Postnatal Exercise: Essential Stretches For New Mums
The aches and pains of pregnancy don’t magically disappear when your baby is born. But when all the focus is on your new baby, it can be hard to find time to take care of your own body. Luckily Osteopath Debra El-Tawansi has some handy postnatal stretches you can do at home for some relief.
During pregnancy, women generally take very good care of their bodies – practicing pregnancy yoga, eating well and generally looking after their well being. As a new mum, often the focus is completely on the baby, with woman placing much less priority on her own body’s needs. It is hard to escape the sleep deprivation, but what about the back and neck pain; the shoulder pain and wrist pain; or tingling into the hands? With the right strategies in place, these problems can be managed. We need to make sure mums feel comfortable in themselves and are able to look after their babies without pain.
Everybody is different, and it’s always good to speak to your osteo or other health professional about what is going on in your body. But in my practice, I see a lot of new mums with similar patterns of muscular tension which respond well to similar stretches and exercises.
Breastfeeding, carrying a baby in front of you or looking down at your baby all create a posture where your shoulders can roll forward and your head is carried forward. This extra tension in the front of your body means the muscles at the back of your neck and shoulders work hard to keep you over your center of gravity. This can lead to neck and back pain and headaches. The constant leaning forward into cots and car seats can lead to lower back pain, especially since the core is weakened from pregnancy and birth. Lingering laxity in the ligaments after birth can also lead to increased strains.
Some home postnatal stretches that can help relieve these postural strain patterns include:
Pec Stretch – Against a wall put your arm at a right angle, bending your elbow to fix your arm to the wall. Slowly twist your body away from your arm to feels a stretch across your chest. You can also lengthen your arm down the wall to feel a stretch right down your arm to your hand.
Foam Roller/Rolled Towel – for foam roller see product instructions, for rolled towel, roll the towel into a log then lay on it on the floor lengthwise from the base of your neck to the bottom of your ribs. Ensure there is a pillow under your head so you head doesn’t extend backwards. Extend your arms out by your sides to feel a stretch across your chest. Your arms can slowly be moved up the floor like a snow angel to find tight areas that feel good to stretch.
Good Habits Can Help Reduce The Strain
Getting into some good habits when looking after your baby can really help your body cope. These can include using pillows when breastfeeding to reduce the weight you need to carry with your arms and keeping your wrists straight when lifting and carrying your baby. If you can reduce the strain on your body as much as possible and use stretches and exercises to undo the inevitable strain patterns then you will get through this challenging phase with a lot less physical discomfort.
Pelvic floor and Core Exercises can also be beneficial – Speak to your osteopath or other health professional to determine which exercises are suited to you.
With the right help and guidance you can better manage the aches and pains associated with being a new mum.