial role in the recovery process for new mothers. Strengthening the core after childbirth helps restore the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor, which are often weakened during pregnancy. Engaging in the best postpartum core exercises can significantly improve a mother’s physical health and psychological well-being, potentially easing mood swings and reducing the risk of postpartum depression. Between 10% to 20% of new mothers experience some form of clinical postpartum depression, highlighting the importance of addressing physical health to support mental well-being.

Understanding the Postpartum Core

What the ‘Core’ Includes?

The core is fundamental to your body’s stability and includes:

  • Abdominal Muscles: The large group of muscles stretching from the ribs to the pelvis, which includes the rectus abdominis, oblique muscles, and the deep transverse abdominis muscles. These muscles are often stretched and may experience abdominal muscle separation, known as diastasis recti.
  • Back Muscles: These muscles act as stabilizers for the spine and help maintain a neutral spine position.
  • Pelvic Floor Muscles: These support the bladder, bowels, and uterus, and can be weakened after a vaginal delivery, leading to conditions like urinary incontinence.

Common Postpartum Core Issues

After childbirth, many women experience:

  • Weakened Abdominal Muscles: The stretching and thinning of the abdominal wall can result in a bulge near the belly button, often exacerbated by the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles.
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: This can manifest as incontinence or pain, significantly impacted by the weakening of pelvic floor muscles.
  • Lower Back Pain: Often a result of poor posture and weakened core muscles, lower back pain can persist if the deep core muscles are not re-strengthened.
  • Posture Changes: Pregnancy often causes a shift in the center of gravity, leading to poor posture that needs to be addressed with targeted core strengthening exercises postpartum.

Benefits of Core Strengthening After Childbirth

Improved Posture and Reduced Back Pain

Core exercises for postpartum recovery not only reduce back pain but also help in correcting postural imbalances caused by months of carrying a growing baby. Strengthening the transverse abdominis and back muscles supports the spine and helps maintain a neutral spine position, essential for reducing strain and discomfort.

Enhanced Pelvic Floor Strength

Pelvic floor exercises, such as kegel exercises, are integral in strengthening the muscles that support the pelvic organs. These gentle exercises help tighten and lift the pelvic floor, which is crucial for recovering strength after pregnancy and improving control over bladder functions.

Increased Overall Stability and Balance

Core strengthening exercises postpartum focus on deep core muscles around the hip bones and lower back, enhancing overall stability and balance. This is especially important for new mothers as they adapt to the physical demands of caring for a newborn.

Furthermore, strengthening the core and engaging in regular physical activity may also help mitigate symptoms of postpartum depression, which most commonly occurs within the first six weeks after childbirth, affecting approximately 6.5% to 20% of women.

Safe Core Exercises for Postpartum Recovery

Safe Core Exercises for Postpartum Recovery

Guidelines for Starting Core Exercises After Childbirth

Before jumping into postpartum core exercises, it’s crucial to set a safe foundation. Understanding the right time and method to start these exercises can help prevent injuries and ensure the effectiveness of your workout regimen.

  • Consult with a Healthcare Provider: Always get clearance from a healthcare provider before starting any exercise postpartum, especially if there is a complicated delivery.
  • Wait for the Green Light: Typically, women can start simple exercises a few weeks after delivery, but this can vary from person to person.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to signs like unusual vaginal bleeding or pain, which indicate the need to slow down.
  • Start Slowly and Gradually Increase: Begin with abdominal breathing and other gentle exercises to ease your body back into fitness without overwhelming it.

Safe and Effective Core Strengthening Exercises for Postpartum Recovery

Discovering safe and effective core exercises is essential for your postpartum recovery. These targeted exercises are designed to gradually rebuild your core strength without overwhelming your recovering body.

Pelvic Tilts

  • How to do it: An excellent exercise for beginning core strengthening. Lie on your back with knees bent, flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and tilting your pelvis up. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

Bridge Lifts

  • How to do it: Effective for engaging the glutes and stabilizer muscles. Lie on your back, feet flat and hip-distance apart, lift your hips while keeping your back straight. This move strengthens the lower back and transverse abdominals.

Modified Planks

  • How to do it: Start in a plank position on your knees rather than your toes to lessen the intensity. Focus on maintaining a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, and hold for several deep breaths.

Leg Slides

  • How to do it: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Slowly extend one leg into a 90-degree angle in a controlled leg extension, sliding your heel along the floor. This exercise is great for activating the lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors without straining the abdominal wall.

