Strong After Baby? Debunking Post-Pregnancy Fitness Myths

Motherhood is a beautiful and transformative experience, but it also brings many physical changes. As a new or expecting mom, you might wonder if you’ll be able to regain your strength and fitness after giving birth and look for the answers. Unfortunately, the post-pregnancy period is full of myths and misconceptions about getting back in shape, leading to confusion and frustration. It’s time to debunk these post-pregnancy myths and shed light on the truth about how to get strong after a baby with a safe and effective approach.

Myth 1: You can’t get as strong as before pregnancy.

Fact: 

This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. While pregnancy and childbirth are very challenging events for your body, there is no evidence to suggest that you can’t regain your pre-pregnancy strength or even become stronger. The female body is resilient and capable of remarkable things. Furthermore, let’s not forget that everyone’s fitness levels are very different in pre-pregnancy. A person who had no regular exercise before pregnancy could get stronger even during pregnancy if they start with a regular training routine. An elite athlete could beat their strength personal records after having their baby and finishing an appropriate post-pregnancy recovery to enable a safe comeback into the sport.

With the right approach in your postpartum period, you can absolutely become at least as strong as you were before pregnancy, if not stronger.

It’s important to remember that every woman’s journey is unique, and progress may vary. Be patient with yourself and set realistic goals. Consistency, proper training, and a well-balanced diet will play pivotal roles in achieving your desired level of strength.

Myth 2: Do planks and some core exercises, and you’ll be fine.

Fact: 

While core exercises are essential for post-pregnancy recovery, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t suffice. Pregnancy and childbirth can lead to diastasis recti (the separation of abdominal muscles) and weaken not only the pelvic floor muscles but the entire core. Simply doing planks and traditional core exercises is not enough to address these issues comprehensively.

Post-pregnancy recovery requires a more complex approach. Focus on strengthening your entire core, including the deep abdominal muscles, back muscles, and most importantly, the pelvic floor muscles. Incorporate exercises specifically designed for postpartum rehab, which go beyond pelvic tilts, transverse abdominal exercises, and kegel exercises. In fact, every exercise you do can be a core exercise. Consult a postpartum fitness expert or physical therapist who can provide you with personalized guidance and ensure you are performing the right exercises for your body’s needs.

Myth 3: It’s normal to pee yourself during a workout.

Fact: 

Experiencing urinary incontinence (peeing yourself) during or after a workout is common among postpartum women, but it is not normal. 

A systematic review* published in 2021, where over 35000 women were observed, showed that about a third of these women (31%) had urinary incontinence at three months postpartum and about the same amount (32%) at one year postpartum. 

This condition might result from weakened pelvic floor muscles, which can occur during pregnancy and childbirth, but it can also have other causes. Ignoring this issue or considering it a normal part of motherhood can lead to further complications.

The good news is that urinary incontinence can be improved and even resolved with proper postpartum recovery and pelvic floor exercises. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises, such as Kegels, can significantly improve pelvic floor function and reduce or eliminate urinary incontinence if you have a weak pelvic floor. However, if you have a tight pelvic floor, strengthening the core and learning to relax the pelvic floor would be a better strategy for you. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a healthcare professional or pelvic health specialist if you’re experiencing this issue.

Myth 4: Postpartum recovery is all about losing weight.

Fact: 

While weight loss may be a goal for some postpartum women, focusing solely on shedding pounds can be counterproductive to your overall well-being. The post-pregnancy period is a time of healing and reestablishing strength, and nutrition plays a crucial role in this process.

Instead of fixating on the number on the scale, prioritize nourishing your body with wholesome foods that support healing and provide energy. Emphasize nutrient-dense foods, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Combine a balanced diet with appropriate exercise to achieve a healthy and sustainable post-pregnancy fitness journey.

Essentially, what many people want is to simply feel great and confident in their bodies. Weight loss is not always the answer to this question.

Myth 5: You have to bounce back quickly after giving birth.

Fact: 

A huge pressure is put on new moms to bounce back quickly after giving birth. Simply go to any social media, and you will see models and fitness trainers with visible abs just a few weeks after birth and pretending it’s not a big deal. Sure, you can achieve it too if you wish so, but it’s essential to remember that every woman’s postpartum journey is different. Some may regain their strength and fitness relatively quickly, while others may need more time.

