Back formation: The best post-natal exercises

Finally the baby is here – and is now of course the focus of attention. But while all eyes are on the baby, you’ll probably notice that your body is far from being back to the way it used to be. Logically, that is completely normal.

Even if stars and insta-stars do so: a super-tight body right after birth is not realistic. Why should it be? You just gave birth to a child, that’s performance enough. So you better deal with the question what your body really needs now.

One woman who knows this for sure is Juliana Afram. In her book, “From Postpartum to Workout” (TRIAS Verlag, 19.99 Euro), the mother of two, yoga teacher and prospective physiotherapist therefore shows which exercises can help to stabilise the abdomen and pelvic floor after pregnancy.

“During pregnancy, everyone is concerned about the health of expectant mothers,” says Juliana Afram. “But as soon as the baby is born, we are often left alone with the physical changes”, Here she explains everything about regression.

At what point is the regression useful?

If possible, it begins in the puerperium. If you think “They’re crazy”, you can relax: “In the puerperium I recommend mainly breathing and perception exercises that you can do while your baby is lying on your stomach. It doesn’t look like much, but it has a lot of effect,” explains the trainer.

The energy level of women after childbirth is very different. What you should not do immediately after the birth is jogging, jumping or even very demanding activities like crossfit. No matter how athletic you are and how fit you feel, your pelvic floor is not yet ready for it!

Until when is the regression possible?

All the time, actually. So don’t give up the idea because you think, “It’s too late now anyway”! Even if you didn’t start right after the birth, that’s not too bad, because basically you can start the regression at any time after the birth.

The only important point of reference: health insurance companies usually only pay for courses on regression if they are completed by the end of the ninth month after birth. But even that is a lot of time. Let’s not rush into anything. The most important thing is: Pay attention to the signals your body is sending you!

Atemübungen helfen dir nach der Entbindung, in deinen Körper hineinzuspüren Workout already in puerperium? No way! Breathing exercises help you to feel your way into your body now. © Nina Buday / Shutterstock.com

Why is regression so important?

It is about making the pelvic floor fully functional again, a task that is often underestimated. “I had to make the experience myself that my gynaecologist didn’t really take me seriously when it came to regression,” says Afram.

In other countries, things are different: In France, for example, women are prescribed 10 units by a physiotherapist immediately after giving birth. Moreover, it is often not so easy to get a place in a rehabilitation course.

This is how you train your pelvic floor

Why exactly do you do regression gymnastics?

Ultimately, the aim is to remedy the physical consequences of pregnancy. During pregnancy, the female body changes, and not all of these changes simply disappear by themselves with the delivery. For 9 months, the pelvic floor was put under great strain by the growing weight of the baby, the abdominal muscles were stretched considerably and left their anatomical pulling direction.

In addition, the statics of the entire body have changed. This ensures that the body’s centre of gravity shifts more and more to the front as the baby’s tummy grows. The pelvis tilts forward and the curvature in the lumbar spine becomes stronger. “One of the things we work on during regression is to realign the pelvis,” says Afram. Three things are particularly important to the coach:

  1. Pelvic floor physiotherapy and a targeted recovery training are the foundation for all following sports.
  2. Regression takes time, you should calculate with 9-12 months.
  3. As I said, it is never too late to start the regression.

Do I need a regression after the C-section?

Clear answer: yes. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor was finally loaded in the same way, the pelvis is tilted and the straight abdominal muscles are shifted. But not only that.

“Women who have had a caesarean section should even take additional measures such as lymph drainage and treat the scar well. Because what many people don’t know is that the area around the scar only regains its full sensitivity after about a year. In addition, women who have undergone Caesarean section have bladder problems.”

Training tips for sports with baby

What can I do for rectus diastasis?

Targeted training is also possible and necessary here. A rectus diastasis is a vertical wide gap between the straight abdominal muscles, this can be above or below the navel. During pregnancy the abdominal muscles thin out and leave their pulling direction – the baby needs space.

In the first 6 months after birth this gap recedes, but in almost a third of cases this does not happen by itself. And then? “Rectus diastasis is a whole-body project. Find a good physiotherapist to work on it with you,” Juliana recommends. Absolutely avoid: heavy lifting, classic abdominal muscle training and high impact sports like jogging.

