Embracing your postnatal body

Real answers to postnatal body questions. Better news than you might expect!

1. Most women experience some degree of abdominal separation (diastasis recti) as the result of even a first, singleton pregnancy… the good news is we have published medical evidence it’s possible to resolve the separation and restore core strength and function with very specific core training. Hint: it’s not crunches.

A majority of childbearing women suffer from diastasis recti (sometimes referred to as “mommy pooch”), a musculoskeletal injury caused by outward pressure on the abdominal wall, which contributes to back pain, urinary stress incontinence, pelvic dysfunction and prolapse. Diastasis recti does not resolve spontaneously on its own, and it can linger for years or even decades without intervention. While increasing core strength is important, many core exercises will actually worsen (as opposed to improve) the condition. Forget sit-ups, crunches and bicycle crunches – in fact, skip any exercise that bulges your abs forward. Whether you’re a new mom or a grandmother, these exercises do more harm than good because they exacerbate abdominal separation and can even induce DR in someone who has never been pregnant! The key to resolving separated abs and restoring strength, muscle tone and functional core health is a comprehensive exercise program based on correct activation of the transverse abdominis, your natural corset. It’s also crucial to learn healthy alignment, posture, breathing and functional movement habits to avoid re-injury.  Reclaim is our signature program, profiled in npr ,that is proven to resolve diastasis recti in less than 12 weeks.

2. Kegels in moderation… but there’s more to pelvic health than just Kegels.

Yes, you can enjoy great sex again. And no, you don’t have to fear an embarrassing dribble the next time you laugh, sneeze or cough at an inopportune moment. The hammock of pelvic muscle that stretched and expanded during pregnancy and childbirth is remarkably resilient. Everything ‘down there’ really will return to normal – but not without a little effort. This advice applies to a majority of postnatal women: do some Kegels! Those deep core exercises are key to restoring strength and tone in the overstretched pelvic muscles, and they are important to regain bladder control and enjoy sex again after pregnancy.Most postnatal women would also benefit from incorporating Kegels into their daily Core Compressions – learn more about what exactly a Kegel is (you’re not alone if you’ve been wondering!) and how/when to incorporate them in our Intro to Core Compressions video. Because there is more to a healthy pelvic floor than just Kegels, our program also incorporates squats, lunges, stretches, back extensions and other movements that provide a balanced, global approach to pelvic floor health. And for women who suffer from chronically tight pelvic muscles – symptoms include chronic constipation, tailbone pain, and pain during intercourse, you would be better off skipping Kegels entirely. If unsure where you are in the spectrum, see a physical therapist who specializes in treating the pelvic floor.

3. Say goodbye to hemorrhoids.

Ouch! They hurt. They’re embarrassing. Many women won’t mention hemorrhoids to their doctor, husband or closest friend.  The truth is, hemorrhoids are really common during and after pregnancy, and they can linger for a very, very long time… Don’t despair! A few easy changes in your bathroom habits can alleviate the stress of bowel movements (constipated or not) and allow your body to heal. Simply prop your feet on a step stool or wastebasket, lean forward, and gently pulse the belly up and in as you exhale. With a little patience and relaxation, the bowel movement will happen without straining. Never bear down! Read this article for more in-depth guidance.

4. Since becoming a mother, your metabolism has fundamentally changed. Learn how to navigate this new terrain to feel your best.

It goes without saying that women experience a surge of hormones during pregnancy. One effect of pregnancy hormones is weight gain and fat storage – a positive sign of a healthy pregnancy! However, sometimes hormones remain elevated after the pregnancy is long gone, and this hormonal context can make it a challenge to shed that extra layer of softness that might linger on the belly, hips and thighs. If you’re struggling to recover your pre-pregnancy shape, the most important change you can make in your diet is to reduce carbohydrates. But how does this look? What do you eat instead? Read our guide to Embody Healthy Eating to learn more about how to deeply nourish your body and support hormonal balance with real food (no counting, measuring or obsessing).

5. Your C-section scar can improve. With these tips, even an old scar can lay flat, with no puckering and no pain.

Recovering from a surgical birth poses unique challenges, and a lingering “muffin top” is among the chief complaints. The good news is that you can eliminate scar adhesions, the underlying cause of this puckering, with daily scar massage. This is especially effective when combined with moist heat (a shower, bath or heating pad) and castor oil. Even if you underwent a C-section decades ago, consistent massage will gradually and effectively release scar adhesions to free you of both pain and puckering.

As a mother, you have given and continue to give so much to your children. Pause for a moment each day to give back to yourself, to nurture your own amazing, life-giving body.

By Leah Keller, Founder of the EMbody Program. Learn more about Leah here.

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