The urge to regain the pre pregnancy fitness and toning of the body often leads to intense exercise regimens before the abdominal muscles or the pelvic floor are ready in the new mothers. The body, not yet ready for the heavy exercise, can suffer from incontinence problems and prolonged back pain, may be due to ‘diastisis recti’ (explained at the end of the article). Depending on the delivery method, there are specific exercises to speed up your body’s recovery. It is best to consult the doctor before beginning them, since all mothers and all deliveries are different. Under proper supervision, the rebuilding and the toning can begin as early as 24-48 hours after birth, when the post-natal abdomen starts firming up again slowly. Regular exercising and a healthy life-style before the child-birth make the process easier, especially by preparing it for the ordeal, and strengthening the muscles enough to go through the process with ease. This in turn, helps check the amount of harm, or distress the mother has to undergo. With proper care, a healthy lifestyle and regular exercises, it can take 6-12 weeks for the body to return to a pre-pregnancy state.
Now let us go through a few important points, from the easiest to the hardest, as the weak body can handle in that order, to achieve this:
Step 1– controlling the deep breathing: lie down on your back and place your hands over your abdomen. Inhale and allow the belly to rise as it fills with air. Exhale through your mouth as you tighten your abs, pulling them in towards your spine. Your stomach should flatten, not bulge, as you exhale. As you inhale, your chest and abdomen should expand; as you exhale, your chest and abdominal wall should flatten. This concept is important when retraining your core after birth. The muscles in your belly must shorten before they can be strengthened. Exhaling while pulling your abs in shortens and strengthens with each outward breath.
Step 2 – strengthening the lower abs with Kegels: this process was developed to strengthen the lower abdominals, helpful for people with weak bladders. To utilize it on a post pregnancy belly, tighten and contract the pelvic floor and hold for 5 seconds. This can be done anytime, and as many times, in any
posture throughout the day. But do not try this with a full bladder soon after the child birth.
Step 3– regaining the pelvic strength: lying down on the back with bent knees, tilt your pelvis backward while tightening your abs and exhaling. Try to draw your belly in towards your backbone as you push your low back into the mattress/floor. Hold for 5 seconds, inhale, and relax. Repeat this for about ten times, but less, if it strains the belly much.
Step 4– regaining the correct standing body posture: thrust the chin forward to stretch the neck, pull your shoulders down and back, tighten your ab muscles and pull your belly in towards your backbone, tighten the pelvic floor (like in the Kegels), keep knees soft, and increase the arch in your foot.
Step 5– re-establishing body co-ordination for complex exercises: lie down on your back and bend the knees, contract your abdominal, buttock, and pelvic floor muscles, and raise hips up off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and relax down slowly. Repeat this for ten times, but less if it puts strain on the body.
Step 6– normalizing body flexibility: lie down on your back with arms outstretched, exhale, and pull your belly in towards your spine and slowly stretch your hands towards your knees. Roll up until your shoulder blades lift off, then inhale and slowly lower. Be sure your stomach flattens (not expands) as you
rise. Do not try to push the body too far, stop as it starts straining.
These are the basic steps to restore the strength and toning to the new mother. When the body is fit again, the shape regaining regimen may begin under professional supervision.
Diastisis Recti- is a disorder defined as a separation of the ‘rectus abdominis muscle’ into right and left halves. Normally, the two sides of the muscle are joined at the ‘linea alba’ at the body midline. In pregnant or postpartum women, the defect is caused by the stretching of the ‘rectus abdominis’ by the growing uterus. (Source: Wikipedia)
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