When you were carrying your bundle of joy, there was a lot of pressure and wear tear around the mid-section which took a toll on your core. Your abdominal muscles separate to make room for the expanding uterus. Your back muscles are overworked and your hips get wider.
What’s more, once you’ve delivered, it’s not uncommon to experience symphysis pubis dysfunction (pelvic joints become unstable and can cause pain) and postpartum pelvic pain.
So while you do your kegel exercises, remember to work that belly pooch too, because an overhang of the mommy tummy may be a first for you (unless you’ve had weight issues before).
Understand that the same old ab crunches won’t necessarily do the trick. You need exercises to strengthen your core, reinforce your spine, trim your obliques (love handles) and uplift that belly hang. Here are five 5-minute exercises to get you off on the right foot.
The Bridge Pose
The Bridge Pose: When you complete 6 weeks, work on strengthening your core, glutes and thighs with the yoga bridge pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your feet at hip-width, and make sure your toes are facing outwards. Gently contract your stomach muscles to flatten your lower back into the floor. Slowly exhale while you keep your core tight and lift your hips off the floor. At this point, press your heels into the floor for stability. Don’t push the hips too high and avoid arching the back. Inhale and lower yourself back to the initial position. About 10-20 reps are enough.
The Side Plank
The Side Plank: This exercise corrects the diastasis recti—pregnancy thins out the connective tissues between the 8 packs. Get on all fours, hand and knees. Walk your legs up and lift your knees off the ground so you are in plank position (elbows locked, beginner plank positioning). Now, only take your left hand off the floor and extend it up towards the sky. Simultaneously, slowly turn your body so the left side of your waist faces the ceiling, abs contracted. Your right foot’s little toe should rest on the mat, slide the left foot right beside the right foot, touching. Bring the left top on top of the right foot if you want to make this extra challenging. Hold for 5 long breaths and repeat on the other side.
The Pelvic Tilt (Lying Down Variation)
The Pelvic Tilt (Lying Down Variation): This exercise stretches your back muscles to reduce pain while working on the abs. Rest your back on the floor, bend your knees and bring your heels to the butt, keeping your feet flat. Squeeze your pelvic muscles and draw your stomach towards the floor without lifting your back. Hold this position for 3 counts. Do 10 reps of the exercise. Make note that this move is also recommended during the third trimester of pregnancy to prepare the body for labor.
Deep Breathing: You can do this exercise even just after an hour of giving birth—it puts no strain on your body. Simply sit up, take a deep breath, but from your diaphragm. At this stage, squeeze and tighten your abs and hold in the air as long as you can. Exhale and relax the muscles. Steadily increase the duration of the deep breath. This deep breathing exercise relaxes the muscles, and tones and strengthens the abs and stomach.
Kegels: This exercise works on your pelvic and vaginal muscles and ensures you bounce-back from postnatal urinary leakage (very common after delivery). Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles, empty your bladder and lie on your back. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for 5 seconds, and then relax for 5 seconds. Start with 4-5 reps. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
Caution: Get clearance from your doctor before taking on an exercise program, especially if it’s within 1 year of delivery.