This is a summary of a talk I gave to expecting Mums at a The Mum Club event in Leamington Spa earlier this year. The aim of the talk was to provide education about the physiological changes that pregnancy and being post-natal brings. Plus, talking about how they can train for the season that they are in. Particularly as exercise in pregnancy is often under-dosed with the suggestion being to relax and “put your feet up”. Despite evidence that training in pregnancy is awesome for mum and baby. And finally, because life as a new mum also means managing sleep, eating well and that transition to motherhood.
Let's start with the core and pelvic floor
I love this image as a way of visualising how the core works and it’s component parts. The core is more than just the abs and a 6 pack! Image from Burrell Education
The main functions of the core and pelvic floor are:
To keep us dry and continent
Support the pelvic organs – bladder, bowel and uterus
For good sexual function
Relax and stretch for delivery
Relax and allow for urination and defecation
But the core is just one system within the body. And the core is connected to other systems and works closely with other muscles.Which means we also need to consider the whole body and not just the pelvic floor.
Changes to the core and pelvic floor during pregnancy
During pregnancy, there can be changes to posture because of the front loading of the ab wall, and a shift in the centre of gravity.
A growing baby can also change breathing patterns, making it harder to breathe deeply.
There can be a change to muscular recruitment patterns e.g. using more lower back or glutes
The abdominal wall is on a stretch and the abdominal wall and pelvic floor are more loaded. So, maintaining core and floor function in pregnancy can be a really useful tool for improving recovery and strength. It’s about balancing exercising in a way that feels good whilst being mindful of changes.
From a postnatal perspective
Considerations for the post-natal period
SLOW IS FAST! This doesn’t mean you have to spend the first year only doing light exercise. Instead, be mindful that 6 weeks is often not long enough for mums to fully recover post birth. Even if your GP has green lighted exercise at your post natal GP check up.
Here is a brief summary of the roadmap I use to help post-natal clients return to the exercise they love after having a baby.
A framework for post natal recovery and returning to exercise
RECOVER: This is the early post-natal period when you are trying to navigate a body that might not look and feel like it did pre-pregnancy (even though you’re not pregnant anymore) alongside becoming a mum. Whether that’s for the first time, or you’re extending your family and trying to work out how to juggle a new addition.
During this period, and to support your recovery, you can include the following:
Looking at how you are breathing and re-establishing breathing patterns.
Core and floor work – light loads
Deep nutrition for recovery
Healing and managing the transition into motherhood
You may also be experiencing some pelvic floor symptoms and may notice you have a diastasis (thinning of the linea alba – often called “ab seperation”)
You may not have lots of time for structured exercise and that’s ok! Little and often is the prescription here!
REBUILD: Building a routine around exercise, as well as building more strength. This may include more functional movement patterns, as well as some lifting (because mum life is one long strength workout). Workouts may include strength exercises, as well as building back to impact activities, such as running or jumping
PERFORM: This is not just athletic performance BUT the ability to perform the activities of daily life without pain or symptoms.
The time that this takes will be different for everyone!
Looking for help with post-natal recovery and exercise
From Bump to Barbell is my bespoke approach to post-natal recovery and exercise. It combines pelvic floor and core rehab with functional strength training and easy nutrition for mum life.
From Bump to Barbell is perfect if:
- You’d love to exercise post-pregnancy but you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with all the post-natal messaging about weight loss, bouncing back, and ‘toning up’
- You have a mild diastasis, prolapse, or some pelvic floor symptoms and still want to move without worrying you are making things worse
- Your ultimate aim is to be back in the gym, strength training, CrossFit, or just stronger for mum life
- You’re no longer newly postnatal but would love to build core, pelvic floor, and full body strength (yes, you can do this anytime)
Book a call if you’d like to chat about post-natal recovery and exercise
Beth Davies is a highly experienced personal trainer and coach specialising in female pelvic health, pelvic organ prolapse and exercise. Her programmes educate, empower and support women back to training or their active life, eliminating symptoms and building strength and confidence. She has been featured in publications such as Stylist, Marie Claire UK, Woman & Home, and Metro