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What is Post-Natal Pilates and when can I start after giving birth?
Post-Natal Pilates is designed specifically to help you through the months after the birth of your baby, aiding you to re-discover your body in a safe, effective and enjoyable way. Pilates is very versatile and adaptable and can be modified for post-natal clients without aggravating any post-partum symptoms. Postnatal Pilates is specifically designed for the postpartum body, including women who have had natural, vaginal deliveries as well as caesarean sections, helping to accelerate the healing process, boost blood flow and oxygenation to repair damaged muscles like your deepest core and abdominal muscles.
Post-natal Pilates will focus on alignment and posture, especially important for new mums. Pilates will help to correct the misalignment of pregnancy and improve strength, so you are better able to carry, hold and nurse your baby for long periods of time and often.
Benefits of Post–Natal Pilates
- Improved core strength and helping to reduce abdominal separation (diastasis recti) - Post-natal Pilates is also very useful for helping conditions such as diastasis recti. When we correctly activate abdominal muscles in post-partum Pilates, we are supporting the contraction and regeneration of the muscle tissues that were completely stretched out during pregnancy. We also avoid traditional flexion exercises where our head and neck comes up off the mat as this places too much load on the abdominals and the pelvic floor. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles may have separated, creating a diastasis recti. The abdominals usually go back to normal after the birth, however, sometimes they can stay separated. If this is the case, you will need to do specific exercises to strengthen these muscles to avoid back pain and injury.
- Improved posture – In the first months after your baby is born, you will spend a large amount of time in a hunched over position, feeding your baby, so your posture will suffer. Post-Natal Pilates will include upper body stretches and exercises designed to work the postural muscles and help prevent strain through the neck and shoulders.
- Improved overall body strength and fitness – Being able to lift, squat down and carry your baby and other loads safely is of critical importance as you adjust to the demands of being a new mum. Post-Natal Pilates will focus on strengthening legs and glutes and creating mobility throughout your entire body.
- Increase pelvic floor strength – It is incredibly important to try and regain pelvic floor strength and control that can sometimes be lost as a result of pregnancy. The pelvic floor includes the muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus and bowel and these can be weakened after pregnancy, especially if you had a large baby or pushed for a long time during labour. Having the weight of a baby sitting on your pelvic floor for 9 months of pregnancy can really impact the pelvic floor, so it is necessary to work these muscles and prevent issues later in life.
- Stress relief and increased energy levels - Pilates is also great for stress relief through the intentional deep breathing which oxygenates the muscles and the brain. That oxygenation, coupled with the increased circulation you get from movement, is also what gives you increased energy, something that’s needed more than ever when you’re a sleep-deprived new mum.
When can I start Post-Natal Pilates?
When you feel ready to exercise, it's very important to not overdo it. Even if you are feeling great after having your baby, your body will have gone through big changes and will need time to recover. Labour and giving birth can cause physical problems including back pain and a leaky bladder, both of which can be made worse by vigorous exercise. In addition, pregnancy hormones, such as Relaxin, can affect joints and ligaments for up to 6 months after giving birth, which can put you at greater risk of injury.
How quickly you return to exercise depends on many factors including what type of birth you had (vaginal or caesarean), how fit you were before and during pregnancy and how easy or difficult the labour was for you.
If you had a vaginal birth, the earliest recommended time to recommence a post-partum Pilates routine is 6 weeks. If you had a c-section, then we recommend you wait a little longer as you will need more time to heal your wound and recover as you have undergone major surgery – in which case a minimum of 12 weeks in required. If you are unsure, please check with your Doctor or Obstetrician to ensure you are signed off to start exercising again.
A post-natal exercise program will focus on reactivating the pelvic floor, abdominal strengthening, spinal extensor strengthening and shoulder and chest opening exercises. These exercises will set the foundations to support the stresses of other exercises, daily activities and sports. Please be aware that there are exercises which might be counterproductive for the postnatal body, including anything that causes extra intra-abdominal pressure like planks, push-ups and sit ups. Additionally, if you enjoy lifting weights to supplement your Pilates, you may want to opt initially for lighter weight, especially while squatting or doing deadlifts.