Not all of us are lucky enough to have a six-pack the day after giving birth like Giselle. The pooch, jelly belly, baby belly, whatever you want to call it, is still there months after you had the baby and it feels like it will never go away. It took a long time to grow that beautiful belly and it will take at least that amount of time, if not longer, for it to go back. Embracing your new curves and what they stand for and not beating yourself up because you don’t fit into your skinny jeans six, seven or even twelve months after giving birth is something we all should do. Take time to focus on the little miracle you protected with that belly for the nine plus months and how wonderful it is to be a new mommy.
Once your doctor clears you, begin a workout routine, but start out slowly; your body is still recovering. If you were able to exercise during pregnancy and were cognizant of your diet, getting back into shape after your baby is born, while it will take some time, should be a little easier than if you didn’t exercise and eat properly. If you weren’t able to exercise while you were pregnant or didn’t consume a healthy diet, don’t worry; you will still be able to get back into shape, if you work hard, it will happen.
Taking postnatal classes in the beginning, once you can begin exercising, is a great option. I took prenatal classes up until my baby was 8 months old. For me it was helpful to be told what moves and modifications I should do. Our bodies are still vulnerable and certain moves can actually be harmful to us if not done properly.
I asked Carrie Campbell, Owner of Positively Pilates and my favorite Pilates instructor, her advice on how to get fit:
Q: When can I start working out after giving birth?
A: Most new moms are so sleep deprived that working out is the last thing on their mind, but if you are the exception to that rule, I recommend waiting 4-6 weeks after a vaginal birth and 6-8 weeks after a Cesarean. Another rule of thumb is that you should have completely stopped bleeding before resuming exercise and of course checks with your Doctor first! If you are breastfeeding, exercising too much too early can slow down breast milk production so be careful. Also if you start working your abs too soon you will actually build a bulge, which is exactly what you don’t want!
Q: What are some good exercises to start with?
A: Start simple and work smart. Listen to your body. Don’t expect to run a 5K or do 500 sit-ups after you have had a baby! I always recommend brisk walking to build up your cardiovascular strength. Do Kegels, belly breath and splinted ab curls to build back your core strength. Push-ups and squats on a wall are great to strengthen your arms and legs. Last but not least don’t forget to stretch! The neck, shoulders and upper back get very tight because of all of the rounding forward we do as mothers (pushing the stroller, changing diapers, breastfeeding, etc.) Definitely add shoulder and neck stretches into your workouts…you will thank me for it later!
Q: Why can’t I do some of the moves I was able to do before I was pregnant?
A: Your body simply needs time to heal. Pregnancy is a highly complex physiological state. It over stretches and can potentially separate the abdominal wall, it changes the natural curves of your spine, your ligaments get loose and your muscles get tight. So, just like it took your body nine months to go through a pregnancy it will take you approximately nine months to recover from it. For some women it is less and for some a little more. The key is consistency to your exercise regime and a healthy diet!
Q: What is diastasis and how do I know if I have it?
A: Diastasis recti, also known as abdominal separation, is when the right and left sides of the rectus abdominus separate along the linea alba. The abdominals are held together by a thin connective tissue and when your abs stretch during pregnancy they can potentially split. It happens most frequently with multiple gestation and multiple pregnancies. It is measured by width and depth. 1-2 fingers width is common and will heal naturally, 3-4 fingers width needs much more attention and professional help. It is very hard to diagnose while pregnant, but women who have it typically complain about a long burning sensation from their sternum to their pubic bone (the linea alba). Postpartum you can check for it by lying on your back with bent knees. Curl your head, neck and shoulders up and try to keep your abs relaxed. Then, take your index and middle fingers and feel along your center line from the sternum to the pubic bone putting light pressure downward. If you feel a gap where you can distinctly feel that the two sides of your abs have separated that is a diastasis. Most OBGYNs check for this at the six-week check up. If yours does not please request it.
Q: Besides Pilates, what are some other good workouts to get your tummy back in shape?
A: Although I love all forms of fitness, Pilates is the best way to regain core strength and pelvic floor control after having a baby. DO NOT do sit-ups or crunches. Even if you only have a one-finger width diastasis sit ups and crunches will only make it worse! Planks are a great way to work your abs with out flexion and therefore without the risk of separating your abs further. Try holding a forearm plank for 30 seconds and you will feel your abs working hard. Make sure that as you hold your plank you breathe and try to lift your abdominals up towards your spine.
I originally wrote this article for Mommies 247 and I loved it so much I had to share!