Take Annie Thorisdottir, for example. You would think that the two-time fittest woman on earth bounced back immediately, right? Yet it took months to fully recover postpartum, and she openly shared this challenging journey.

Remember, everyone is unique. Focus on yourself and what you can do better for your body and fitness goals.

Myth 6: You must avoid all forms of exercise during the postpartum period.

Fact: 

This myth can lead to unnecessary fear and inactivity. While it’s crucial to prioritize postpartum recovery and follow your doctor’s guidance, avoiding all exercise is unnecessary and can bring more negative consequences. In fact, light and low-impact exercises, like gentle walks or yoga, can promote blood circulation, reduce swelling, and support mental well-being. Gradually incorporating safe and appropriate exercises can aid in regaining strength and energy levels, but always consult your healthcare provider before starting any postpartum exercise routine.

Let’s also not forget that everyone’s fitness levels were different before and during the pregnancy. While the basic recovery is the same for everyone, how fast the progress goes and how challenging the exercises get will depend on your fitness level.

Myth 7: Caring for your baby is enough of a workout.

Fact: 

Caring for a baby is indeed physically demanding, but it should not replace a structured exercise routine. While lifting, carrying, and caring for your little one can engage various muscle groups, it may not be enough to target all areas of your body that require post-pregnancy recovery and strengthening. It also doesn’t address core and pelvic floor muscle strength which is essential for post-pregnancy recovery. When you regain strength in these areas, your daily mom life will also be much easier!

Additionally, dedicated exercise time allows you to focus on your overall well-being and mental health, which is essential for being the best version of yourself for your baby.

Myth 8: You should focus solely on cardio for post-pregnancy weight loss.

Fact: 

Cardiovascular exercise can help burn extra calories to support weight loss, but it should not be the sole focus of your post-pregnancy fitness routine. Incorporating strength training exercises is equally important, as it helps build lean muscle mass and boosts metabolism. Additionally, strength training supports your core and pelvic floor muscles, which are crucial for postpartum recovery. A well-rounded fitness routine that includes both cardio and strength training will generate better results and support your overall health and fitness goals.

Instead of focusing on how to burn these extra calories, focus on quality time with your baby, regular walks, self-care, and well-balanced nutrition.

In conclusion, avoid comparing yourself to unrealistic standards or societal expectations. Listen to your body and honor its needs. Allow yourself to progress at your own pace and celebrate every milestone, no matter how small. Embrace the journey of post-pregnancy recovery with patience, self-compassion, and the knowledge that you are making progress toward becoming a stronger and healthier you.

You can absolutely regain your strength after pregnancy, but it requires a comprehensive approach that includes proper core training and pelvic floor exercises. Addressing issues like urinary incontinence and nourishing your body with a balanced diet are equally important. Remember, post-pregnancy fitness is not a race, and your progress is unique to you. Be kind to yourself, seek professional guidance if needed, and celebrate your body’s amazing strength on this beautiful motherhood journey.

* References: Moossdorff-Steinhauser, H. F. A., Berghmans, B. C. M., Spaanderman, M. E. A., & Bols, E. M. J. (2021). Prevalence, incidence and bothersomeness of urinary incontinence between 6 weeks and 1 year post-partum: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International urogynecology journal, 32(7), 1675–1693. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-021-04877-w

Elena Biedert

Elena Biedert is an award-winning and globally recognized pre- and postnatal coach, internationally published author and model. Driven by her son’s traumatic birth with an unexpected c-section that almost took her life, Elena founded "Mama Fitness Coaching“ to support other mothers. With a holistic approach, Elena focuses on helping new mothers recover and reach their fitness goals post-pregnancy so that they can feel confident and strong without sacrificing important time with their loved ones.

June 7, 2024

Elena Biedert

Elena Biedert is an award-winning and globally recognized pre- and postnatal coach, internationally published author and model. Driven by her son’s traumatic birth with an unexpected c-section that almost took her life, Elena founded "Mama Fitness Coaching“ to support other mothers. With a holistic approach, Elena focuses on helping new mothers recover and reach their fitness goals post-pregnancy so that they can feel confident and strong without sacrificing important time with their loved ones.

June 7, 2024

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