- Prenatal/Postnatal Fitness -

What I Wish I Had Known About Exercise and Healing As a New Mom

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casie-finley-parenting-baby

Digital content specialist Casie Leigh Lukes shares some dos and don’ts about movement for new mothers.

As a new mom, I was itching to get back to the high-intensity workouts I did before I was pregnant, and feel more comfortable in my body again — to feel more like myself. Even though my midwife cleared me at my six-week appointment to do any exercise I wanted, I didn’t know the importance of approaching this new phase with strategy and care.

I didn’t know what questions to ask. I had researched how to eat in postpartum, and was filling my body with nutritious, healing, gentle foods, but the thought of asking what exercises were safe after birth never occurred to me. After all, I had never heard a single woman in my life talk about easing into a fitness routine after having a baby. Sure — I heard plenty of guarded jokes that “I pee my pants now when I do that,” but nothing indicating I needed to be more strategic about movement.

I wish I would have known about not adding extra pressure to a weak core and pelvic floor, or pushing my body to extreme pain to get results. My body was still healing after growing and birthing a human — and it’s important to honor that. I also was getting virtually no sleep with a newborn, was deeply depressed for eight months, had developed a thyroid issue, had diastasis recti, and had relaxin still flowing through my system. These things affected my energy levels, ability to repair, morale, and hormone levels — all which play vital roles in movement.

Below are five movements I wish I would have known to avoid in early postpartum.

  1. Jumping Jacks
  2. Running
  3. Sprinting up and down stairs
  4. Sit-ups
  5. Planks

These movements can put more pressure on an already exhausted body and muscular system, and in the early stages can cause more damage than help. It’s not to say I can’t get back to these movements when I know how to engage my core and pelvic floor well, and my body has had time to heal, but to start with them caused a lot of pain and a longer journey to recovery.

Below are 12 things I wish I would have done after having my first baby.

  1. Get tested for Diastasis Recti
  2. See a pelvic-floor specialist to get professional help to rehab my pelvic floor
  3. Get a full thyroid panel done to catch any thyroid issues that may have developed
  4. Reexamine my alignment
  5. Do heel slides and progress to heel drops
  6. Learn to breathe diaphragmatically
  7. Learn to engage my pelvic floor and deep core correctly
  8. Learn to do a kegel correctly (gently lifting up and closing from the anus to perineum to vagina — without squeezing the glutes — and taking time to fully relax)
  9. Perform squats with correct alignment, breathing, and focus on pelvic floor and core engagement
  10. Take a break from wearing heels — this alters alignment and tilts the pelvis forward, putting more pressure on your core and pelvic floor
  11. Hired people to help take night shifts early on so I could get some rest
  12. Didn’t underestimate walking — it’s a gentle, and powerful movement

I’m grateful for the awareness that is growing in fitness and nutrition fields on how to properly support, nourish, and heal the body after pregnancy. And for groups like MuTu System and The Bloom Method that are pioneering safe, functional, and strategic movement for women.

is Experience Life’s digital content specialist and the mother of a 1-year-old girl.

Photography by Neil Mauler

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