The Unexpected Truth About Postpartum Fitness

About The Author

"I believes that mothers deserve to feel strong, capable, and at home in their bodies. "
Tatum Gonzales PCES
Certified Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist

Helping women feel and function their best is what sets my heart on fire. I have been Personal Training since I obtained my certification from the National Council on Strength and Fitness in 2015. Over the past several years of working with a variety of clients, I have discovered a particular love for women’s fitness.

Women can walk through such unique, beautiful, and demanding seasons in their lifetime. From pre-pregnancy, to prenatal, and every stage of postpartum- women everywhere are constantly learning, changing, and evolving with each new season and its respective challenges.

As a certified Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, my heart is to partner with women throughout each unique season of life and help them cultivate the strength and functionality they need in order to thrive. From breathing basics, to posture, to building the strength needed for motherhood- I love helping women discover what they are capable of.

When I’m not working with clients or doing computer work, you can find me playing with my daughter, visiting coffee shops throughout the DFW metroplex, daydreaming about hiking trips with my husband, or baking something sweet in the kitchen.

The Unexpected Truth About Postpartum Fitness

As physical fitness has exploded in popularity over recent years, more and more mothers have been encouraged to exercise both during and after their pregnancies. While there are numerous physical and psychological benefits to prenatal and postpartum exercise, they are oftentimes, unfortunately, overshadowed by a particular pressure for moms to “snap back” to their pre-baby body.

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“Snap-Back Culture”

We used to see celebrities on magazine covers flaunting their post-baby bodies with captions like, “How [so-and-so celebrity] Got Bikini Ready After Her Baby”, receiving praise and adoration from fans and tabloids for their appearance. Now as things have evolved to the social media age, we see celebrities and fitness influencers alike showcasing how their bodies have “snapped back” after giving birth, and they too receive an outpouring of praise and positive feedback for it. So as the everyday mom scrolls through her feed, over and over again she’s met with a societal expectation about what her body “should” look like after giving birth, and how she too will receive praise for “snapping back”.

Essentially, moms everywhere are being met with the pressure to never look like they had children in the first place.

Lack of Guidance Postpartum

Not only are mothers being met with expectation  to “snap back” after their babies, but they’re usually not given much, if any, guidance in their postpartum period about how to navigate their health and fitness.

The typical experience for new mothers in the United States is largely underwhelming. Usually after a mother gives birth, she is seen by her medical provider around six weeks postpartum where she receives a brief exam and is then given permission to return to exercise. And that’s about it. Aside from a provider encouraging a mother to “start slow” as she begins exercising, newly postpartum women are not given much guidance in regards to fitness after baby.

What’s perhaps most astonishing about this postpartum norm, is that with any other major injury or surgery, a patient would likely receive rehabilitation instructions and referrals for physical therapy, so that they can heal well from the incident. Unfortunately, most mothers don’t receive that kind of aftercare and guidance postpartum. They are largely left to navigate it blindly on their own.

The Perfect Storm

The pressure for new moms to “snap back” immediately after giving birth, paired with the general lack of guidance that mothers receive postpartum, creates a perfect storm for moms to do WAY too much, WAY too soon after having their babies. It’s not uncommon for mothers to blindly go right back to their pre-pregnancy fitness regimen after being cleared to exercise at their six week postpartum appointment, thinking that they’re doing the “right thing”. They just simply don’t know any better. And how could they? They’re not necessarily in a system that sets them up for success.

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The Unexpected Truth About Postpartum Fitness

Many mothers simply aren’t educated about the needs of their postpartum bodies. So much happens to a woman’s body during pregnancy and birth, and many mothers might be shocked to find out that those changes don’t magically fix themselves by the standard six week postpartum appointment.

During pregnancy a mother experiences changes to the curvature of her spine, changes to her overall posture, displacement of her internal organs, widening of her ribcage, thinning and stretching of her abdominal muscles, changes to the way she breathes, changes to her ligaments, increased pressure on her pelvic floor, and so much more. These changes alone have quite a heavy impact on a mother’s body, let alone the ways that her labor and birth might affect her body too. While a degree of healing and restoration from these changes can happen in those first several weeks after giving birth, a mother’s body still needs some serious TLC postpartum.

