Movement, Postnatal Movement

Finding Your Abdominal Connection After Birth

What happens to my abdominals during pregnancy and childbirth?

As your belly grows during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch and change. 

Your deepest layer of abdominals (TVA or Transverse Abdominis), acts like a corset which wraps around from your spine and joins via a tendon in the front called the linea alba. 

This layer has a close relationship to your breathing and pelvic floor muscles – two key elements of abdominal connection and core strength. During pregnancy, this layer stretches and thins which can impact this relationship. This is what we refer to as diatasis recti or ab separation. 

Therefore, rebuilding your TVA and finding the connection between your abdominals, breath and pelvic floor is an important process in your postpartum recovery. 

Finding your abdominal connection post-birth is crucial to rebuilding your core strength.

How do I reconnect my abdominals?

First and foremost, use the first few weeks post-birth (before you have clearance from your doctor to resume exercise) to spend time on the floor with your bub and focus on your breathing. Here are some ways to do this: 

  • Lay on your back on the floor / mat / towel with your feet up on a couch. Inhale, letting your belly expand naturally. As you exhale, focus on contracting your abdominals (TVA) like a corset being drawn together at the front.  Make sure your spine and pelvis is aligned, and maintain small gaps under your neck and lower back, this is your neutral spine position.
  • Enjoy ‘Tummy Time’ – not only is ‘Tummy Time’ great for your baby – it provides you with great feedback during your breathing. Lay on your stomach with your hands under your head, inhale into your belly, you will feel the pressure into the ground and movement through your ribs as they expand, as you exhale continue that connection of contracting TVA. 
  • The next progression is to move up into the crawl position of 4pt kneeling – hands and knees hip distance apart with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Maintain this same breathing focus, expanding and contracting your abdominals as you inhale and exhale.

Everyone will have a different pre and postnatal journey – some experience no separation and others significant. No matter how your body responds to pregnancy, everyone can benefit from reconnecting your abdominals post birth. 

Once you receive clearance from your doctor to return to exercise, you want to focus on connecting and strengthening your deep abdominal layers – TVA, internal obliques and other core muscles. These muscles lengthen and contract (shorten) as you breathe. Begin by focusing on this contraction and connection to support your movement. 

The pelvic curl is a great exercise to start, with a focus on alignment, mobility and breath – it gives you the opportunity to incorporate this connection into your movement.  Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent and hip distance apart. Your arms are long by your side and your neck is in neutral, chin slightly tucked. Inhale to prepare and on the exhale, feel the contraction and connection to these deep abdominal layers. Maintain this connection as you begin the movement. Through consistent practice, you will start to reconnect your abdominals and build strength and tone in your core. 

Fluidform’s specialised Pre & Postnatal programs are designed to guide you through each stage of your pregnancy through to your postnatal recovery. These workouts aim to reconnect your abdominals and realign your body, to help rebuild your strength, tone and confidence post-birth.

Your core is your central powerhouse, which impacts your balance, stability and the way you move your body. A strong core will help to improve your posture, overall muscular performance and prevent long-term injuries across your entire body.

Postnatal Movement

Movement For Postnatal Mothers

By Georgia Hartmann 

We know the thought of exercising whilst you’re breastfeeding comes with some nerves, uncertainties and fear. Whether you are an active person or not, you may feel pressured around if and how you should be moving your body. The most important thing is for you to understand the effects of exercising while breastfeeding, and finding movement that feels right for you. 

We are here to help! 

Did you know?

Exercise reduces postpartum fatigue and depression.

Not only is exercise beneficial whilst breastfeeding, but plays a large role in balancing postpartum weight, improving energy, and reducing feelings of depression.[4] Specific research shows that partaking in 30-minute Pilates classes, five times per week, for eight consecutive weeks can reduce postpartum fatigue and improve sleep quality. [5-6] We also know that resistance-style training increases strength and improves our physical health.[7]

The intensity and duration of exercise matters.

Provided you are maintaining adequate nutrition, moderate to vigorous exercise most days does not negatively affect breast milk composition or volume.[4] Rather, exercise improves the mother’s overall health and sense of wellbeing. The concern occurs when one undergoes intense exercise and does not meet their caloric intake (as seen in extensive fasting) that we see changes in milk proteins, immunoglobulins, lactose, and micronutrients (including zinc, magnesium, and potassium).[8] 

Postpartum is a time of nourishment. Focus on nourishing your body with nutrients and moving it in a way that feels energizing over exhausting

Exercise benefits the preconception period and during pregnancy.

Preconception exercise helps to manage insulin resistance and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), supports healthy weight which affects ovulation and optimizes fertility. Regular exercise during pregnancy prevents and helps to manage preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, has positive effects on labour and birth (including reduced interventions) and is associated with improved neonatal outcomes (including a 31% reduced risk of having a large baby). And of course, exercising postpartum positively influences breastfeeding, energy, mental health and quality of life.[4]

References:

[1] Nguyen, P.T.H., et al. Physical Activity During Pregnancy is Associated with Improved Breastfeeding Outcomes: A Prospective Cohort Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2019. 16(10). PMID: 31100948.

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013. Australian Health Survey: Health Service Usage and Health Related Actions, 2011-12. Retrieved from www.abs.gov.au/ausstats.

[3] World Health Organization. Breastfeeding. 2021. Retrieved from www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding.

[4] Harrison, C.L., et al. The Role of Physical Activity in Preconception, Pregnancy and Postpartum Health. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 2016. 34(2). PMID: 27169984.

[5] Ashrafinia, F., et al. Effect of Pilates exercises on postpartum maternal fatigue. Singapore Medical Journal, 2015. 56(3). PMID: 25820848.

[6] Ashrafinia, F., et al. The effects of Pilates exercise on sleep quality in postpartum women. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 2014. 18(2). PMID: 24725785.

[7] LeCheminant, J.D., et al. Effect of resistance training on body composition, self-efficacy, depression, and activity in postpartum women. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 2014. 24(2). PMID: 22738284.

[8] Lee, S., et al. Biological underpinnings of breastfeeding challenges: the role of genetics, diet, and environment on lactation physiology.American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2016. 311(2). PMID: 27354238.

About the author:

Georgia Hartmann 

Naturopath, Nutritionist & Women’s Health Expert
Having been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure two years prior to conceiving her first child naturally, Georgia’s passion lies within helping women overcome their hormonal imbalances through the blend of conventional and complementary medicine. For additional support, you can contact Georgia via:

IG: georgiahartmann_naturopath

W: www.georgiahartmann.comE: hello@georgiahartmann.com