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“Mom Bod”: What it Means to Have a Postpartum Body

Congratulations mama, you did it! Your baby is here, your milk is a-flowin’, he’s the cutest thing ever, and the diaper genie is filling up. And with one peek in the mirror…wait a sec… what happened here?

Your body has gone through SO MANY changes over the past 9 months and now you are seeing the product of weight and hormonal changes and labor. Things may not look or feel the same “down there,” your skin may not fit as tight as it did and, well, maybe your favorite jeans don’t either. But before you donate your wardrobe, consider your body a lost cause, and vow to live the rest of your days in sweatpants, hold on.

We are women. We are badass and sexy and do crazy things like create life. Although we love our new little baby-boos, and they tend to be all we think about, we also need to care about ourselves and our wellness. Why? Because we must value ourselves and give our bodies the attention they deserve. Because we must be healthy and confident to raise healthy, confident kids. Don’t feel afraid or guilty in wanting to be strong, beautiful, and feel ALIVE. Because guess what? You CAN. And consider anything that doesn’t go back 100% to how it was before a sweet little reminder of what you accomplished; because that’s beautiful, too.

We are redefining what it means to have a mom bod.  New definition? Powerful, healthy, and smokin’ hot. So, before you create a bonfire out of your old bikinis, try out some of these tried-and-true techniques that are sure to strengthen, tone, and reawaken those mommy muscles.

Fix the Floor

…your pelvic floor, that is! After baby, it is crucial to give your pelvic floor the attention it needs so that it can regain the ability to support and heal your organs that have been pushed around (literally) for the past few months.

What is my pelvic floor?

Your pelvic floor is composed of four layers of inter-woven muscles that support your pelvic organs (and that life you’ve been growing for the past 40 weeks!). For women, those organs are your bowels, bladder, and uterus.

Why should I tend to my pelvic floor after giving birth?

Pregnancy naturally weakens your pelvic floor. This makes sense because, during pregnancy, your pelvic floor is strained with the weight of your growing baby, and all three of your pelvic organs are stretched, pushed, and squeezed. Although this is natural and to be expected, there are some very serious implications if you do not rehabilitate your pelvic floor back to health.

  • Pelvic organ prolapse. This is when one or more of the pelvic organs bulge or protrude into the vagina, causing a sense of fullness or something “falling” into the vagina.
  • Urinary problems. Are you finding yourself having mini “accidents” every time you sneeze? Are you scared to laugh too hard? The bladder can be affected by a weak pelvic floor, making it hard for you to hold it or even let it all out.
  • Constipation. A weak pelvic floor can make you feel like you have to go #2 all the time, bloated, and when you go, it feels incomplete. Sometimes, it may even feel painful or strained.

How do I do pelvic floor exercises?

Kegels are a buzz word now-a-days for the repetitive exercises that assist in pelvic floor restrengthening, but the muscle they activate only make up one of the four layers mentioned earlier.  To get the best information and instruction on how to properly activate all your pelvic floor muscles, book an appointment with a certified pelvic floor physical therapist. Our favorites are Rachel Schneiderman Parrotta at Shift Integrative Medicine, Isa Herrera, Amy Stein of Beyond Basics, and Functional Pelvis (they do home visits…yay!). Even just one session can exponentially affect your ability to properly strengthen your pelvic floor at home.

Kegels are a popular exercise that can be done just about anywhere! To perform, first identify your pelvic floor muscles by stopping your urine stream mid-flow. Did you feel that clench? Those are your pelvic floor muscles!

Next, get ready to Kegel! Tighten those muscles for 5 seconds, then rest for five seconds, and repeat 4 or five times in a row. Work up to holding for 5 seconds with 5 second breaks in between sets.  Be sure that you are only tightening the pelvic floor muscles; your abdomen, thighs, and butt should be relaxed and you should be breathing regularly.

Don’t overdo it. Just like any other muscle in your body, there is such thing as too-tight or hyperactive pelvic floor muscles and the possibility that you could be exercising them too soon. 3 sets of 10 repetitions should be just fine as a daily routine once you’ve been cleared by a professional to begin doing Kegels. Is it too soon? No problem! Professionals will teach you how to breathe into and open your pelvic floor and vagina in gentler ways. Other pelvic floor exercises that you can work up to are TRX squats and the bridge. Both exercises also target other muscles.

Helloooo booty!

Now that you’ve established a healthy routine to strengthen your pelvic floor, you can start easing into your mommy workout routine! Working out with baby can be hard, so fitting in mini-workouts while baby naps or gets cared for by a loved one may be necessary.

Get your sweat on.

Whether it be in the park or at the gym, get your heart rate going with some brisk walking or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Listening to your body is key; depending on how long you’ve been recovering after giving birth, you may find jogging or biking extremely uncomfortable. That’s ok. Do what you can and build up to where you want to be.

Do you even lift, ma?

Weight training should be an important part of any woman’s fitness routine. Aside from helping you maintain a healthy bone density and strong stroller-toting arms, it actually helps you burn more calories and fat – even after you’ve finished working out. Yes, please! Check out this article for more information on anaerobic exercise and its benefits.

Dealing with Diastasis Recti

What’s the deal with this pooch? If you notice a protruding postpartum belly “pooch,” Diastasis Recti may be to blame. Diastasis Recti is the separation of your left and right rectus abdominus muscles that occurs when connective tissue that stretched during pregnancy doesn’t quite snap back to normal. Test yourself by laying flat, pressing your fingers into your midline by your naval, bringing your head up into a mini-crunch position, and feeling if any separation occurs beneath your pressed fingers. Is there a separation the width of 2 or more fingers? Check in with your physical therapist for some healing exercises that will work your core without worsening your condition. We often find that the deep muscles – the ones that make up your inner core strength like the transverse abdominus, pelvic floor, and diaphragm – are not firing and are not in sync. Hint: No crunches and forward folds!

Strut your stuff

Take some time to look at yourself in the mirror. Love everything, even the things you wish to change or improve. Notice new stretch marks, loose skin, and pudge, remember everything you went through to get to where you are today, and everything you are excited to do to improve yourself for tomorrow. Continue to love the things about yourself that evolved during this experience. You made a new, beautiful life! Speak words of appreciation, love, and respect to yourself regularly, and commit to a life of health and happiness. Strut your stuff. You did it!