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The transformative journey in to motherhood is beautiful, messy…and a little flabby. If you’re like me, pregnancy and birth wreaked havoc on your bod and the first time you worked out felt like a marathon. You might have felt out of breath, out of steam and probably out some confidence.

In France and other countries like the Netherlands and Australia, postpartum physical therapy is a common treatment to help women recover from the rigors of childbirth. Yet in the United States, women have a 6-week postpartum check-up and are generally told to resume their normal activities.

Gainey, a Kansas City (MO, USA) obstetrician, reported findings of pelvic-related trauma in a large series of women after vaginal childbirth in 1943. He detected pelvic trauma in approximately 20% of vaginally parous women. Incredibly, this knowledge appears to have become lost, and current textbooks of obstetrics and gynecology do not contain any reference to his findings according to Hans Peter Dietz, MD, PhD who authors “Pelvic Floor Trauma” in the Journal Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology published in 2014.

Hans goes on to further note in his article, “The diagnostic assessment of pelvic floor function and anatomy is moving from the fringes to the mainstream of obstetrics and gynecology….pelvic floor trauma in labor is common, generally overlooked, and is a major factor in the causation of pelvic organ prolapse.”

Caring for a new baby can leave little time for sleep, a shower or a workout, much less multiple physical therapy sessions. Yet experts agree it’s one of the best things women can do for their health, both right after childbirth and in the future.

I had the opportunity to go to multiple sessions, and I’d like to share with you these wonderful postpartum exercises that are intended to rebuild your pelvic floor and abdominal structure to transition you back in to an active life style.

Repeat this gentle workout 3X a day for 3-6 weeks, or until you feel ready to pick up more intense physical activity. As always, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise…you know the deal.

#1. Kegels

Lets talk about doing Kegels. They are really a two-step process, not one. You don’t just close the elevator door, you have to go UP the elevator. Get it? First you need to Find the right muscles. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you’ve got the right muscles. Once you have “closed the elevator doors” then you need to contract those muscles in to your lower abdomen, “ Go UP the elevator”. Got it? Now THAT is a kegel!

#2. Transverse Abdominals

Good for: Diastasis Recti and abdominal strengthening

Start by laying down on the floor or a matt, with a towel or a muslin cloth (mom -ing way hard here with my mom jeans and muslin cloth) looped behind your back at belly button level. Cross cloth in front at belly button.

In one fluid movement exhale, lifting your chin to the sky, tighten the towel across lower abdominals, pull belly button to spine and hold for entire exhale. Repeat 10 times 3X a day.

BONUS* Add Kegel on exhale

 

#2. Transverse Abdominals Using Gravity

Good for: Diastasis Recti and abdominal strengthening

Starting on all fours (also known as “table top” in yoga terms)

In one fluid movement exhale and draw your belly button to the spine. Hold for exhale. Repeat 10 times.

BONUS* Add Kegel

#3. Pelvic Lift (not pictured)

Lying with your legs comfortably bent shoulder width apart, deep inhale and on the exhale lift hips off the floor creating a straight line with your body from knees to shoulders. When exhaling, exhale FULLY from stomach and not chest. Hold for exhale. Repeat 8-10 times.

BONUS* Add Kegel

For another version of this exercise, prop hips up with throw pillows or couch cushions for 10 minutes in the pelvic lift position while doing kegels. Gravity works wonderfully in your favor!

 

#4. Abdominal Leg Slide

While lifting chin to sky (head off matt about 2 inches) and keeping one leg stationary, slowly slide one leg out keeping elevated about 3 inches from your matt, until it is straight and then slide it back in to the starting position. Alternate sides, extending the other leg out and then back in to complete one rep.  Repeat 10 times.
Remember not to flatten your back and to keep the curve of your spine relaxed. When your abdominal muscles are contracted it helps to stabilize your pelvis while your legs and lower tummy muscles work. This prevents strain in your back muscles.

BONUS* You guessed it 😉