Following the arrival of a baby a female must be careful how she recommences exercising. It is recommended that prior to the 6-week check-up only very light exercise is done, such as light walking and incidental movement around the house. Once you have seen your GP or obstetrician for your 6-week appointment and they have confirmed that you can commence exercise it is still important to very gradually increase exercise intensity, duration and type.
Almost every form of exercise that you do affects your pelvic floor. This includes sitting, standing, changing your baby etc. Some forms of physical exercise can actually harm the muscles, leading to bladder and bowel control problems. Bladder and bowel weakness is a common problem, affecting nearly 4 million Australians. Interestingly one in three Mothers will report some degree of urinary incontinence! So let’s not make it worse by doing the wrong exercises!!!
Some forms of exercise place more stress on the pelvic floor than others, especially for people at risk of pelvic floor problems (pregnant ladies and ladies who have given birth fall into the category of ‘people at risk’!). Throughout any exercise it is important to monitor your pelvic floor and make sure it isn’t dropping/dragging or pushing downwards. Following the 6-week check-up it is recommended that each Mum very gradually increase the frequency, intensity and duration of exercise as her pelvic floor recovers and strengthens with regular pelvic floor specific exercises.
- Abdominal exercises
- Deep lunges
- Side lunges
- Wide legged squats
- Deep Squats
- Jump squats
- Lifting heavy weights
- Chin ups
- Full push ups
- Netball/ Basketball/ Vollyball
- Star Jump
- High impact exercise
Until the pelvic floor has recovered from child birth and regained its integrity it is suggested that running and boxing be limited. These activities require the pelvic floor to be engaged to support the body. Many Mums are keen to return to their pre-pregnancy fitness regimes such as running following the birth of their child. It is suggested that a gradual introduction of these types of activities take several months. Initially it is suggested that Mums start by walking at a comfortable stroll for 20-30 minutes. As your fitness and pelvic floor strength improves the duration and intensity of the walking can be slowly increased to longer power walks. Initially you can introduce short distances of powerwalking within your regular walks and build this distance. Exercising in the morning will ensure that your pelvic floor is well rested and has more stamina to cope with your light exercise.
Once you are comfortably powerwalking and feeling strong with your pelvic floor you can start to think about moving towards commencing some higher intensity exercises. Initially one exercise you can start to trial is engaging your pelvic floor and lightly jogging on the spot. Start with 5-10 seconds and building up over the weeks until you can run for 60 seconds on the spot with your pelvic floor engaged (not feeling any concerns in your pelvic floor).
Once you have successfully completed 60 seconds of running on spot (on a number of occasionsions), you will be able to think about introducing some walks with small amounts of running. One way of introducing running back into your fitness regimen is to go for a walk and trial running 10-15metre of running. When you trial this it is imperative that you have your pelvic floor engaged and are able to breath regularly throughout the short distance of running. You can repeat this short distance after 5-10minutes of steady walking, 2-3 times. (If you feel any dragging or pulling in your vagina it is very important that you stop running immediately).
Once you feel confident with this type of walk/run exercise you can start to extend the periods of running out to longer distances. Or you can simply go for a very short run down the street ~ 50-100m. Once you have conquered this distance you can then extend the distance to around a small block (200m) and you can keep extending the distance. Whilst you run it is important to always be very aware of how your pelvic floor is feeling. You may find that around particular times of the month (particularly during the first 1-2 days of your period) that your pelvic floor may feel weaker. It is also important to empty your bladder (and bowel when required) prior to exercise to decrease the load on your pelvic floor.
With any type of physical exercise it is important that you listen to your body. Only you can tell how your pelvic floor feels. Your trainer will guide your exercise choices, however if you ever feel uncomfortable (any dragging or pain) you must tell you trainer immediately and reduce the load on your pelvic floor.