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Getting your body back after pregnancy

Looking after your body is so important. Even more so after you've grown and delivered a baby. I should know, I have 3 kids. I also have chronic back pain and have tried so many different treatments over the years. Until I met Anna. I actually booked Anna for a massage for my husband to relieve tension in his neck and as we got chatting she sounded like she most certainly knew what she was talking about. She knows so much about the human (especially female) body, how pregnancy and birth affects us. I started seeing Anna regularly and she made SUCH a difference to my life. The sessions themselves do hurt, I'm not going to lie and I joke that you would not want to get on this lady's wrong side as she knows exactly where to press to make you squirm :) but she has golden hands. When I fell pregnant with our youngest I kept seeing Anna all through the pregnancy and she came to see me not even a week after giving birth. I remember her sorting out my back and muscles whilst the midwife was over for a routine check on baby. It felt so good to do something for myself as so much of my time was taken up looking after our baby.

I am still seeing Anna, not as often as I needed to at the start, more of an as and when now but I see seeing her as essential maintenance my body needs and every penny spent on her services is money well spent. I recommend Anna wholeheartedly to anyone. Below is a blog from her about getting your body back after pregnancy. (details how to book with her are at the bottom of the article, if you are considering it, all I can say is DO IT, you won't regret it). Love, Magda

When you have a baby, your body changes beyond recognition. Small physical changes might start as early as your first positive pregnancy test; perhaps your tummy feels more bloated, your breasts feel more tender or fuller, you already feel the tiredness kicking in? As you progress through the trimesters, the changes are undeniable as your belly swells and then balloons as baby develops and grows, getting stronger, ready to tackle life on the outside. For some women, these changes are easily embraced as a reminder of miracle of life that has been created inside them. For others, the changes can be harder, perhaps due to physical discomfort, or a feeling of loosing control of their body as it changes shape.

For most women, when it comes to their own body following birth, there is a big focus on ‘getting my body back’. But what does this mean…and what should this mean??

Celebrity, social media and pressure (be this from our peers or ourselves), places a lot of focus on ‘getting back to pre-baby weight’, or ‘getting back into your jeans’. But ‘getting your body back’ following pregnancy and birth should be far more than this…and actually not focused on size and weight at all! Our focus post birth should be on healing and reconnecting with our body. We look after our body during pregnancy, but very few of us remember what it has been through and look after it quite as well following birth. This is compounded by getting a ‘green card’ and the go ahead to exercise and do whatever you want at your 6-8 week postnatal GP check. There are many mother-baby boot camps out there focused on hard-core exercise, encouraging women to run and do high impact moves at 6 weeks post birth, to loose the baby weight, but 6 weeks is really way to soon to be taking part in such classes. Your body can take a year to heal. For many women, it won’t take this long. For some it may take longer.

So what should I be doing after I’ve had a baby?

Eat well!

Nutrition is key from day 1! You’ve spent the last 9 months denying yourself so much good stuff…the glass of wine, the caffeine, the gooey brie, the runny eggs… now you want to indulge, right? Plus you’re tired, you don’t have time for messing about in the kitchen and you’re craving sugar and coffee to give you that pick-me-up. But remember, food is the building blocks for repairing your body. You want lots of fresh, healthy, good quality food. You’ll find you feel better for it, and your recovery will be quicker too! And healthy food doesn’t have to be boring or hard work!

Sleep! (When you can!)

I’m sure I’ll have some rotten tomatoes thrown at me for telling you to prioritise sleep. But it’s important. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body won’t heal well due to elevated cortisol levels. Be strict with yourself. Sleep when baby does. Take your friend up on her offer to watch the baby while you do some things; this doesn’t have to be housework…catch up on some sleep! And don’t feel guilty about it. The housework will be there when you wake up. Trust me, I know- I’ve spent the last 2 years with a boy who wakes all through the night!

Get a massage!

In some cultures, massage is an integral part of the postnatal recovery period. Women in many Asian and Latin American cultures will go into a period of ‘confinement’, which ranges from 30-100 days post birth. This period often includes daily massage aimed at recovery. The purpose of a postnatal massage is to help release tissues that have become restricted during pregnancy and as a new mum, and can be a really important part of recovering from tummy muscle separation, helping to reconnect with core muscles, and manage c-section scarring.

What about exercise?

Definitely, this is important, but it is important it is done right! Jumping straight into boot camp classes can have a detrimental effect on a postnatal body. I’ve seen many women who have been to a boot camp class as their first bit of movement 2-, 6-, or 12 months post birth, only to find out for the first time that they have a problem. Perhaps they ran a little, or did some jumping jacks and leaked some wee. Perhaps the exercise they did aggravated their lower back pain rather than improved it as they’d hoped. Maybe the movement caused some pulling or discomfort in their c-section scar. The sit-ups they were doing at the end of the class caused a feeling of heaviness or bulging in their vagina. All of these things (and more) are really common, but are the body’s way of saying ‘we’re not quite ready of that activity yet’. For women who don’t experience any symptoms, proceed with caution in the early months- your body is still recovering and you don’t want to cause problems by pushing it too hard too soon.

So what can you do?

In the early days following birth, or even in the not-so-early days if you’ve not yet addressed it, you can start to connect with your pelvic floor muscles, and it’s really important to focus on learning to breathe well. Many of us don’t breath well anyway, but add to the mix the diaphragm and lungs being pushed up high under the ribs for the best part of 9 months, stuck tissue in the ribs and backs, poor posture from pregnancy and holding a baby, and the stresses of your life changes with a newborn baby - good breathing is usually completely thrown out of the window! Breathing well is key for a well functioning core and it’s intimately linked to our pelvic floor; pelvic floor exercises (kegels) should be coordinated with the breath. Many women with pelvic floor dysfunction, tummy separations or weak cores see a huge improvement in their symptoms just by learning to breathe properly!

Have a look at this video below where I show you how to assess your own breathing pattern, and what you should be looking for to breathe optimally.

Then what?

Once you have had the sign-off from your GP, you can begin a more focused exercise schedule. But this doesn’t mean running, lifting heavy weights, or jumping around. You will want to learn to work with your new body, reconnect with it, teach it to move well again, and bring these movements into your day-to-day lives. Do bear in mind that your journey might be very different from those of your friends who have also just had babies. Each woman’s body needs to adapt in it’s own way and time, and you need to progress with your movement when your body is ready to. The most important thing is to listen to your body and don’t push through symptoms. Consider working with a well-qualified postnatal personal trainer, or in small group postnatal specific exercise classes where the trainer will give you personalised attention and can work with you as an individual. What is right for one woman won’t necessarily be right for the next. If you’re keen to return to running, current guidelines recommend waiting at least 3 months post birth, and then if certain movement criteria are satisfied, embarking on a return to running programme; consider working with a trainer who is familiar with the current return to running guidelines.

While it might be tempting to rush to the local park to join your nearest mother-baby boot camp to shift the weight or feel the burn, embrace your new body, remember what it has given you, and give it some respect back. Your body is yours for life and it’s easier to prevent problems arising, or prevent them getting worse, than it is to deal with bigger problems down the line that might be too far gone to easily resolve. You’ll still have plenty of time down the line to get back into those running shoes, or the skinny jeans…

Here is Anna's website:

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There is a wealth of information on her website, she offers home visits, runs a clinic as well as post natal courses. xx

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