Tips for Incorporating Core Exercises into Daily Routine

Integrating core exercises into your daily routine can seem challenging with a new baby. These practical tips will help you find time for fitness while managing your new responsibilities as a mother.

  • Leverage Naptime: Utilize baby’s naptime to fit in short exercise bursts.
  • Incorporate Baby into Your Workout: Use baby’s weight to add resistance to your exercises.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Start with a few minutes per day and increase gradually.
  • Use Playtime as Exercise Time: Engage in activities that also serve as exercise postpartum.
  • Stay Consistent: Regularity is key to progress over time.
  • Split Workouts Throughout the Day: Multiple short sessions can be easier to manage than a single long session.
  • Get Creative with Chores: Turn regular household chores into an opportunity for exercise.
  • Prioritize Your Wellbeing: Acknowledge the additional cost and effort required in postpartum recovery and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Stay Motivated with a Support Group: Joining a group can help maintain motivation and provide valuable support and tips from fellow new mothers.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During the Early Postpartum Period

Awareness of common pitfalls in early postpartum exercise can protect your health and speed your recovery. Avoid these frequent mistakes to ensure a safer and more effective postpartum fitness journey.

  • Rushing Into High-Impact Activities: High-impact cardio and deep squats can put too much pressure on the weakened abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Ignoring Pelvic Floor Health: Overlooking the importance of pelvic floor exercises can delay recovery and increase the risk of complications.
  • Overlooking Core Strength: Neglecting the core can prolong back pain and postural problems.
  • Skipping Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs: Proper form and gradual engagement help prevent injuries.
  • Dehydration and Inadequate Nutrition: Staying hydrated and well-nourished is crucial for recovery and overall health.

Exercises to Avoid During Early Postpartum

Certain exercises could hinder your recovery or cause injury if done too soon after childbirth. Knowing which movements to avoid during the early postpartum period is key to a safe recovery process.

  • High-Impact Cardio: This can be too jarring for the joints and pelvic floor.
  • Heavy Weight Lifting: Avoid until the core is sufficiently strengthened.
  • Advanced Abdominal Moves: Exercises such as full planks and sit-ups can exacerbate Diastasis recti.
  • Deep Squats and Lunges: These can strain the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.

Signs to Stop Exercising and Consult a Healthcare Provider

Signs to Stop Exercising and Consult a Healthcare Provider

While exercising postpartum comes with many benefits, it’s important to recognize the signs that indicate when to pause and seek medical advice. Listen to your body and be mindful of these critical signals to avoid complications. Be vigilant for symptoms that may require medical attention:

  • Pain
  • Unusual or Heavy Bleeding
  • Dizziness or Heart Palpitations
  • Leaking Urine or Pain During Exercise
  • Signs of Infection

Strengthen Your Postpartum Recovery with Core Exercises at RecoverRx Physical Therapy

At RecoverRx Physical Therapy, we understand the unique challenges faced by new mothers in their postpartum journey. Our specialized physical therapy programs are tailored to support the recovery and strengthening of core muscles, crucial for overall well-being after childbirth. With a focus on pelvic rehabilitation, we provide comprehensive care designed to address common postpartum issues such as pelvic floor dysfunction and diastasis recti. Our team at RecoverRx can help restore your strength, enhance your mobility, and support your return to an active, fulfilling lifestyle.

Conclusion

Core exercises are not just about regaining your pre-pregnancy body, they are about building a foundation for a stronger, healthier postpartum journey. With patience, the right exercises, and attention to your body’s signals, you can significantly enhance your postpartum recovery.

FAQs

What happens if you exercise right after giving birth?

Beginning exercise too soon can lead to complications and impede the healing process. It’s crucial to start with basic ab exercises and gradually progress as your body heals.

How do you know if your pelvic floor is damaged after birth?

Symptoms of pelvic floor damage may include difficulty controlling urination, discomfort in the pelvic region, and a noticeable bulge in the vaginal area. These symptoms require consultation with a healthcare provider.

What happens if you don’t do kegels after birth?

Neglecting kegel exercises can prolong recovery from childbirth, increase the risk of pelvic organ prolapse, and exacerbate urinary incontinence issues. Starting these exercises as soon as it’s safe postpartum can help in regaining pelvic floor strength.

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AUTHORS

Dr. Luke GreenwellDr. David Bokermann and Dr. Sarah Greenwell are Performance Based Physical Therapists with extensive backgrounds in optimizing movement, performance, & recovery.

RecoverRx

We help Athletes and Active Adults Recover from Pain and Injury, Rebuild Functional Movement Patterns, and Redefine their Future Performance,  for a Return to the Sports and Activities they Love

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