Yep. That's right. There is a 4th trimester. The fourth trimester is 12 weeks after the birth of your little one.
In this blog, I will share my experience of the 4th trimester and some tips for returning to exercise. This 12 weeks includes sleepless nights, lazy days and a gradual return to exercise. Remember, everyone recovers differently and babies are all different too. So my experience may not reflect your own.
Ida was born with forceps, which meant stitches. Luckily these healed pretty quickly, however, there were things that felt like a marathon. On day 3 we went for a walk for about 500m and my chest hurt and my stitches were causing some discomfort. I couldn't have done any longer than 500m that day.
With short walks daily, I managed to get up to 30-45 minute walk. Though I was still cautious of my stitches and walked VERY slowly. Don't push through any discomfort. Go walking with someone else, so if they have to go back and get the car they can!
It goes without saying, my pelvic floor was not in good shape. Since having Ida I have done my PF exercises everyday. I found it was helpful to do my exercises when I fed her. Another option is to do them every time you brush your teeth, run a bath, or boil the kettle (though people should be making you tea in those early days!)
Tips for moving in those first few days and weeks
- Breathe. Try to send the breath into your ribs, rather than boobs or tummy. This is actually pretty tough! It will help to find the core synergy again. You may find it easier to start doing this lying down.
- Don't stress about your return to exercise. Somedays you might want to walk, others you might not. Enjoy the newborn cuddles on the sofa if that's what makes you feel good that day.
- Do your pelvic floor exercises everyday (tips on this coming up)
- Roll on your side to get up to avoid coning your abs.
- You can start some very gentle core work such as pelvic tilts. (DO NOT do sit ups or planks!)
- See a women's health physio to get properly assessed internally. The Dr 6 week check isn't too in depth. However, if you feel something isn't right, make sure you push for answers as you can get womens health visits on the NHS if needed.
Tips on Pelvic Floor
- Aim to do your PF exercises 3/4 times a day.
- Breathe out as you lift the pelvic floor. Alternate between some long holds and some short ones. Don't hold your breath.
- You might not feel ANY connection at first, and if you had stitches then just allow them to heal for a few days before trying. When you do try you might not even know if you are doing them, but keep trying. Over time they will get stronger, but not doing the exercises isn't going to help.
- If you wet yourself in those early days, don't panic. Don't imagine a life of incontinence, just keep up with your PF exercises and you will get there. If after a few months you are still having issues, then see a specialist.
Left picture day 1 PP. Right 7 days PP.
I was so excited to get back into the gym. Not to "lose my baby belly", but to do something for me. I was basically a milk machine in those first weeks. When Ida was 6 weeks old I went to the gym for an hour (first hour away from her!). Though much of that time was spent catching up with people! I did a very light workout and focused on upper back exercises as this is a part that gets very weak due to posture changes feeding babies. (ALL NIGHT in some cases!!)
At 6 weeks I also took up postnatal yoga with Phillipa Stevens, which if you are in the area of Thame, I highly recommend. It was a great way to connect to the core, PF and think about posture.
At around 8 weeks pp I did Lucy's spin class at Fitlife. Prior to that I had been on my spin bike at home but no longer than 20 minutes. During my pregnancy I was spinning right up to the end, so I wouldn't suggest a new mum who hasn't exercised before starts a fitness journey with spinning.
As I write this we are going through the Corona Virus pandemic, so much of my exercise now is done at home. I cycle indoors once or twice a week, a few weight sessions and yoga. Every night I do my physio exercises with the mini band, foam roll and still do my PF exercises daily. For me, exercise is something I feel I need to do and I really put it at the top of my priorities (after the baby of course!) It is really okay if you haven't found space in your routine for it yet. If you want to start exercising but don't know where to start, I can write you an online plan and be your support as you go through this final trimester!
Tips for exercise in the 4th trimester
- Don't jump right b
ack into bootcamp
- Understand that you grew a human and birthed it, your body will have changed and your fitness might not be where it was, but it will get there!
- Focus on form over speed
- Put your gym stuff on in the morning so you don't have to waste time changing if you get a nap window to exercise in
- Avoid jumping and exercises which work your 6 pack muscles (sit ups/planks)
- Consider waiting to run until 12 weeks pp and focus on strengthening hips and glutes
- Think about stretches to help open up the chest and exercises to make your upper back stronger
- Don't put too much pressure on yourself
- If something doesn't feel right, skip it.
- If you are breastfeeding then try to feed the baby before you exercise as this might make you feel more comfortable
If you need some advice or a plan for your exercise in the 4th trimester, drop me a message <3