Have you ever considered the miracle of pregnancy? Aside from creating a life, it’s amazing to think of the incredible changes through which the body goes over nine months of pregnancy and childbirth and that all of the parts that were stretched and mangled can return to their appropriate spot and size, with a few exceptions.
One of my “exceptions” is the bladder. Pre-kids, my job as a high school teacher evolved in me a bladder that was rugged – potty breaks were few and far between, and I had no trouble “holding it” for the majority of the school day. I was reminded of this feat last night when teaching an old-school aerobics class at the gym. I knew that I had to cut myself off from water two hours prior to class and arrive at the gym 30 minutes early to visit the potty twice to be sure that I was “empty,” or I would have never made it through 60 minutes of bounce, bounce, bounce. Thankfully, I made it. I did see, however, two ladies excuse themselves from the room during the jumping jacks combo; I’m sure they were experiencing a bout of the “mommy bladder.”
So, what to do? Doctors, books, and websites agree on this one: Kegel exercises. These exercises help to strengthen weak pelvic muscles and are great for pre- and post-partum women. Best, you can do them sitting down, nobody knows you’re doing them, and you won’t break a sweat. Try Kegels three times a day and notice a difference when you sneeze, cough, or bounce. Find detailed instructions here: http://pregnancy.about.com/cs/fitnesspregnancy/l/blpcexercise.htm
Another exception is the abdominals. Although most women lose 18-20 pounds during the first month following delivery, the “mommy pooch” can stick around for months, even years. One reason is diastasis, or the separation of the abdominal wall into a left and a right side, most common in women who have had more than one pregnancy, due to the growing uterus. It’s a common misconception that crunches aren’t effective for diastasis. I think the real issue is that crunches are so commonly done incorrectly in that the lower back is allowed to arch up during the exercise rather than keeping the lower back firmly pressed into the ground/mat. When the back arches up, the abs bulge out rather than staying tucked in tight, and the diastisis isn’t improved. You can find videos on YouTube that show how to quickly check to see if you have diastasis. Several remedies: I have seen ladies wear tightening belts or bands. I can’t vouch for these, but some ladies swear by them. Diastasis can be corrected during the tummy tuck procedure, but before going to such drastic measures, try strengthening the area without doing crunches, by doing plank exercises and pelvic tilts. (And, when done safely, planks can be used much further into pregnancy than traditional crunches.) If all is well, soon you’ll be able to resume a more traditional abdominal workout.
So, whether you’re pre-partum or post-partum, re-ruggify your bladder with Kegels and add a few planks to your routine, and sneeze, cough, and bounce with total confidence!