Many women have become more concerned with working to lose their belly immediately after delivery to get back to that "flat tummy" look. But the reality is that this can take some time and that is OK! In fact, it is more important to work on those abdominal, core and pelvic floor muscles soon after pregnancy because weakness in these areas can lead to other issues - from lower back pain to difficulty holding your urine. Performing the correct exercises can help you get rid of that post-baby belly but here are a few other reasons to work on that belly strength:
- Provide Back/Trunk Stability especially with lifting (those babies get heavy!)
- Help maintain abdominal pressure with sneezing, coughing, and breathing
- Maintain correct sitting and standing posture
Here are a few exercises to get you started on your postpartum exercise journey:
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing - This is great for gentle abdominal massage, gentle pelvic floor movement and overall relaxation.
Lay on your back. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in through the nose allowing the chest and belly to expand for a count of 5, then exhale through your mouth allowing the chest and belly to deflate. Perform several repetitions throughout the day.
2. Gentle Pelvic Floor Contraction/Relaxation - assists with initial core muscle activation.
Lay on your back. Squeeze and hold your pelvic floor muscles by using the same muscles that you use to hold in gas. Avoid using your inner thigh or buttock muscles. Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds. Your goal is to complete 5 sets of 10 holds everyday. As your ability to perform improves. Attempt to perform these exercises in sitting or standing positions.
3. Gentle Transversus Abdominis Bracing- assists with initial core muscle activation.
Lay on your back, knee bent, feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your lower abdomen just above your pelvic bones. but do not press down. Gently draw your belly button towards your spine while breathing naturally. You will feel a very light tightening under your hands. You may also feel a contraction of your pelvic floor muscles. Attempt to hold for 10 seconds and relax. Perform 5 sets of 10 holds everyday.
Once you have mastered these exercises, you’ll be ready to increase the difficulty level of your exercise to further challenge your core muscles.
Prior to performing any exercise after pregnancy and delivery, it is important to consult with your OBGYN to ensure that your body is ready to perform. When you do start, remember that it can take 4-6 weeks or more to truly see improvement in these muscles. So don’t get discouraged! Make sure you keep up your routine. Also remember to make sure that you are performing the exercises correctly. Focus on the quality of the movement. If you’re not sure if you’re performing it correctly, consult with your physical therapist who can guide you into getting the right muscles to kick in.