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5 WAYS TO BETTER CORE HEALTH FOR NEW MOTHERS AND MOTHERS TO BE

The great changes that pregnancy and childbirth place on the body take time to recover from. For new mothers and mothers-to-be, practising Pilates eases you through pregnancy, labour and speeds up recovery after delivery.

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Around 60% of women will experience Diastasis Rectus during pregnancy. The rectus abdominis (or “six-pack” muscle) around the belly button naturally experiences a small separation between its left and right sides as the belly grows. This separation usually returns to its natural state after delivery, but sometimes does not.

By strengthening your pelvic muscles, further complications from Diastasis Rectus such as lower back pain, incontinence and prolapse can be avoided. Pilates is a safe exercise that rebuilds inner core strength and control. You can begin practising it as early as six weeks after childbirth (check with your doctor first).

The strengthened core muscles will also lead to improved posture and stability by holding the spine in its natural curvature. Their improved suppleness will allow for greater freedom of movement and guard against injury.

Pelvic floor exercises are key to a postnatal Pilates programme. Here are some you can try yourself:

1. Activating your transversus abdominis

  • This is the deepest layer of abdominal muscle that runs between the ribs and the pelvis, horizontally from front to back, like a corset.
  • Lie on your back in neutral spine, ensuring it is naturally curved
  • Slowly draw the section of your abdomen situated below your belly button upwards and inwards, “away from your belt line”
  • Breathe normally
  • Your rib cage should remain relaxed and should not elevate during this process.
  • You should be able to feel the muscle contracting if you press deeply 2cm in from the bony prominence at the front of your pelvis
  • Hold this muscle at 20% to 30% of a maximal contraction

2. Activating your pelvic floor
  • Lie on your back in neutral spine
  • Slowly contract the muscles in your saddle region (the area around your groin, buttocks, genitals and upper inner thighs) by lifting them upwards. These are the same muscles used to stop the flow of urine
  • Breathe normally
  • Hold this muscle at 20% to 30% of a maximal contraction
  • Try activating your pelvic floor and transversus abdominis simultaneously


3. Cat stretch
  • Start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips
  • Breathe in gently, allowing your tummy to relax
  • As you breathe out, draw your tummy inwards and, beginning from your tail bone, flex your spine into a curve, arching up to the ceiling like a cat, allowing your head to drop and look towards your tummy
  • Breathe in gently as you hold the position, and as you breathe out, return your spine to a neutral position, starting from your head and upper back and finishing at your tail bone
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

4. Modified side plank
  • Lie on your side with your elbow directly under the shoulder
  • Bend the bottom knee and lift your hip into a kneeling side plank position
  • Engage your abdominal muscles, keeping your back straight and the body in a straight line
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, keeping your hips up and abs tight
  • Lower your hip to the floor and rest for 10 seconds before continuing
  • Complete a set of 5-6 side planks on each side

 

 

 

5. Glute Bridge

  • Continue to take it easy. Lie on your back with knees bent at a hip distance apart
  • Keep your feet flat on the mat aligned under the knees
  • Engage the core (activating your pelvic floor) and squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips to a bridge
  • Hold your position, squeezing the core gently and return to mat, controlling your muscles
  • Repeat for 6 reps

Pilates help you maintain strength, increase mobility, reduce stress and regain your confidence. Fitness First offers a range of useful classes here