“What can I do the first 2 weeks postpartum?”
If you missed parts 1-3 of the series, make sure you check them out first to lay the best foundation for the following early postpartum exercises. Today’s post is the last in the First 2 Weeks Postpartum Series.
You’ve made it through the first week. That first week was a doozy, huh? Wondering when it will get easier? Yeah, me too… 3 years later 🙂 Just kidding, it’s a little easier, but not much.
The second week postpartum… you may still be sore from birth, if you had a Cesarean section you have more precautions concerning your incision and keeping it clean, you are still bleeding from the dinner plate sized wound left in your uterus by the placenta, your uterus is still pretty large and certainly has not returned to it’s normal size, your milk has likely come in by now, and the sleep deprivation has set in. Just to name a few… Isn’t motherhood glamorous?
Those first 2 weeks postpartum, and the months after, can really throw many new moms. Many women feel they weren’t adequately prepared and had no idea what they were getting into. Even if you knew it was going to be hard, you didn’t know just how hard it would be.
And maybe you were fully prepared and are completely unfazed – bless your heart.
But for most of us, we are just doing the best we can, everyday.
If you are concerned that you aren’t coping well, please make sure you check out Postpartum Support International to find the guidance you need. It’s never too early, nor too late, to seek help. You’re still a good mom.
Enough intro, let’s get to the exercises!
It’s week 2 of the marathon, not the sprint. Please listen to your body and how it responds to these exercises. Don’t push too far into a stretch because that’s what you could do before – that’s where mindfulness comes in. Each day will be different and ideally you see progress week by week, not necessarily day by day.
There will be a time for pushing your fitness limits, but right now is not that time. Take it slow.
For Cesarean Section Moms
Follow your physician’s or care provider’s instructions above anything you read on the internet! Do not do anything that puts too much pressure, stretch, or strain on your incision. Any increased pain, redness, swelling, warmth, bleeding, discoloration to your incision requires a check in with your physician and is an indication to discontinue the exercises until your incision has healed.
Please stop the exercises if you notice increased bleeding (vaginal or from your Cesarean incision), pelvic pain or pressure, pain in any body part, light headedness/dizziness, or any other symptoms you find concerning.
These activities are performed at your own risk. The following information is general in nature and for educational purposes only. This does not constitute a physical therapist/patient relationship.
This is likely one of the most versatile exercises you can do during those first 2 weeks postpartum. Pelvic tilts can be done in any position – laying down, sitting, or standing.
You are simply rocking your pelvis forward and backward. It’s a simple movement, but can feel foreign after you’ve given birth. So much of the end of your pregnancy was likely spent in an anterior/forward pelvic tilt since the weight of the baby, uterus, and fluid was puling your hips forward.
The best way to get the hang of pelvic tilts is by starting on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground (this is called the hook lying position).
Flatten your low back into the ground and then arch your low back away from the ground.
Many women will use their glute muscles to help with flattening the low back into the ground – be mindful of this and try to focus on your abdominal muscles to move your pelvis. Imagine bringing the front of your pelvis towards your ribs.
You may find it helpful to put a small pillow or folded hand towel beneath your low back so you have something to push into.
Make sure you also tune into your head, neck, and chest. Often times, in an effort to get the movement in your low back you will start to move your head, neck, and chest forward to help out. If you cannot keep your upper body still, add a pillow or folded towel under your head to begin, then slowly decrease the heigh of the towel until you can take it away completely.
For an added challenge, you can straighten your legs out in front of you – you’ll now be working against your hip flexors/muscles in the front of your hips which may be tight.
Progress the Exercise
Try pelvic tilts in sitting or standing as well. You can also add in pelvic tilts laying on your belly once that feels comfortable for you – this sounds easy but it is consistently the most difficult position for my clients (and myself!) to perform pelvic tilts.
Last, try pelvic tilts on all fours. This is similar to the cat/cow stretch but I want you to focus on your pelvis moving instead of your upper back, neck, and shoulders. The movement will be much smaller than a typical cat/cow stretch. You can use an elastic band to push into for an added challenge!
Right after the pelvic tilts in all fours, you can go right into a cat/cow stretch.
Make your movement much larger stretching throughout your upper and low back, into your neck and shoulders.