With this video instruction you can test whether your abdominal wall is closed:

Here you go’s to the rectus diastasis test

Die besten Übungen nach der Entbindung Go, Mom! You can do it. © Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock.com

When is a retraining course useful?

Not too soon! At the earliest 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth your body is ready for this challenge. Such a course makes sense, especially because you will be shown all the exercises again in detail and because you will meet other mothers and benefit from their experiences. Moreover, such a course motivates you to really tackle the matter and to keep at it.

Does the health insurance pay for the retraining course?

In most cases yes, for 10 hours of retraining course with recognised providers (mostly physiotherapists, midwives). The restriction: there is a requirement that the course be completed by a certain time after birth, usually by the end of the ninth month after birth.

Which recovery exercises are good for the abdomen and pelvic floor?

Recovery exercises are very individual: what helps one woman doesn’t work for another – and vice versa. These 3 all-rounders should nevertheless be tried out by every new mum:

1. feel the pelvic floor

Because it’s not that simple. In order to activate your pelvic floor, exhale and tense the ring-shaped muscles around your anus, make the vagina very tight, as if you wanted to hold a tampon, and close the urethra, just like when the toilet beat is endless and you have to wait.

Now you lift your pelvic floor a little further into yourself and feel how the deeper lying muscles in the lower abdomen are tensed. The great thing is that you can do this exercise anytime and anywhere – when pushing the pram or lying down at the beginning of the postpartum period.

2. the knee-elbow stand

“This exercise brings the uterus back into its position,” Afram explains. To do this, you place your knees under the pelvis and your elbows under the shoulders in a four-footed position. Bring your hands to the middle as a fist, stack them on top of each other and start by placing your forehead on top of them. Your gaze is directed towards the mat so that the cervical spine is long. Your spine remains in its natural vibration. The backs of your feet lie on the mat.

Now breathe in. Exhaling you build up the basic tension in the pelvic floor, press your left elbow and your right knee into the floor – push both imaginary in the direction of the navel. Hold the tension for 3-10 seconds. Extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously. Release the tension and switch sides. Repeat this exercise 5 times on each side and then take a 30 second break. Then start again and do 2 more laps. Attention: Skip this exercise if you have rectus diastasis!

sex during pregnancy

3. the half knee position

It almost looks like a lunge, except one knee is on the ground. Place the standing knee directly under your hip joint and place the corresponding foot on the ball of your foot. The front foot is placed directly under the knee. Both pelvic bones look forward.

Breathe in. While breathing out, build up basic tension, lowering your sacrum slightly downwards and lifting the pubic bone, pulling the front heel imaginary to the pelvis and pushing your buttocks slightly forward, tensing them consciously. Maintain this tension for 3-10 seconds and then release it again. Make sure that your chest remains above the pelvis and your pelvis above the knee. Repeat this 10-15 times per side.

What are the benefits of loveballs during regression after birth?

Time and again, people say that love balls are the perfect tool for training the pelvic floor. Afram is sceptical: “It is often claimed that we could keep the balls in all day long and do the housework on the side. Not only is that wrong, it’s harmful.”

If at all, you should use the love balls for a maximum of 10 minutes a day and be careful: “If we tighten the pelvic floor so tightly all the time, it can quickly cramp. Just as important as tensing is letting go.”

Sport after pregnancy

How long and how often do I have to undergo involution?

After you deliver, don’t feel any pressure with the post-baby body. Your body has changed over 9 months to give birth to a child and it takes at least as long to get everything back in place.

“9 to 12 months are completely normal”, says Juliana Afram “The more pregnancies you have already had, the longer the complete regression can take”. It is best to do your exercises daily, whenever they fit. But also not too often, especially at the beginning, so as not to overstrain yourself.

You can find more exercises, helpful knowledge and tips for a sporty return to workouts in Juliana’s book “Vom Wochenbett zum Workout” and in the 14-week “Mamasté” postnatal program, which Juliana developed with the online platform YogaEasy:

Mamasté Postnatal Program by YogaEasy