Abdominal recovery after birth
During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles undergo a whole lotta stretching! Regardless of how fit you are or how much exercise you did, you will still need to actively do something to help your abdominal muscles recover properly.
What is abdominal separation and can I prevent it?
It is good to remember that 100% of pregnant women will have an abdominal separation by the end of their pregnancy… this is normal!
It is inevitable as your tummy grows bigger and your abdominal midline stretches further apart.
You can try and keep this to a minimum by…
- Limiting excessive weight gain
- Avoiding constipation
- Avoiding high load abdominal activities such as sit ups and planks
- Wearing an abdominal support garment during pregnancy.
What is NOT normal is to have…
So now you’re probably wondering…. how did I work my way back to a 6 pack?!
Haha…. just kidding… I never had one in the first place!
First steps of core recovery
Firstly I started with “Do no harm”
- I wore a tubigrip bandage for the first 6 weeks after birth (SRC and Solidea shorts are also great)
- I lifted no heavier than my baby for at least the first 4 weeks
- I avoided constipation by eating fibrous fruit and veggies, keeping active every day and I “moo-ed” until the cows came home… whoops… I mean until I’d emptied my bowels!
- I rolled to the side to get out of bed for the first 4 weeks
- I did no “ab” exercises for the first 6 weeks
- I only started “normal fitness-workout” ab work at the 3 month mark and even now I’m still modifying it
But it’s not just about what to avoid or limit…. we have to add the beneficial and positive things too!
Beginner core exercises
I started doing beginner core based exercises around the 6 week mark.
I listened to my body and gradually progressed these as I felt comfortable.
Not everyone can progress at the same rate… there is no perfect timeline so my advice is to listen to your body and when you’re feeling ready try the next progression.
Here are some examples of my exercise progressions. You can start trying the easy versions at 4-6 weeks after vaginal birth or at least 6-8 weeks after C section. Always be guided by your body… if you’re not ready then wait!
There is no rush in post-partum recovery
Mini crunch progression
Leg extension progression
Dead bug progression
Plank variations and progressions
When can I do the hardcore stuff?
Women always ask me when can they progress to the next level… I can’t tell you exactly when.
The easiest way to judge that you are ready to move on to a harder exercise is…
- The beginner version is feeling quite easy
- You can easily do 15-20 reps of the exercise
- You have no pains, aches or discomfort
- You have no incontinence
- You have no pelvic floor pressure or heaviness
- You have no bulging through your abdominal midline
- This guide will not guarantee you a 6 pack!
- Keep in mind that no matter how much exercise you do, or how much weight you might lose… your tummy may never look the same again. Most tummies that I see in the clinic DO NOT look like the supermodels bouncing back that you see in the magazines. Our bodies are crazy clever and you’ve just grown an.actual.human.child…. be proud of what you have done and try not to be too hard on yourself
- Keep your focus on repairing your abdominal separation and improving the function of your core
- If you are trying these exercises and noticing pain or bulging through your midline… book an appointment with your local women’s health physio and get yourself checked properly! Even if you’re not experiencing these things… it’s always worth your while to get a post-partum check anyway!
Cheers to shrinking bumps and stronger waists!
xo Physio Laura