Then, dropping your hips forward stretching into your belly, chest, and front of the neck.
If you had a Cesarean section, you must be very careful stretching the front of your belly as this will put a considerable amount of pressure and tension on your incision. You may only be able to come to neutral or flat back position and avoid the cow part of the stretch all together.
From the cat/cow stretch, you can drop your hips back towards your feet while reaching you hands in front of you for a prayer stretch. Keep your knees closer together if you had any perineal trauma or tears during birth.
Think about making your body as long as you can from your tail bone to your arms and then rest in this position. Practice your deep breathing, focusing on completely relaxing your pelvic floor. Imagine your breath moving into your pelvis.
After performing the prayer stretch, you can roll onto your side for a pec/chest stretch.
The common pregnancy and postpartum posture is with the shoulders rounded forward. For that reason, you may feel a chest stretch simply by lying flat on your back and letting your shoulders rest to the ground. You can increase the stretch by laying on a rolled up towel positioned along your spine.
However, many moms will appreciate a larger stretch for the chest.
Laying on your side, you may need a pillow under your head for comfort, reach both your arms out in front of you like a large gator mouth.
Then, open the gator mouth by raising your top arm up and over your body.
Keeping your hips facing forward, allow your chest and head to rotate the opposite direction. Imagine reaching your shoulder towards the ground but make sure your hips do not move.
This stretch may put too much tension on a Cesarean section incision. If you start to feel pulling or pain in your incision, bring your arm in like a chicken wing, decrease the range of your stretch, or do this stretch up against a wall to make sure you do not rotate through your belly.
Side Bend Stretch
After the pec stretch, you can come to a seated or standing position for the sideband stretch. This is a particularly nice stretch for your ribs as they start to return back to their normal position.
In sitting, place one hand by your hips for support and reach the other arm overhead. Lean into your support arm as you stretch into your side body. Take a few deep breathes in this position. You can slide you hand out farther from your hip for a deeper stretch.
In standing, reach one arm over your head and start to lean over to the opposite side stretching into your side body. You can use your countertop or kitchen table for support. Cross on leg in front of the other to deepen this stretch. Take a few deep breaths before switching to the other side.
Child’s Pose/Downward Dog on the Table
Standing in front of a table or counter top that is about waist high, reach your hands forward to rest on the surface. Take a few steps back until you are bending forward at about a 90 degree angle. Bend your knees slightly and push your chest and head forward between your upper arms.
You will feel this stretch into your upper back, pec muscles, and arms/forearms. You may also feel the stretch into your glutes and hamstrings if you’re tight like me!
Clear as Mud?
Hold each of the stretches above for a few deep breaths and just do as much as you feel comfortable doing. Commit to about 5-10 minutes of stretching and mindful movement on Day 8 and see how you feel the following day. Progress your stretches as you feel comfortable and as long as you don’t have any increased pain, bleeding, or added tension to any incisions that are healing (e.g. Cesarean section or perineal tear).
That rounds out the first 2 weeks postpartum!
Where Do I Go From Here?
You can continue the exercises above and the exercises from the entire series well past the first 2 weeks postpartum. Once you are cleared by your physician to do more, you can start to progress these exercises with the guidance from a pelvic floor physical therapist or appropriately trained fitness professional. Wondering where to find one? Check out the Pelvic Guru Directory to find someone local to you!
Pelvic Floor PT – Your Postpartum Support
Although majority of women will not see their physician or care provider until the 6 week check up, I highly encourage you to seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist before then! The physical therapist will not perform any internal work until your care provider clears you for this, but there is so much education and instruction that can occur before then. Your baby will get many doctor’s visits over the next year for check ups, well baby visits, shots, etc. You normally get the one 6 week check up, and that’s it. If you want more physical guidance and support during your postpartum time, then a pelvic floor physical therapist is the care provider for you! Even if you feel like you are good to go, do yourself a favor a see one to get the “all clear” – you might be surprised what you discover!
Alright, that’s it for this week. Make sure you sign up for the Free Resource Library to download a PDF with all of the exercises you can do during the first 2 weeks postpartum, organized in one an easy to follow document! Next week, we’ll be diving into another topic of interest to many women! Stay tuned!