The unexpected truth about postpartum fitness is that it should begin at the very bare basics. Way more basic than the social media pressures portray. Way more basic than most mothers are aware of after leaving their six week postpartum appointment. It should begin by rehabilitating all of the systems in a mother’s body that were heavily impacted during pregnancy.

A new mom needs rehabilitation of her core and pelvic floor. Rehabilitation of her compromised posture. Even rehabilitation of her breathing mechanics. And not just the mothers that had physically challenging pregnancies and births- every single mother should begin her postpartum fitness endeavors with the bare basics. Breathing. Posture. Her core and pelvic floor system. Function should be restored at the most foundational level in these areas before progressing into traditional recreational exercise.

Bypassing the Basics

Breathing, posture, and core and pelvic floor engagement affect just about everything that our body does physiologically- which is what makes it such a crucial starting point in postpartum recovery. If a mother bypasses these basics, then she’s more likely to experience dysfunction in her fitness endeavors and everyday life. Common symptoms of postpartum dysfunction include urinary leaking (typically with exercise, coughing, laughing, or sneezing), urinary urgency, back pain, hip pain, neck and shoulder tightness, pain with intercourse, and feelings of vaginal pressure or bulging. These common symptoms of dysfunction can seriously affect a mother’s quality of life, and they can also leave her more susceptible to injury in her fitness endeavors. Many moms would be surprised to know that while these symptoms may be common, they are NOT physiologically normal, and they don’t have to be the reality of every mother’s life after having children. These symptoms can largely be avoided if the proper measures are taken postpartum!

It’s important to note that many mothers also rush back into intense exercise, unknowingly bypassing the foundational basics, for psychological reasons. While intense exercise can provide psychological benefits like stress relief, endorphin release, etc- there can still be physical risks/consequences from doing too much too soon. Ultimately, starting with the foundational postpartum basics will set a mother up for a much better experience once she appropriately progresses to intense exercise.

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Flipping the Script

Postpartum fitness pursuits do not have to be rooted in a mother’s physical appearance, rather they can be about her overall function, quality of life, and capabilities in the everyday demands of motherhood, as well as her fitness endeavors. Rather than being motivated by a desire to “snap back” postpartum (which is entirely unrealistic in and of itself, but that’s a topic for another discussion), imagine if mothers everywhere engaged in postpartum fitness appropriately, simply for the sake of living and functioning well in their bodies.

Proper Postpartum Fitness Roadmap

One of the most important things a newly postpartum mother can do for her physical wellbeing is to be seen by a postpartum specialist (such as a pelvic floor physical therapist, pelvic floor occupational therapist, or postpartum corrective exercise specialist) who can evaluate the effects of pregnancy and birth on her body postpartum, and provide her with the tools to properly rehabilitate her body after birth. Under this step-by-step guidance, a mother will gradually build back a strong foundation of strength and function in her body- correcting and rehabilitating the areas that were so heavily impacted during pregnancy and birth. She can then progress into whatever method of exercise she prefers, all the meanwhile feeling strong and capable to do so, ideally free of symptoms of dysfunction.

It’s important to note that it is never “too late” to begin again in your postpartum fitness. Even if a mother is years (or decades) postpartum, she can still reap the benefits of going back to the basics of postpartum rehabilitation.

It’s Worth It

Motherhood itself can already feel like a sport. Tending to young children can often entail lifting, bending, squatting, carrying, chasing, and so much more. Starting with the bare basics of postpartum fitness, and engaging in progressive exercise appropriately allows mothers to feel strong and capable in the everyday demands of motherhood- free from symptoms that are embarrassing, uncomfortable, or even painful. Engaging in fitness properly after having a baby has nothing to do with “snapping back”, and everything to do with mothers getting what they need and deserve. The truth is, it’s worth it to do postpartum fitness right- even if it’s unexpected.

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As a certified Prenatal and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, Tatum provides In-Home Training for mothers in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, and Virtual Training solutions for mothers nationwide.

Contact through website and social media! 

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