5 Postpartum Fitness Myths Debunked
As two mamas we have both been frustrated by some of the (mis)information that is out there as it relates to fitness and wellness post birth. Prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy so many women focus on preparing their bodies. You try to make all the healthy choices for both you and your growing babe. But then you are hit with the brick wall that is postpartum healing and recovery. This week we want to take you along as we bust some postpartum fitness myths.
1. You can resume working out at 6 weeks postpartum. No two pregnancies or birth experiences are alike, which means no two recoveries are alike. Since your healthcare provider isn't seeing you until 6 weeks post birth, this is a red flag that they aren't able to fully asses your individual healing progress and they typically don't look for common issues that can arise following pregnancy and birth. Mamas, you know we are proponents of setting yourself up for an easier recovery by having an active pregnancy, but no matter how fit you are it doesn't mean you can jump right back into your work out routine. You grew a baby for 9-10 months and your body (kinetic chain) has compensated for these changes, so most women need to start with a tailored rehab program and progress slowly back into the workouts they love. C-section mamas for example had a major abdominal surgery, so recovery and rehab will look different and may be slower. On the other hand, you may feel like you are ready to start doing rehab exercises before your 6 week appointment and that's cool too. If you have been assessed for diastasis recti and pelvic floor function (go see a pelvic floor PT mama), you can start gentle rehab exercises as early as two weeks.
2. It's normal to pee yourself during a workout or a sneeze. Let's just be clear, it may be common but it shouldn't be normal to pee yourself EVER. That stops when you graduate from diapers. If you have had a baby and this does happen to you, it may be because your pelvic floor (PF) is persistently contracted. You need to be able to lengthen or relax your PF muscles and contract them. If they are always contracted, they are tight and tense and lead to this leaking. You can practice relaxing and contracting the pelvic floor while performing proper diaphragmatic breathing. If you are struggling to find the connection between your breath and PF, we recommend you work with a PF PT to help.
3. You don't have to worry about pelvic floor (PF) trauma or go see a PF Physical Therapist if you didn't push. If I didn't geek out on this stuff, I would think this too. This arises for C-section mamas especially if you tried to deliver vaginally and had to have an emergency C-section, because your pelvic floor doesn't know the difference. In addition, they cut through multiple layers of skin, fascia, and fat and when healing, the scar can bind down on organs, causing scar tissue restrictions. This is where scar tissue mobilization can make a huge difference once the scar has fully healed around 6 weeks. If you want to learn more about scar mobilization a Pelvic Floor PT should be able to help and you can also check out Expecting and Empowered, they have 3 highlight reels for C-sections or Mamastefit's scar tissue mobilization webinar, which takes place every month. This is especially helpful if you can't get an appointment with a PT in the early newborn days.
4. Separated ab muscles cannot heal. Some mamas are also under the impression that diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) aka abdominal separation will heal completely on its own. For some, yes the abdominal wall separation that occurs during pregnancy can improve with little to no intervention. In fact, it is reported that the prevalence of DRA is 60% at 6 weeks postpartum and 32.6% at 12 months postpartum. But what about those mamas who don't experience healing naturally? You can still improve abdominal wall separation through proper regulation of your internal pressure system. This can be done with 360 degree breathing, ab rehab exercises (like the programs we shared in Five Minute Mama Ep. 43), physical therapy (we cannot stress the benefit of a good PF PT enough), and mindfulness with daily movement.
A few resources on our blog that are helpful:
What Happens To Your Core During Pregnancy: The Pelvic Floor and TVAs Defined
Diastatis Recti During Pregnancy: What Doming and Coning Looks Like and How to Avoid It
Why We Should Stop Cuing 'Suck in Your Belly Button in Towards Your Spine'
5. You won't have time to workout postpartum and will struggle to rebuild your strength. This is a double whammy of negative energy that we are just not here for. That first one to two months postpartum, you should focus on healing, connecting with your babe, and just giving yourself grace mama. Do what feels right. Motherhood is a wild ride and there is no final destination. The best advice Ives received when she was expecting was to make it a priority to shower and get fresh air every day. The basics ya'll. For that first month, her exercise was walks with the family with a transition to diaphragmatic breathing around week 3 pp. Working out does not need to be an hour at the gym or a long run. You can work around your and baby's schedule to fit in 10-15 minute increments of movement and eventually strength. We always recommend getting cleared by your doctor prior to exercising postpartum and then we recommend listening to your body. Success will look different than it did prior to pregnancy. Reminder, it takes 9-10 months to grow and birth a human, so allow at least that much time to rebuild strength and don't be surprised if it takes longer. Slow change is sustainable change. You will see progress, you just have to be patient. If you still are not seeing progress after dedicating a few months to a workout routine, then try to switch it up. There are so many programs, studios, and ways to move we guarantee that you will find a way to sweat that makes you feel good.
Let us know if you have other questions as it relates to postpartum healing and recovery. We would love to help answer them and make sure that you have all the information you need on your postpartum journey.