Many women are concerned about how their core muscles will return after they deliver their baby. There are things that you can be doing early on in the postpartum recovery time help the abdominal muscles get back to working the way they were designed. The beauty of these exercises is that they are very simple to do.
The core muscle involve the diaphragm on the top, the abdominals on the front and the pelvic floor at the bottom. We are going to be looking at how we can easily activate these muscles to work together to create some nice support for that postpartum belly as it’s healing.
None of the exercises that I am talking about should be painful. If you are experiencing any pain when doing, please stop and consult your healthcare provider. Because these exercises are gentle, you can start them in your first week postpartum. Just make sure to perform the exercises in a comfortable range that’s not causing pain.
Exercise 1: Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is a wonderful way to get all of your deep core muscles coordinating together again. Sit or lay in a relaxed position of comfort. Start by taking nice big slow breath in and out. When you inhale, big and slow, you’re letting your abdominals expand and your belly fill up with air. A visual that works well for many people is to imagine your rib cage opening up like an umbrella as you inhale. Then as you exhale the umbrella closes. Try to slowly inhale for 5 seconds then exhale for 5 seconds and do 10 repetitions.
The beauty of deep breathing is that we get movement of the diaphragm, abdominals and the pelvic floor all together. So as we inhale, the diaphragm comes down, the abdominals expand out and the pelvic floor comes down a little bit to accept the load from that increased air pressure. Then, as we exhale, the pelvic floor rebounds back up, the abdominals come back in, the diaphragm goes back up.
Exercise 2: Transverse Abdominal Activation
The transverse abdominals are the deepest layer of abdominal muscles. Think of them forming a corset around your midsection. These muscles get very stretched out with pregnancy and can use some assistance to work correctly after delivery.
Again, sit or lay in a comfortable position. Gently inhale and then as you exhale, try to gently draw your belly away from your pants. You shouldn’t be holding your breath to do this. You are also not trying to squeeze your belly in as tight as you possibly can. Try to hold the contraction for 5 seconds and then relax for a few seconds. Do 10 repetitions at a time several times a day.
Exercise 3: Pelvic Floor Muscle Activation
The third exercise is for the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are intimately located around the urethra, vagina, and anus. There are a couple of different ways that you can think of doing a pelvic floor muscle contraction. Try to pucker the anus like holding back gas or you can think about trying to pull the vagina up and in. You can do this in any position, but you may find it easier to feel the contraction in laying down or sitting at first. Just like with the transverse abdominal muscles try to hold the contraction for 5 seconds and do 10 repetitions.
Especially if you delivered vaginally, you may have a hard time feeling the pelvic floor muscles contract. After all, they are recovering from a big stretch with the delivery. Early activation is very helpful though. Gentle contract and relax of the pelvic floor muscles will help improve blood floor to the area and help the swelling go down. Both of which will help the healing process.
So, there you have it, three exercises that you can do in the early postpartum days to help reactivate your core muscles. Reactivation of the core muscles is important for you to be able care for your baby and return to healthy active lifestyle. If you have difficulty performing any of these exercises, it may benefit you to partner with a women’s health physical therapist.
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