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Fitness Postpartum: Interview With Elissa

Last year we interviewed Studio B Co-Owner Elissa when she was in her third trimester of pregnancy. Well she is now 9 months postpartum, having given birth to her beautiful baby girl Camryn last June! We recently chatted with her about motherhood, pre and postnatal fitness limitations, exercising postpartum and more.

First of all, how is motherhood and how is Camryn doing?

I honestly wasn’t sure if I would enjoy staying at home with a baby, but I love it. I love spending hours playing on the floor and being her jungle gym. Camryn is a very happy and active girl! She does not stop moving around! Now that she's mobile I have to stay active so I can keep up with her. 

What was your birth like?

I ended up having an emergency C-section. I went to the hospital late at night after experiencing some complications and my doctor thought it best for her safety to get her out right away. The whole experience was really fast. After 3 hours of being admitted into the hospital I was holding my baby girl.

You experienced diastatis recti during your pregnancy. First of all, what is diastatis recti and why does it happen?

Diastasis recti is very common during pregnancy. It's the separation of your abdominal muscles. Pregnancy puts so much pressure on the belly from the growing uterus that the abdominal muscles can’t keep their shape and the muscles start to stretch apart. You may notice a slight bulge or doming in the center when your abdominals are supporting you in certain positions.

How did diastatis recti affect the way you exercised before birth? Did you have any other complications during your pregnancy that maybe limited how you approached certain exercises?

Once I noticed I had developed diastasis recti I started to modify some of my core exercises to make sure I wasn’t creating more pressure which could lead to worsening of the gap. I avoided exercises that made the bulge or doming noticeable. Crunches were avoided and I modified my planks. When I was lifting heavier objects at home I would try and be aware and support my core. I had no other compilations during my pregnancy that effected my workouts. Other than my boobs getting extra large which made bouncing uncomfortable ;)

How many weeks postpartum were you when you exercised for the first time after giving birth?

I did a lot of walking the weeks after I gave birth but my first fitness class back was a barre class around 7 or 8 weeks. I went to a 45 minute noon class thinking it would be easier than a full hour class. It kicked my butt! It was a very humbling experience. I had to take a few exercises a little slower and do some modifications but I made it through! It felt both great and awful (because I was out of shape and recovering from surgery) to be back!

How are your abdominal muscles now?

My core is still extremely weak even 9 months postpartum. I’m slowly working on my strength and closing the gap between my abdominals.

What should one do if they experience separation of the abdominal muscles?

My first recommendation to anyone who has had a baby is see a physiotherapist that specializes in the pelvic floor! Whether you've had a vaginal birth or C-section, go see a physiotherapist. They can offer tons of great ideas, suggestions and exercises catered to your own needs. If you do experience diastasis recti you want to continue to avoid any exercises that put extra pressure on your rectus abdominis. Curling or crunching can cause the belly to dome or bulge. Planks may also need to be modified, for the time being, until you build more strength and the abdominals don’t bulge. Choose exercises that focus on engaging the transverse abdominals. You need to strengthen the deeper core muscles for optimal function and stability. Heel slides and alternating knee lifts (eventually dead bugs) on my back are still my go-to exercises. Bird dog on all fours is also great. 

What are the “rules” for pregnant women, regarding fitness safety for them and their baby?

Talk with your doctor! Everybody’s pregnancy is different so talk with your health professional about what you can and should not do. From my own personal experience and research (but I’m no doctor) the one rule I follow is to do what what feels okay for you. Personally after my second trimester I didn’t do any high impact cardio. I was carrying tons of extra weight and blood volume and I didn’t want to put the extra pressure on my pelvic floor. I was able to get my heart rate just as high while keeping it low impact. But right up until 39 weeks I felt comfortable laying on my back while exercising. But you may not! I didn't feel nauseous or lightheaded on my back. For short periods of time it is safe to lay on your back if you and baby feel okay. Many mamas-to-be accidentally wake up in the night on their back before they roll back into their side. But if you feel any discomfort on your back than I wouldn’t recommend it.

What is your advice to other women looking to get back into barre and SOAR classes after having given birth?

Take it slow! You just had a baby! Do what feels right for your body that day. You are exhausted from baby keeping you up at night so some days may even feel harder than others. Don’t be afraid to modify the exercises or take breaks. I think we sometimes feel “weak” or “judged” when we do modifications but you need to know your limitations and listen to your body! It can take many months to get “back to where you were” before baby. So be patient.

Will you be teaching more barre classes in the near future?

I’m hoping to start teaching some more classes soon. Watch for me on the schedule subbing classes. 

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