The human body is pretty incredible, it blows my mind just thinking about what goes on inside us every second of the day. What blows my mind even more is that fact that some woman are able to grow a little human inside of them. Pregnancy changes women’s bodies, sometimes forever. You grow a baby (or babies) in there, and then your body has the task of then getting that baby out of your body, be that through your mimi or out the sunroof. After a long 9 months of pregnancy you may not recognize your postpartum body. I remember being in the hospital after my c section, hobbling into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I had ginormous underwear on, a pad the size of a nappy, a dark linea nigra down my belly and still looking very much pregnant, except my baby was out.
During pregnancy, I couldn’t wait to have my pre baby body back. Call me vein, call me whatever you want, but I missed intense evercise and how that made me feel and my body look. However, after having a c-section, I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as I imagined. Your body has a lot of work to do in the postpartum weeks, healing from tears, stitches, bruised tissue and/or a c-section incision. The uterus has stretched from the size of a walnut to a watermelon and will contract over the next few weeks to return to its normal state (hence the pregnant looking stomach post birth). No matter how much you exercised and ate ‘right’ during pregnancy, you will most likely experience some unexpected post baby changes. The most important thing to remember is that your body has just done one of the toughest jobs it will ever do and therefore listening to your body is so important with recovery.
A huge amount of pressure is put on the abdominal area during pregnancy and can cause the connective tissue between the left and right sides of your rectus abdominis to separate. This can result in diastasis recti or abdominal separation. It is important to get the all clear from your doctor (I would suggest a physio also) before working out as it can cause problems if you begin exercising without knowing you have this separation. If you’ve just had a C-section, you’ve experienced major abdominal surgery, that’s not to be taken lightly. If you don’t do anything too physical for eight weeks or more as you recover, that is 100 per cent fine and you shouldn’t feel in the slightest guilty. You need to allow yourself the proper recovery time after delivery, as getting into your old fitness routine too quickly to feel “normal” again can cause damage if you haven’t healed properly.
I began my postpartum exercise journey by walking, not to lose weight but to manage my stress levels and get those happy endorphins to boost my mood, which did wonders. Walking in the sunshine was so beneficial to my mental and emotional well-being, and wasn’t too strenuous on my scar. Getting back into the gym was really, really tough. I began back at the gym 6 weeks postpartum (with the all clear from my doctor and a physio) and would go 3-4 times a week, but now I only make it 1-2 times a week. I was pretty fit throughout my pregnancy, right up to the 40 week mark I was still working out. I ate as many wholefoods as I could throughout my pregnancy because what a woman eats during pregnancy is her baby’s main source of nourishment.
I’m now 8 months postpartum and will make it to the gym around twice a week, some weeks I won’t make it at all because lets be honest, sleep is more important. I don’t drive in America and I’m lucky enough to live right next to a lake, which means I do ALOT of walking. Two laps around the lake is 10km, and that every day is enough exercise for me. I’ve started doing yoga at home which has been great, especially with my sleep quality, to build up my core strength and calm the mind. I have been lucky to lose my pregnancy weight, however that doesn’t mean that my body hasn’t changed. I have stretch marks, broken veins up the back of my legs, and cellulite. What I’ve have found helpful with getting back into shape has been my nutrition. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet, so I’ve stopped drinking alcohol, started drinking a lot of water and keeping processed foods to a minimum.
My biggest piece of advice to you is to remember that we are all in this together, but go at your own steady pace. Each and every body is so different and so is every postpartum situation.