The fourth trimester is full of ups and downs. You are over the moon with your new little love and absolutely sleep deprived.
And your body has gone through and is continuing to go through massive changes.
The pressure dynamics in your abdomen have completely shifted. Your abdominal muscles have been elongated and need to remember how to work again. Your pelvic floor muscles may feel weak or tight. You may be experiencing urinary or fecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
If you had a C-section, your abdominal wall is stretched, separated, or cut thru. This means the four layers of abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, and transverse abdominals) have been disrupted and need to figure out how to optimally function again.
And even though your baby has not been birthed through the vaginal canal, the pelvic floor muscles are still affected. You may be less likely to experience urinary or fecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse after a C-section compared to a vaginal birth. But the relationship between breathing, the abdominal wall, and pelvic floor muscles is still highly interconnected.
Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA)
If you have a diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) postpartum, you will have difficulty generating tension through your abdominal wall. Read this post on diastasis recti abdominis to learn more about what it is and exercises to help get you back on track.
Though your body goes through a lot during a pregnancy, delivery, and fourth trimester (postpartum), there are several warm-ups and yoga postures that can be helpful in addressing these issues.
But where do you start with getting movement back into your body?
Taking long, deep diaphragmatic breaths is helpful for many reasons.
When you allow your belly to expand as you inhale, you are getting gentle movement into the abdomen. The slow mindful breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes the calming “rest and digest” vibe.
Some of my patients stick their bellies up forcefully to try for a big, deep breath. The breath we are going for is more subtle. We want a full, slow and gentle breath, rather than a pushed breath. Think of allowing the belly to fill rather than forcing it to push out.
Dirga three-part breath
The Dirga three-part breath is very therapeutic for the nervous system, diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles.
- Allowing your belly to start to fill slowly and softly.
- Bring your attention to your rib cage. Notice your ribs expand and widen, like a bucket handle.
- Feel your collarbone floating up towards the ceiling, which you may not need to accentuate if you are a chest breather to begin with.
Open your upper body
You know the old song about how all the body parts are connected? (“Hip bone is connected to the thigh bone…”) It’s true!
Whatever you can do to open your shoulders and upper back will positively affect your breathing and relieve aches associated with caring for your baby.
Try loosening up your neck by tilting your head to the right then turning your chin toward your right shoulder. Continue the movement down toward your sternum and over to the left, creating a half circle. Reverse the circle and repeat if you’d like.
Another quick and easy way to free your breath is to move your shoulders. You can try shoulder blade squeezes or shoulder rolls.
For shoulder blade squeezes, move both shoulders back to open your chest. You can also try holding your shoulder blades back, clasping your hands behind your back, and pressing your hands down to get a stretch.
Shoulder rolls (done like it sounds: circling your shoulders forward, up towards your ears, back, and down) can be paired with an inhalation on the way up and a sigh on the way down.
Strengthen your core
After your medical provider offers clearance, per