31 October 2014

Postnatal fitness


By Laura Tilson BA (Hons) M.Ost DPO
Registered and Paediatric Osteopath at The Putney Clinic of Physical Therapy


I have never felt as weak and physically vulnerable as I did after having my baby 5 months ago. It was immediately obvious the minute I tried to stand up after the labour and it was something I feel I was totally unprepared for. It is only in hindsight that I can see how frightened I might have been had I had a minute to think about myself and my body – rather than my baby and where his next feed was coming from. I couldn't sit up or turn in bed without using my arms, I waddled rather than walked for at least a week. My first few trips to the supermarket were a push. My back ached over the site of my epidural. I was shocked at how my muscles, despite exercising throughout my pregnancy, had weakened.

I know from my osteopathy training that during pregnancy ligaments stretch, muscles atrophy, fat is deposited and breasts grow. I also know that the occasional afternoon nap and eating cake feature more and more frequently during maternity leave.  All great for your growing baby and the birth, but a bit of a shock when you come out the other side.

Fast forward a few weeks (after my 6-week check) and I started a postnatal pilates and yoga class. A simple leg lift was impossible. Even getting up and down off the floor was difficult and, as a result, a little bit embarrassing. In yoga we focused on isolating the different muscles which make up the pelvic floor and I felt like I re-introduced my brain to my abdominal muscles. It felt like I had a long journey ahead of me but the results were quicker than I had expected. Even by week two I could lift my leg off the floor.

It is so important to start from the beginning and retrain the muscles that have stretched and worked so hard for you during your pregnancy. The "core" is a complicated network of muscles which support your spine. It is profoundly affected during pregnancy, as well as through both vaginal and caesarian births, and should be the first thing you rehabilitate. By doing so, you re-establish stability in the body and so avoid injury when you go back to normal exercise regimes.

Fast forward once more 5 months and I have put my name down for a triathlon sprint (read "marathon"). A 750 metre swim, 21km bike ride topped off with a 5km run. I finally feel that I am out of the rehabilitation phase and back to getting a base line fitness and attempting everything in the exercise classes I go to.

Appointments


For appointments with Laura at The Putney Clinic of Physical Therapy, call 020 8789 3881 or send an email to info@putneyclinic.co.uk.

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