After nine months of carrying a growing bump, most new mums admit to wanting to tone up their tummy. However, having good core control has more benefits than just a flat tummy. A strong core means improved posture and less discomfort in the lower back, better functionality for everyday tasks, not to mention better bladder control!
During pregnancy, your body slowly begins to change shape and with your growing baby comes a tilted pelvis and an increased curve in your lower back.
So now baby’s here what can you do to restore your core?
RECOVER & RESTORE
The first six weeks after childbirth are an intense time for new mums, recovering from what is often a ‘marathon’ labour and adjusting to life with their new baby. The priority of these first six weeks is bonding with your new baby and taking every available opportunity to get rest.
A return to formal exercise is only suggested after your GP check at 6 weeks (8-12 weeks if you have had a caesarean). In the meantime new mums should think about engaging the tummy muscles and the pelvic floor as often as possible & the good news is, it doesn’t take specialised equipment or a gym membership to do it!
CORE & MORE
Core exercises strengthen the muscles in the centre of the body, which include the abdominals, the back and pelvis, remember strong core muscles mean better posture and the ability to carry out activities with greater ease!
Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen the sling of muscles between the legs that help to control the bladder. The muscles run from the pubic bone to the coccyx like a hammock. If these muscles are strong you’ll notice them working when you cough or sneeze, preventing any embarrassing leakages!
New Mums should resume pelvic floor & core abdominal exercises as soon as possible after birth – believe it or not you can start 24 hours following delivery!
Try these simple exercises at home…
SQUEEZE & CONTROL THAT SNEEZE
Basic pelvic floor strengthening is the place to start. Follow the three simple steps below to locate your muscles:
Standing, sitting or lying on your back, breathe normally and tighten the urethra as if stopping the flow of urine when you go to the toilet
Tighten the back passage as if you are stopping yourself passing wind
Draw the muscles up between your legs as if gripping something in your vagina.
Build up to holding for 10 seconds, releasing slowly – don’t just let go!
The muscles can be trained several times a day. Find triggers in your daily routine to remind you to do them, e.g. feeding the baby.
Aim to include 3 sets of 10 squeezes a day.
Visualise your muscles like an elevator, tightening as the elevator doors close and lifting up as the lift rises up floor by floor.
Keep breathing throughout – don’t hold your breath
Do not tighten your buttock muscles.
You also need to do fast contractions to ensure optimal bladder support. Repeat the steps above but only hold for 1 second and release with control before repeating again. Build up to 10 quick controlled contractions and perform them after the 10 slow contractions.
Visualise bringing the exits of your legs together, imagine you are turning a switch on and off.
FLATTEN THAT TUMMY MUMMY
The deepest abdominal muscle (transverse abdominis) wraps around our torso like a corset, supporting our organs, stabilising the spine and supporting the lower back. It is often very weak and needs conscious thought to make it contract. The easiest way to do this is to ‘draw the naval to spine’ and flatten your tummy.
Stand or sit and breathe normally, as you exhale, draw your naval to your spine – imagine zipping up a pair of tight jeans that won’t quite do up! Hold the tummy in & count to 10.
Do not hold your breath
Contract gradually and hold
Practice as often as you can, finding triggers to remind you e.g. pushing your buggy.
NEUTRALISE & STABALISE
Find Neutral pelvis:
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip distance apart. Place your hands on your hips, fingers on your pubic bone. Slowly tip the pelvis & arch your back away from the floor, reverse and press your lower back into the floor. Relax into a position midway between these 2 points.
Lie on your back, knees bent, pelvis in neutral, ‘draw your naval to spine’ and hold the tummy in, breathing normally. Slowly slide one leg out along the floor until straight. Keeping tummy in and breathing normally (don’t hold breath) return leg to start position and repeat on other side. Build up to 10 repetitions on each leg, extend and return to count of 5.
Prepare as above and slowly lift one foot off the floor, knee over the hip, keeping tummy in and breathing normally (don’t hold breath) return leg to start position and repeat on other side. Build up to a 10 second march and repeat 10 times.
Keep Pelvis in neutral as your legs move – do not rock pelvis.
Keep tummy pulled in, breathing normally
Keep your ribcage on the floor.
MAKE EXERCISE FUN
Lay baby next to you and count or recite the alphabet – entertaining baby and keeping track of your repetitions!
WALK THIN & KEEP YOUR BOTTOM IN!
As you get into your stride as a new mum start taking short walks nothing more than 5-10 minutes to begin with, adding 5 minutes per week in the first 5 weeks. During this time, focus on good spinal alignment to help strengthen the important postural muscles.
Whilst out pushing your buggy, take a second to look at your reflection in a shop window…is your bottom lagging behind? If it is, stand tall, think about keeping your ears over your shoulders, hips over your knees and knees over your toes – stretch that body and be as tall as you can be!
After 6 weeks why not join a Buggyfit class and meet other new mums, get more help, inspiration & most of all have fun!