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Post-Partum Recovery and Realignment

The following article was submitted by Andrea Vincent (founder of seeMOMMYrun.com):

We all think about and read about pre-natal fitness and worry about losing the “baby weight,” but few people consider the importance of post-partum realignment.  The thought of realigning my body never crossed my mind after the birth of my first child.  That is why I would like to share my findings about this crucial part of healing ourselves with moms everywhere.

You felt the aches and pains throughout your body during pregnancy.  But did you know that during pregnancy your posture is misaligned causing neurological problems, erosion of joint surfaces, disc compression, nerve or blood vessel entrapment, shortened lower back and hip flexors, weakened muscles, outward protruding head and curved spine?  Think about it – for nine months your body was contorting itself to house a growing baby.  These symptoms will not magically disappear after you give birth.  You must take action to realign your spine and prevent structural problems later in life.

If you don't take 15 minutes per day to realign your bony structure and muscles after pregnancy you could have major issues later in life.  The simple stretches and exercises in this article are extremely important and extremely simple.

Week 1 post-partum (you can do these while holding baby if you like) –
1. Kegels
2. Constructive rest - lie on back, knees bent, feet on floor, rest hands on abs while deep breathing, visualize spine stretching.  Try to do this for 20 minutes several times each week.
3. Hiss/compress - lie on back, pull abs toward floor to compress them while hissing, relax while breathing in, repeat as many times as you like.
4. Walking a few minutes each day.

WEEK 2 Continue all moves from Week 1, plus:
5. Head lifts as if doing sit-ups while lying on floor.  tests your muscle strength and prepares for ab work.
6. Pelvic tilts for glutes/abs - lie on floor, bend knees, feet flat on floor, lift hips up toward celing.
7. Stretch glutes - while on back, pull one knee at a time into chest, other leg stretched out long on floor.
8. Back stretches - sit indian style and pull around to each side while keeping hips on floor.
9. Chest stretches if you breast feed.  sit indian style and clasp hands in front of you, pull out, then behind you.

WEEKS 3-6 Continue all moves from Week 1 and Week 2, plus:
10. Curl ups with hands across abs - mini sit ups with hands protecting your abs.  slowly!
11. Donkey kicks - on hands and knees, slowly kick 1 leg behind you - 1 leg at a time.
12. Superman - lay on stomach, stretch one arm and opposite leg straight into air, then switch to other arm/leg.

Additional Exercises for Weeks 3-6:

  • Push ups on knees,
  • Child pose stretch,
  • Standing squats (legs together only),
  • Standing leg stretches

AFTER 3-6 WEEKS YOU CAN...

  • Start jogging or doing stair stepper (unless you had a c-section)
  • Strength training after 6 weeks (concentrate on upper back, glutes/hams
  • After 6 weeks add ballet 2nd position squats (feet wide apart)
  • Practice centering (like standing deep into floor while yoga breathing, balancing on one foot, etc.)

Comments

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What if it's 18 months post partum and you haven't done any of this stuff? Where do you start? Do you have to do anything in addition to what is described above in order to undo the damage of those 18 months?

I have noticed that my posture is just HORRIBLE; very hunched for a 29 year old who is in great shape otherwise.

What is a good resource for additional information?

Ha! I'm with you, Sara, only I'm asking, what if it's been THREE years and you've actually had TWO kids at this point? (I'm 5 1/2 mos post-partum now) ;)

I wish there was something like Curves for the post-partum woman. I've had to admit I just don't like yoga--I'm too competitive and really need something super-aerobic to relax me. I want to lift weights and go fast on the stationary bike, but I don't have 2 hours three times a week to go to a spinning class and then lift afterwards, like I used to do. I want circuit training that takes 45 minutes but with childcare and is focused on mama body issues.

All you personal trainers out there--here's your business idea!

I'll admit that I've never done a pre or post-natal yoga class, but my impression is that it's a lot of kegals and deep breathing....having said that...Kat, you really should come with me to a Power Vinyasa class at Yoga Pearl sometime! I used to love a long sweaty run followed by weights too, but yeah, who has time for a 2 hour workout at this stage of our lives? I promise you'll be amazed at how sweaty and exhausted, yet balanced and clear you will feel afterwards. Yoga truly is my one-stop shop for mind, body and spiritual fitness.

Immediately post-partum is best, but that's not to say you've destroyed your spine!!After 18 months or more post-partum it still isn't too late to work on your spine alignment. Yes, yoga is a great way to go for every body at every age...but a lot of the simple exercises and stretches described in the article are very effective at all times. Your goal should be to incorporate 1 or 2 of them when you get up or just before bed (times when the kids aren't crawling all over you). They don't take long - but you have to commit to doing them!! That's the tough part for busy moms!!
Let me also say...I am an avid runner and no matter how many times I think to myself, "I really need to start stretching properly," I never seem to do it. Bad habits are so hard to break!!
Just try them and see if your back feels a little better - maybe the ease of some back tension will be all you need to succeed!

Kat raises a great idea - anyone know any personal trainers who have worked extensively w/ post-natal moms???

Perfect timing! I have a 10 day old and was just released from bedrest yesterday (a difficult delivery but no emergency c-section!) so I can start today. I was hoping to find some postpartum exercises and here they are, thanks!!

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