Tips for life after birth
Our Pilates teacher Eleni Molida McEwan says it like it is...
When you are pregnant all your thoughts, wishes and energy focus on having your baby safely delivered to the world. It’s likely that you’ve done your research, you’ve consulted your midwife and you’ve been offered countless pearls of wisdom by well-meaning friends and family members about what life is going to look like once your little one has arrived. But frankly, no matter how much reading you do or how much you try to imagine what shape reality will take post-baby, there is always an element of surprise (often accompanied by a hint of terror) when you first return home from the hospital with your little bundle of joy.
Putting aside any challenges related to sleeping, nappy changing, breast or bottle feeding and generally trying to guess what it is your little one is screaming about, chances are it will take a while before you start feeling like yourself again. Pregnancy and labour can take their toll on your body and this is no reflection on how healthy or fit you were before. They just do. There are so many physiological and hormonal changes that take place over the course of 40 weeks that they are impossible to reverse immediately just because you’ve now given birth. It is true that a lot of women feel a ridiculous pressure to conform to this new glossy yummy mummy image, which seems to have taken over any sense of realism. Some new mums end up feeling bad about not being able to shed the extra weight or fit into their skinny jeans straight away, at a time when they should be enjoying their baby and adjusting to their new family life.
So what can you do? Firstly, be kind to yourself. The effects of pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones will be with you for months to come. If you’ve had a c-section, so will be the effects of major abdominal surgery. Add into the mix interrupted sleep, lack of time to yourself and the strain of carrying your little one around and chances are you won’t be up to much outside of your baby-and-mummy routine. If you do have some time to yourself, always have a nap! If, after your nap, you still have some time to spare, you can try some of the following:
- Prepare yourself a nutritious meal. Choose something you love and make a point of having it at the table rather than on your lap or (most of us have done this) over your baby who is asleep on your lap (if nothing else you invariably end up dropping food on them).
- Have a nice, relaxing bath. Try to unwind and give your aching muscles a break.
- Watch a movie or read a book that makes you laugh. Give your mind a break and just enjoy a good story.
- Do some gentle exercise – preferably Pilates! This will help you start to gain your strength back, clear your mind and overcome any lingering effects of the pregnancy and delivery.
Pilates is a great, safe but effective way of strengthening your pelvic floor (which – let’s face it – has been through a lot!), engaging and toning your abdominal muscles and helping you prevent back pain. Even if you used to do Pilates before you had your baby, you may still find it difficult to recruit your core muscles straight away, especially if you’ve had an episiotomy/tearing or a c-section. But don’t let that put you off. Even the most body-aware new mums can find their core strength and balance affected – in fact, it even happens to Pilates teachers! Just remember that if you persevere with your exercises you will soon start feeling the benefits. If you are new to Pilates and wouldn’t count body awareness as one of your superpowers, don’t despair. Find a qualified teacher who will be able to explain to you how to work in order to get the desired results. And remember to always seek medical help if you feel like something is wrong because your instincts are usually right.
So to sum up: have a nap, a bath and a laugh, do some Pilates and, most of all, enjoy your time with your baby. It’s precious.
Eleni is a Body Control Pilates certified Matwork teacher, qualified in Antenatal and Postnatal Pilates and a Registered Exercise Professional, Level 3. She teaches twice a week at Honor Oak Wellness Rooms:
SATURDAYS | 10.00 - 11.00 | BODY CONTROL PILATES
WEDNESDAYS | 09.30 - 10.30 | PILATES FOR PARENTS
PILATES FOR PARENTS is a class designed using the Body Control Pilates method specifically for mums with young babies and children. We will particularly focus on upper body work and lengthening and extension exercises. Strengthen your core, improve your posture and help your back, neck and shoulders counter the effects of carrying your little ones around. This is a chance for you to focus on your body, reconnect your breath to movement and get stronger and leaner in the process.
Suitable for new mums who have had their postnatal checkup and have been cleared to exercise.
£12 for a single class or 6 classes for £60