Pregnancy can put a lot of strain on the body, especially the musculoskeletal system, as the belly expands, the abdominals stretch, and back muscles shorten. The diaphragm also changes to accommodate the growing belly, which influences how a pregnant person breathes. Many of the changes from pregnancy affect the body’s “core,” which refers to your diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles, and other mid-section stabilizing muscles. It is important during postpartum to focus on core stability to help the body regain strength and function. Birth givers can begin gradually exercising their core as soon as they feel ready. However, remember you may need more time than they think to heal from childbirth. Start back slowly – exercise should leave them feeling invigorated—not run down.
How a Partner or Father Can Help
Postpartum can be challenging in many ways, and having a supportive partner makes a huge difference! You can support your partner by:
- Motivating your partner to slowly begin light exercises when she feels ready to do so
- Empowering your partner’s body
- Helping your partner with the different exercises that strengthen her core
- Exercising alongside your partner so she doesn’t feel alone
- Encouraging moving abdominal muscles even outside of exercises
- Making sure your partner doesn’t overexert herself
- Offering to take care of the baby while your partner takes some time aside to exercise
- Providing emotional support and encouragement
Types of Core Strengthening Exercises
Taking care of your core postpartum doesn’t look exactly like traditional ab workouts. One of the best things you can do is work on “diaphragmatic breaths.” This means breathing so air fills your whole chest (front, back, and sides) on the inhale, and you contract your deepest layer of abs on the exhale. Not only is this a great exercise, but it also is an important breathing technique to use as you progress to more intense workouts. In general, you should also avoid crunches in the early postpartum period.
Other exercises you can do to engage the core include:
- Brisk walking
- Aqua aerobics
Postpartum exercise can help birth givers regain strength and be physically and mentally empowering. Having a loving and supportive partner can help empower them even more!
Writer: Carly Goodroe
Reviewer: Sheila LaFortune