By Laura Mason
When I ask the mothers that come to see me at the studio where they want to feel stronger, they most commonly point to their midsection. Although building strength in your abdominals is important after pregnancy and birth, it is not the only area you should be considering. Whether the goal is to get back to a specific sport or not, all postpartum women should build strength in the same five areas after having a baby.
- Pelvic floor – in the days and months after your baby is born (regardless of delivery method), you should prioritise horizontal rest and gentle reconnection to your pelvic floor. Aim for several instances where you engage and relax your pelvic floor throughout each day and see a women’s health physio somewhere in the first several months for an overall check (even if you don’t have symptoms). If you do have symptoms, keep a diary because you may not remember all of the details when you’re in your appointment thanks to sleep deprivation.
Whether the goal is to get back to a specific sport or not, all postpartum women should build strength in the same five areas after having a baby.
- Upper back/shoulder/arms – the number of hours you will spend holding your newborn is often underestimated. The physical toll that this takes on the body is quite intense as well. Often the pectoral muscles (under the breasts and connecting to your arms) get overly tight and further increase the rounded shoulders and forward head posture that is common in new mothers. This roundness leads to discomfort in the upper back. Although it feels really nice to stretch out the upper back, it’s actually more important to strengthen this area to combat the forward rounding whilst stretching out the front of the chest. My suggestion is to lie down lengthways on a rolled-up towel after each feed and then flip to your hand and knees for some single-arm rowing with a dumbbell.
- Glutes – As your pregnancy progresses, the postural changes that occur result in different engagement of your glutes. Once the baby is born, you need to work to bring the pelvis back to its pre-pregnancy position and strengthen your glutes back up again. Some kneeling bent and straight leg extensions can be an easy way to get the glutes firing again and also good form when you’re doing squats and lunges. By good form, I mean hinging at the hips, keeping your chest lifted and sending your butt behind you.