As part of our #IhadPND campaign, we're collaborating with wellbeing retreat, &Breathe, to help raise awareness of postnatal depression. In this article, Caroline Bragg (head personal trainer at &Breathe) shares her advice on how to check you're ready for exercise post birth.
Whilst the norm is to wait until your six week postnatal check-up with your GP before starting to exercise again, often this short meeting doesn't give you all the information you need.
GPs can be rushed. They rarely have time to cover your health and wellbeing as well as your baby's. Of all the mums who've been on our retreats since we launched in 2015, only one has ever been checked for ab separation. Most new mums don't even know that this condition, Diastasis Recti, can be a problem.
Get yourself checked
Make sure that your doctor physically checks you and not just your baby. At your six week appointment, you can have episiotomy stitches, caesarean scars and your abdominal muscles examined. You can also discuss any pain you may have in your pelvis and joints. If your GP is unsure about ab separation, it's worth asking to see a physiotherapist, ideally one specialising in women's health. You can request a referral or choose to pay privately. A fitness professional will also be able to check for ab separation.
Listen to your body
Don't feel pressured to get back to the gym. If you're not comfortable walking, bigger movements aren't advisable. You still have a lot of relaxin (the hormone that helps your ligaments relax to deliver a baby) in your body after you've given birth. And if you're breastfeeding, it can take a few months after you stop for it to completely disappear. This means that you're more stretchy than usual and it's easy to overwork the muscles and injure yourself.
Be aware of your pelvic floor
Your pelvic bones can take a little while to come back together post birth (a closing-the-bones massage can really help with this). Your pelvic floor will have been stretched by the weight of your baby. Sometimes it can feel like your vagina is about to fall out when you're doing exercise! If that's the case, take a few more weeks' recovery time and make an appointment to see a physio or your GP if you're worried.
Exercise little and often
Once you're ready to exercise again, go by the mantra - little and often. Giving birth is the biggest workout of your life, so it will take time to get back to "normal". Being gently active will help build up your fitness and strength without causing injury. If you follow a postnatal and abdominal rehab exercise regime, you'll be building new foundations for fitness as a mum.
&Breathe is a family wellbeing company running postnatal retreats and events in France and the UK, helping new parents come up for air.
For more top tips, check out our Omega 3 fish oil guide to pregnancy.