We all want to feel good about our bodies, including after giving birth. The pressure on new mums to look pre-pregnancy fit and toned is incredible. For some of us, pregnancy has been a frustrating time when we have had to wind down our running, strength training, mountain biking and other activities. We are looking forward to getting active again, for our bodies and for our headspace, brains and mental health. There are so many exercise programs, classes, books, online courses for mums trying to get their pre-pregnancy tone and fitness back by doing things like planks. But unfortunately not many health and fitness instructors deeply understand and respect the changes during pregnancy and the post-partum period.
“Can I do planks and crunches after giving birth once my doctor gives me the 6 week all-clear?”
Well yes, it might be possible but it’s probably not the best exercise for your body after 40 weeks of tremendous change. There will be time for planks, we promise, but first we need to address any internal issues like diastasis recti, pelvic instability, postural changes.
Most women are aware of avoiding tummy work like stomach crunches during pregnancy and after giving birth, but it seems that having your legs in the air or planking is not commonly addressed. The reason we avoid these positions during pregnancy and in the post-partum period is because the strain on your rectus abdominus (six pack muscles) of having your legs in the air can further separate a diastasis, and it also puts an incredible amount of downwards pressure on your pelvic floor. Yes we want to work your pelvic floor but it has just been through a tough time, and we want to avoid any further strain. It is important to keep loading of these areas within safe limits. Try doing a pelvic floor lift standing – how well do you do? If your pelvic floor can’t adequately lift yet solely under gravity, then loading it up further with exercises could be unsafe. You would not start skipping six weeks after you broke your leg, so why put your pelvic floor and stomach muscle under unnecessary tension?
Remember that when the pelvic floor is overloaded, the ligaments of pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, bowel) can take the strain and become stretched, leading to organ prolapse, which is much more common that you think.
Immediately after you have had your baby your stomach muscles and pelvic floor are not in the condition to plank. Chances are you tummy is pressing out instead of lifting in and up and other tissues (like ligaments) are working harder to compensate. So it kind of defeats the purpose of planking in the first place, in fact sadly some mums find they create further issues by jumping into certain forms of exercise before their body is ready.
“We can also design programs that will strengthen and challenge you whilst looking after pelvic floor.”
Your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles are keeping your pelvis together, whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean delivery your pelvis still got ready to give birth, the ligaments softened and in most cases the baby engaged. Your pelvis enlarges to get ready for delivery. All of these changes do not instantly resolve six weeks after giving birth, but the good news is that you can work on it, even if it has been months (or years!) since your baby arrived.
Being kind to your body and using correct techniques will allow you to rebuild your core muscles from the inside out. There are so many other exercises that are safe for your body and will achieve the same goals. Remember we only get one body, look after it.
What can I do?
The good news is that at 3 Degrees we specialise in working with women to help repair and tone their cores safely, both in our studio classes and in our Mums and Bubs and Mums without Bubs mat classes.
We can assess your diastasis recti, and help you to work to close it, or help to improve your pelvic stability so that you no longer have SIJ or pubic symphysis pain.
We can also design programs that will strengthen and challenge you whilst looking after pelvic floor.