The essentials mums need to know about their bodies after baby

Postnatal recovery: The essentials

Getting used to being a new mum is a huge deal and something we’re never truly prepared for. Adjusting to your new post baby body can be a real challenge and even more so when you’re desperate to get back into shape. You might have questions around what’s safe and what’s not? Maybe you thought you did know but then lost confidence when you tried and realised things weren’t what they used to be? Or maybe you’re forging ahead regardless!

surrey physiotherapy clinicThe ‘right’ postnatal exercise

The right kind of exercise postnatally is highly recommended. As well as the obvious benefits, it can help pick up energy levels and reduce the risks of postnatal depression. A holistic approach to postnatal recovery is an essential for all women and seeing a women’s health physiotherapist is a great way of ensuring this. In France, all women are entitled to ‘la rééducation périnéale’, which is extensive vaginal physiotherapy after having a baby.

By comparison in the UK, aside from a quick mention, the pelvic floor is not something women really learn about after having a baby.  Yet as many as one in three women suffer from pelvic floor dysfunctions ranging from incontinence to prolapse. Dr Sohier Elneil, consultant Urogynaecologist at University College Hospital London explains how “by doing pelvic floor exercises, 7 in 10 women avoid surgical interventions.”

surrey physiotherapy clinicRebuilding fitness

When rebuilding your fitness and strength after having a baby you need strong foundations – a strong core. Your core is composed of your pelvic floor muscles and deep tummy muscles. Both sets of muscles are stretched and weakened during pregnancy. Furthermore, your pelvic floor muscles may also have been injured and further weakened at delivery if you had an episiotomy or a tear.

Your six pack muscle may have separated in pregnancy (rectus diastasis) in order to accommodate your growing baby. It’s important to ensure how wide, long and deep this gap in your muscle is postnatally because it can lead to an unstable core. This can bring associated back pain, incontinence and increased risk of a prolapse. In fact research shows that 66% of women with a diastis recti experience pelvic floor problems.

So in summary, you need to look after your pelvic floor and tummy muscles. What you do now will affect you later!

surrey physiotherapy clinicGetting the right support

So many mums go it alone in a quest to get fit, melt away that mummy tummy and feel like their old selves again. They might feel pain, odd sensations down below or leak but for many these symptoms are ignored. Many people view these as either a natural consequence of giving birth. And some mums don’t know what can be done to help sort the problems.

The fact is your body has undergone a mammoth change during pregnancy whether you deliver by caesarean or vaginally! It takes nine months to grow a baby and for most women it will take a similar timeframe if not longer to fully recover so you need to be kind to yourself.

surrey physiotherapy clinicListen to your body

The key is to listen to your body and work with it not against it. Exercise needs to be mindful. If you experience any of the below, it’s a sign that you’re body isn’t strong enough to go it alone. It also means that exercise needs to be tailored to suit your specific level of strength, so that you can go on to progress safely:

  • Feeling a bulge, strain or doming around your stomach or pelvic floor
  • Leaking urine when you exercise
  • Experiencing pelvic or low back pain while you exercise


surrey physiotherapy clinicSurrey Physiotherapy Clinic

Each woman’s recovery will be different. You’ll need to adapt the exercise you do and graduate your return to exercise according to your individual circumstances. Going straight back into cross fit or high intensity workouts is a real no no! Having an assessment of your pelvic floor muscles with a women’s health physiotherapist is a really good idea. You will find out how well things have healed, areas of scar tissue and how strong or weak the muscles are, thereby enabling you to achieve a safer, more personalised and successful recovery programme.

Book in to see a women’s health physiotherapist for a postnatal MOT – you won’t regret it! To book Claire, visit her directory profile below.


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Claire Rutherford
Women's health physiotherapist with a special interest in postnatal recovery
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