Postpartum Recovery Exercises
After pregnancy you are at increased risk for the development of such conditions as urinary incontinence, abdominal muscle weakness, and lower back pain. Want to reduce that risk? Read on...
Pelvic Floor Muscles
Your pelvic floor muscles play an important role during pregnancy and throughout your life in maintaining proper alignment of the spine and support of the pelvic organs. Normally, your pelvic floor should be supportive and span in an upright curve from the pubic bone to tailbone. Weakness in this area results in sagging and loss of support.
Pelvic Floor Strengthening
Lack of bladder control is common in new mothers for up to eight weeks postpartum. For some women, the pregnancy and the birthing process causes trauma to the pelvic floor, resulting in short term urinary incontinence. If you haven’t already been performing pelvic floor exercises—also called Kegels—during your pregnancy, now is a great time to start.
Locating Pelvic Floor Muscles
A way of locating the pelvic floor muscles is to feel the muscles that contract when you stop the flow of urine. The muscles responsible for stopping the flow are the pelvic floor muscles. Use the urine stop and start test only initially when learning how to locate and isolate the muscle group.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are easy: 1) Contract the pelvic floor muscles quickly and hold for five to 10 seconds—squeeze as tightly as possible as you hold. 2) Contract your muscles progressively tighter to a count of five and relax to a count of five. Build up to 50 to 75 repetitions of each exercise every day. No one will be able to tell that you are doing these exercises, so you can do them anywhere. It is helpful to establish certain times of the day (before you get out of bed each morning) or activities (driving to work, brushing your teeth) that are your “cue” to do your pelvic floor exercises.
During pregnancy, most women look forward to the day when they can get back into their favorite jeans. It’s important to remember that just as it took 40 weeks to get the end of your pregnancy, it will take nearly that long to return to pre-pregnancy shape. For some women, a Cesarean delivery may slow the return of their abdominal tone, and for others the skin may remain slack as a result of stretching.
Skip the Sit-Ups
Traditional sit-ups place too much stress on the low back and don’t effectively target the muscles that need strengthening. The safest and most effective postpartum tummy tighteners are called the “Sahrmann Abdominal Exercises.” These five sequential exercises gradually strengthen your tummy without putting stress on your low back. Strong abdominal muscles play an important role in support of the spine, and if the muscles remain weak, there is a higher risk of back pain.
Sahrmann Abdominal Exercises
Lie on your back with your arms at your side, knees bent and feet resting on the floor. Inhale and exhale a few times. Don’t flatten your back or tilt your pelvis, just let the natural curve in your back remain. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Now breathe out and tighten your tummy muscles, pulling your navel towards your spine. Remember to concentrate on contracting the muscles below your belly button and don’t flatten your back. When you are able to contract and relax your abdominal muscles without moving your back you have earned to properly isolate the correct muscles. You can then try the next step…
Sahrmann Abdominal Exercises: Step 1
1) Lie on the floor with knees bent and arms at your side. 2) Hold your tummy in by doing your basic breath contraction. Keep breathing as you hold the muscles in and keeping one leg bent, slowly slide the other leg out until it is straight with the floor, and then slide back up to bent knee position. Relax your tummy. 3) Repeat the process for the other leg. Remember, don’t flatten your back and keep the curve relaxed. When you can comfortably do 20 leg slides on each side you can move to the next step…
Sahrmann Abdominal Exercises: Step 2
1) Lie on floor with knees bent and arms at your sides. Pull in on your tummy and hold, then raise one knee towards your chest and slowly straighten it out parallel to (about 2 to 3 inches above the floor) but not touching the floor. Return extended leg to starting position, knees bent, feet resting on floor, and relax your tummy. 2) Repeat on opposite side, keeping one knee always bent as you extend the other leg. When you can do this exercise 20 times on each side, without your back arching up off the floor, you can move on to step 3…
Sahrmann Abdominal Exercises: Step 3
1) Lying in the same position as step 2, breathe in using your basic breath and raise both legs up to a bent knee, 90-degree angle. While holding your tummy in, lower one leg down with the knee still bent to the floor, then raise it back to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite leg. Slowly work up to 20 repetitions each leg. With each repetition remember to keep breathing, contract your tummy as you move your leg, and don’t let you back pop up. If the arch in your back keeps popping up during the exercise it means you’re not strong enough to progress to this level, and need to go back to the previous exercise until you build greater strength.
Remember with all exercises to progress slowly and gently, and don’t continue to do any exercises that cause pain or discomfort. Be patient with your body; it will take time to return to normal. Rest, good nutrition, and
exercise are equally important during your postpartum recovery and they work together to help your meet the challenges motherhood provides!
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