Two months after my first daughter was born, I went to a trampoline park with my friend. I thought, “what a fun way to workout!”
Well, my friend happened to be young, energetic, and childless.
After a few “warm-up” jumps (nothing more than 6 inches off of the ground), I peed my pants.
Yep. You read that right. It turns out kids aren’t the only ones who wet their pants!
I was horrified and was immediately thankful that I had put on dark leggings that morning.
I sprinted to the bathroom in an attempt to dry my pee-ridden leggings off (disclaimer: I did not fully wet my pants, I just experienced some major unexpected leakage), and told my friend that I had hurt my hamstring and couldn’t jump anymore.
There was no way I was going back on that trampoline and running the risk of peeing my pants a second time!
I kept the real reason I quit jumping a secret from my friend, not only out of embarrassment but also because I didn’t want to scare her away from getting pregnant. (It’s things like this that can really freak an aspiring mother out!!)
Well, I certainly learned my lesson when it came time for my second daughter to be born. Following her birth, I jumped on my core and pelvic floor rehab exercises right away. You know those boring kegel exercises that seem like a waste of time? Yep, I did them.
And you know what? Only seven weeks after giving birth to my second daughter, I was able to do burpees, jumping jacks, and other high-intensity exercises without leaking. I felt so accomplished!
So let’s get into why leakage and core weakening occurs post-pregnancy, and what you can do to avoid it.
What Pregnancy Does to Your Body’s Core
Many mamas think that after having a baby, their body (with some work, of course) will go mostly back to normal. They assume that things will function the same.
Unfortunately, this is not always (and actually, rarely is) the case. If you are anything like I was after my first pregnancy and you ignore rehab exercises (as a personal trainer I should know better!!), you will get some surprises with your post-baby body (and no, not all of them are pleasant ones).
Throughout the stages of pregnancy, your growing uterus stretches the muscles in your abdomen to fit the growing baby inside of you.
Pretty neat, right?
It is, but sometimes your abdominal muscles stretch too much and the separation, known as diastasis recti, can remain well after you’ve given birth, causing your belly to protrude when standing or cone when in a high plank.
Pregnancy also puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor: the muscles that support your uterus during pregnancy. A weakened pelvic floor can lead to hemorrhaging, or leaking fluid whenever you jump, laugh, cough or sneeze well after your baby is born.
Why Rushing Into Postnatal Exercise Is Bad
I am the first to understand mamas that are ready to get right back into their workout routine ASAP following giving birth. You want to feel confident again.
And I don’t blame you.
However, your body needs some time to recover.
You did just push another human out that you’ve been growing for nine months inside of you!
Give yourself a break, some pats on the back, and a few glasses of wine.
I know it is tempting to jump right back into those group exercise classes or try to hold that forearm plank only a few weeks postpartum. But trust me when I say that the satisfaction of showing yourself and others what you are capable of post-baby will not be worth the cost of a having a ‘pooch belly’ that just won’t go away!
Low-impact exercises right after birth are okay (as cleared by your doctor), but it is in your best interest to avoid high-intensity exercises such as planks, jumping, burpees, twisting, etc, which can make your diastasis recti and pelvic floor issues worse.
If you rush back too soon, you might end up more with a ‘mama tummy’ rather than the post-pregnancy “beach body” that you are going for. It’s best to hold off on high-intensity exercises until your core is fully functional again.
5 Safe Ways to Heal Your Core
I’m not just here to tell you what you can’t do. I am here to show you what you can do to be feeling good about your body again.
Here are 5 exercises that will help you heal your core so you can back to the workout routine you love.
And the best part of these exercises?
You just need 5 minutes a day!
Pelvic Floor Contractions (X5)
To contract your pelvic floor muscles, pretend to stop the flow of urine as you exhale. Hold this contraction for 1 second, and then slowly “let go” and allow your muscles to relax as you inhale.
Transverse Abdominis Contractions (X5)
To activate your TVA (deepest core layer), begin lying on your back with your knees bent. Imagine that you are being poked with a hot fire poker just above your belly button (this will cause your abs to contract). Drawing in at your underwear line, hold this contraction for 3 breath cycles. *Focus on contracting on the area around your belly button, and avoid engaging your rectus abdominous muscles (six-pack).
Glute Bridges (X10)
Begin lying down with your knees bent and your arms at your sides. Draw your bellybutton in toward your spine to initiate your lower abdominals. Take an inhale as you raise your hips off the floor (your knee, hip, and shoulder should be in one line). Exhale and return to your starting position.
Body Weight Wall Squats (X10)
Start standing with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at your knees and hips and lower yourself on the wall until your thighs are parallel with the ground. (Keep your knees directly over your ankles). Straighten your legs and then repeat.
Superman’s (X10 each side)
Begin on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Keep your back straight as you draw your belly in and pull down with your hands toward your thighs (to engage your core). Slowly raise one arm and opposite leg and pause when in line with your body. Alternate with the other arm and leg.
(REPEAT THESE 5 EXERCISES TWO TIMES THROUGH)
By being aware of the issues that pregnancy can cause your body’s core, you can avoid the embarrassment of peeing yourself in public. No judgments if it does happen, but of course we’d all prefer to avoid it at all costs.
Thankfully, the cost is cheap. All you need is 5 minutes a day. Working the five exercises covered above into your postnatal routine will make your pregnancy recovery so much easier – I promise.
All new mamas should be able to release their inner child and enjoy trampolines, sans the pants peeing.
Curious about other new mama workouts?
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