Before any mom hits the gym or gets antsy about losing baby weight, a crucial first step is strengthening what pregnancy has weakened. First and foremost would be your pelvic floor. Whether you had a Cesarean or vaginal birth, pregnancy alone has put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor, and it needs its own kind of rehab. Think of fitness after having a baby as getting fit from the inside out.
If you feel confused around the whole issue of Kegels, never fear. Board certified OB/GYN, Dr. Bruce Crawford saw first hand the epidemic of pelvic floor dysfunction and discovered a better solution than surgery for many of his patients. For many who were moms, this fitness issue began around the time of pregnancy or was exasperated by pregnancy and childbirth but was never addressed. For many this leads to incontinence, overactive bladder, sexual dysfunction or prolapse. The good news is, it’s preventable! Pfilates, which stands for Pelvic Floor Pilates features 10 exercises that are yoga and Pilates based.
Here are 3 Pfilates exercises I found to be affective with new mom clients. Check with your doctor if you are ready to begin them and by all means, do them before returning to the gym! They can also be done in pregnancy, which is a great time to start. Besides effectively strengthening your pelvic floor, they also work to tone your glutes, thighs, and abdominals- other areas most affected by pregnancy.
The Pfilates “Squat”:
Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and toes turned out. You can use your arms out in front or to the sides to help balance. Inhale a deep belly breath to prepare. Exhale as you lower into the squat. Inhale as you rise up. Keep your feet flat on the ground and don’t let your knees go out over your feet. Squat 3 times, contracting your glutes on the way down and doing a pelvic floor contraction. On the fourth squat, stay down in the squat position and hold, try doing a longer voluntary pelvic floor contraction by imagining pulling together your pubic bone in the front to your tail bone in the back. Hold for 3 counts. Then pulse slightly up and down for another 3 counts while doing quick, strong pelvic floor contractions before coming back up.
Side Lying Bent-Knee Lift:
Lie on your side with your head resting on your bottom arm or resting in your hand with your arm bent. Place your top arm on the floor in front of you to help balance. Your legs are bent slightly. Raise the top leg to about a 45 degrees keeping the leg bent. Keep breathing throughout. Do 3 repetitions of lifting the top leg. On the fourth, keep the leg raised to 45 degrees and do a longer, voluntary pelvic floor contraction for 3 counts. Then pulse the leg up about 1-2 inches higher for 3 counts while doing shorter, stronger voluntary squeezing of your pelvic floor and glutes.
Cat & Cow:
On all fours, centre your shoulders over your hands, hips over knees. Exhale as you move into the cat pose- back is rounded with your head and tailbone reaching down. Inhale into cow pose- lift your tailbone and head and drop your belly to the floor. Look upwards. After 3 repetitions, stay in Cat pose with your head and tail reaching down, and hold for 3 counts, squeezing your glutes and breathing deeply while holding a pelvic floor contraction. After holding, pulse 3 times deeper into Cat pose while adding a stronger, quick pelvic floor contraction and glute squeeze with each pulse.
As you progress you may add repetitions from 3, to 5, to 7, up to 10, as well as holding longer and pulsing the same increasing amount.
If this exercise option sounds right for you or if you want to learn more about Pfilates, check out their website or look for a certified pfilates trainer near you.