Postnatal period

A new baby in the family is a time of great change, especially if it is your first.

It is a steep learning curve for most, as families adapt to the new addition; sleep is interrupted, there are nappies to be changed, extra washing to be done, all whilst getting to know your little bundle.

Looking after a baby is very demanding, both physically and psychologically. Mothers with new babies spend a lot of time in a flexed forward and slouched posture while they are feeding, changing, bathing and carrying their baby.

Weakness and lengthening of the trunk muscles will contribute to a lack of muscular support of the spine and pelvis, also making it difficult to maintain ideal body posture.

Many women are keen to return to exercises as soon as possible after the birth of their baby, but are often unsure where they should start or are simply unaware of the huge impact that pregnancy and childbirth will have on their body and how many of the changes of pregnancy persist into the postnatal period.

There is great variability amongst women in the time taken for the body to recover from the effects of pregnancy and childbirth and this will impact on the type of exercise that women should perform in the postnatal period.

The following are important considerations for postpartum exercise:

We recommend a post-natal assessment at six weeks postpartum with a physiotherapist with post-graduate qualification in women’s health and continence to ensure that the pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles are working appropriately, particularly for those women who are concerned that they cannot feel their pelvic floor muscles working or who may be experiencing any of the following:

As well as their role in continence and support of the pelvic and abdominal organs, the pelvic floor muscles work in combination with the deeper abdominal muscles and deep back muscles to help support the trunk, somewhat like an in-built corset.

Learning to correctly work these muscles appropriately will assist in:

Use of the real time ultrasound machine can be a useful way of assessing how the well the pelvic floor muscles and deeper abdominal muscles are working together in a variety of different positions, particularly further down the track when stronger abdominal exercises maybe commenced.

Physiotherapy supervised Pilates is a good way of safely regaining strength, while focusing on specific problem areas and ultimately aiming for a total body workout.

See our fact sheet titled Pilates. Will it Help Me? for further information on Pilates

Hydrotherapy classes are also an ideal low impact cardiovascular exercise option when returning to exercise after having a baby.

Many Lifecare centres have Pilates studios that are run by Pilates Physiotherapists who have completed over 500 hours of specific training in Pilates exercise programming.

Selected Lifecare practices run specific Mother and Baby Pilates classes and Hydrotherapy classes