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How Your Body Changes During Pregnancy, and How Clinical Pilates Can Help

“Are you currently pregnant and starting to think about your body after giving birth?
Or have you just given birth and have noticed changes in your body?
Do you feel like your tummy is bulging a lot even after delivery?
Do you want to get back to exercising, but don’t know where to start safely?”

All Bodies Change During Pregnancy

This article is dedicated to all the moms out there, either those who are preparing to be a new mom, or to those of you who are still new to all the sudden changes in the body after giving birth to your baby. This will be a great chance for you to get to know your body a little bit more. 

 

After delivery, your body will face some changes, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. People often say that your body will never be the same anymore, but the good news is that by understanding the changes and doing the right things, you can mostly get back to your pre-baby self.

Contents

Body Change Number 1 -
The Mummy Tummy Bulge

After giving birth, it’s normal to have a bulging tummy.   

 

You may feel a gap located right in the centre of your tummy muscles.  This gap is called Diastasis Recti. You may have heard of this issue, but most women go into Childbirth without ever having heard about it.  Then after birth, you suddenly get a surprise! 

 

There are two common reactions to this. Either you ignore it, or you think that something has gone wrong with your body.

 

But don’t worry, this is a very common symptom of giving birth, with plenty of science to fix it.

 

What is Diastasis Recti?

 

Diastasis Recti is basically the separation of your Rectus Abdominis (your six-pack abs).  This separation happens down the middle of your six-pack muscles (at the Linea Alba). 

 

During pregnancy, your body naturally releases hormones to relax your muscles in preparation for childbirth. Unfortunately the side effect is that every muscle in your body relaxes – not just specific ones.  All of your connective tissues also relax, leading to the separation of your six pack.

 

Our abdominal area consists of four main muscles:

  1. Rectus Abdominis (Six-Pack)
  2. Internal and External Obliques (To the sides of your six-pack)
  3. Transverse Abdominis, which hides underneath all of the other muscles.  (Remember this one!)

 

There are a few factors that may worsen Diastasis, but one of the major factors is having a weak Core. 

 

Your Core is made up of your Transversus Abdominis, Pelvic Floor, and Multifidus, a deep muscle situated in your lower back.  Your core supports your body in positionand also holds you together. 

 

To relate this back to the mummy tummy (Diastasis), imagine wearing a pair of loose jeans without having a belt to keep them up.  Without that belt, the jeans will remain loose until you tighten up the belt.  

 

Here, the belt is your Core muscles (not your six pack!), and to get rid of the mummy tummy, you need to tighten all of these back up.

 

Be Careful When Doing Sit-Ups!

 

Unfortunately, the most common answer people have is to do lots of crunches and sit-ups, thinking that they’ll keep in shape.  What this actually does is to overwork your Rectus Abdominis during pregnancy. 

 

By doing lots of abdominal crunches, sit-ups, chest curls during this period of time will encourage the separation of your abs (at the Linea Alba), causing the gap to be bigger, longer, or deeper. 

 

Moral of the story: be careful what exercises you do during pregnancy!

Change Number 2 - Postpartum Fatigue

After giving birth, You’ll notice that you get tired more often than before. 

 

Studies have shown that fatigue is a common problem for mothers after they give birth.  With more tasks to do and more things to take care of now, your body might be trying to do too much. 

 

You might be getting insufficient sleep and nutrition, might have breastfeeding difficulties, and find getting back to normal is quite stressful. You may also notice you have less motivation during this stage. 

 

Exercise is the Key to Getting Over Fatigue

 

While doing exercises or any physical activities, our body releases chemicals called Endorphins.  These chemicals make us more energized and reduce our stress levels

 

As I mentioned earlier, not all exercises are suitable just after pregnancy.  For example, focusing only on sit ups can make the Mummy Tummy worse. That’s definitely not what we want!  You may also want to be careful doing too many stretching-style classes, as your body has already become quite slack and ‘relaxed’ during pregnancy.

 

Low-impact, balanced, strength workouts are a great choice.  Pilates is one of the best options during this time.

Change Number 3 - Incontinence

This may not be as common (luckily!), but you may notice some urine leakage when you’re doing big movements, such as coughing or laughing. You might also notice that you have less control over your urge to go to the toilet. When you feel the urge, you have to go immediately. It’s also quite common to need to go to the toilet more frequently. 

 

This is due to the Pelvic Floor getting weaker as the body prepares to give birth. 

 

After delivery, a good recovery is important to prevent incontinence. This means that we need to rebuild our Pelvic Floor strength.  These muscles not only act as a support to hold our urine in, but they also keep our organs in place, and play an important role in sexual function.

 

Re-training the Pelvic Floor muscles is one of the more difficult tasks.  After giving birth, it’s hard to feel them properly, and often quite hard to control their motion.  Seeing an exercise specialist will really help with this specific problem.

Change Number 4 - New Pains and Aches

As you’ll remember, during pregnancy our bodies pump themselves full of muscle relaxant hormones to make giving birth easier.  This means that after pregnancy, our muscles are not the same as before. We’ve also been carrying a 3-4kg weight in front of our bodies for months!

 

Developing aches in the lower back, upper back, neck, and wrists is a very common postpartum problem. 

 

In particular, your posture will be slightly different than before, which will be putting new strains on your spine and neck muscles.  It’s quite common that some muscles will be tighter on one side, and weaker on another side. 

 

While many women just accept this part of the process, when these pains and aches appear, it’s always a good idea to get them checked as soon as possible. This is because our muscles are highly adaptable, and will not always grow back into the optimal position and length without help.  It may be something simple that you can actually work on and solve quickly.  

How can Clinical Pilates Help Get Back into Shape After Giving Birth?

Clinical Pilates is very effective in building strength, improving body postures, enhancing body awareness, reducing body pains and injuries, as well as preventing falls.

 

Clinical Pilates is fundamentally different from fitness Pilates, as it’s run by registered professionals, such as Physiotherapists.  The exercises we do in Clinical Pilates are targeted, and clinically-proven, science-backed movements (hence the name!).

 

The first step of any Clinical Pilates programme is to get yourself properly assessed by a Physiotherapist.  They do a detailed assessment of your body, your goals, and issues, and at the same time understand where and how the problems arise. This allows us to design a programme specific to your body.

 

For instance, if you do have a Diastasis Recti, what we do after getting a proper assessment is to start getting some activation through your Transversus Abdominis

 

Our first step is to make sure you’re getting the activation correctly, and also making sure you feel what you’re supposed to feel. This allows you to start safely working on the issues, instead of working on the wrong things. 

For Further Information

If you have already given birth, We have a dedicated article discussing Diastasis Recti, and giving you some tips to start safely working on it at home.

 

It’s never too early or too late to talk to a professional about your body.  Look after yourself, and best of luck with your pregnancy!

“Body in Common is an Australian-Style Physiotherapy Studio in Bangsar, Malaysia. We provide Physiotherapy and Clinical Pilates services in our studio, as well as online Telehealth services. Feel free to get in touch and look after yourself.”

See Our Home Exercises for
Fixing the Mummy Tummy

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