The Essential Postpartum Core Exercise
The Core Breath is the most important exercise to use postpartum to initiate the process of early core rehab.
Many changes occur in your body throughout pregnancy. These changes can include strain to your abdominal muscles, connective tissues, and pelvic floor. As well, the timing and coordination of your deep core four can be impacted. Your deep core four consists of your respiratory diaphragm, your transverse abdominis (your deepest abdominal wall muscle), multifidus muscles (spinal stabilizers) and your pelvic floor. When these structures are working optimally in synergy with your breath, they maintain core and pelvic function. When synergy is negatively affected incontinence and pelvic pain can occur.
The birthing process can stretch and sometimes tear your pelvic floor muscles causing nerve damage, weakness and guarding of your pelvic floor and surrounding musculature. Great benefit lies in reestablishing the synergy of your deep core four before moving on to other exercises. The core breath is a foundational exercise which allows all other movement and exercises to be safely executed in the postpartum period. It can be performed 24 hours postpartum from the comfort of your own bed (bonus!).
The core breath initiates the process of healing your deep core four by:
Reestablishing the synergy of your deep core four
Encouraging blood flow to your pelvic floor
Encouraging healing of any birth related nerve damage
Strengthening mind body connections and reducing stress.
How does your pelvic floor work with your natural breath cycle?
When you inhale, your respiratory diaphragm moves downwards. This action gently pushes your pelvic organs into your pelvic floor.
Your pelvic floor responds by descending and lengthening. This is an eccentric (lengthening) contraction.
When your pelvic floor is eccentrically contracting it is gathering energy and force.
On your exhale, your diaphragm moves back upwards and your pelvic organs move upwards.
Your pelvic floor responds by recoiling back upwards with enough force to close your sphincters. This is a concentric (shortening) contraction.
A good analogy is to imagine a trampoline. When we push down into the trampoline, we are gathering energy and force which recoils us upwards. This upwards motion closes our sphincters which is especially important when we are running, jumping, coughing, sneezing and laughing.
How to perform the core breath:
Find a comfortable position either sitting up or lying down.
Stack your ribcage over your pelvis.
Inhale through your nose sending your breath into all aspects of your lower ribcage, feeling a slight swell to your abdomen and perineum.
Exhale through pursed lips, feeling your abdomen draw towards your spine and your perineum lift upwards.
Stay here until you've mastered connecting to your pelvic floor with your breath.
When ready, you can add a pelvic floor contraction on your exhale by drawing your pelvic floor in and up. It can be helpful to imagine lifting a blueberry into your vagina or pretend your holding back gas.
As you travel through the breath cycle, it’s important to fully allow your abdomen and pelvic floor to release on your inhale.
Start with 1-2 minutes per day, slowly building up to 5 min 2x/day.