Postnatal Abdominal Exercise

Postnatal Abdominal Exercise

This information is provided as a general information and a guide only and clients are advised to consult with their own caregiver for further advice.

Using your abdominal muscles postnatally

-the first few weeks-


There are 4 layers of abdominal or tummy muscles that support the front abdominal wall and your back/pelvic joints and, in pregnancy, your baby. One ofthe most important layers is the deepest or core layer of muscles. These abdominal muscles are the ones that help provide your body with core stability. These deep muscles(called transversus) work with the pelvic floor muscles like a team.

 Core stability describes the ability to activate deep muscles of the back, abdominal and pelvic areas in order to support and stabilise the spine and pelvis. Good core stability enables the prime mover muscles in the legs and arms and trunk to move efficiently without placing stresses on the back, pelvis or other related areas. It’s like having strong foundations on which to build your house upon. This is extra important during pregnancy, when, as muscles stretch to accommodate the baby, they can become weak and lack ability to continue to support the back unless they are activated and strengthened regularly. Hormonal influences also change the way these muscles function and as relaxin acts to allow a release of soft tissue, muscles can become weakened. Postnatally we need to relearn to activate as well as strengthen these muscles.

 Correct control and coordination of these muscles helps to prevent and improve back pain, decrease repeat episodes of back injury, decrease stress incontinence (lack of bladder control when intra abdominal pressure increases such as when you cough, sneeze, laugh or run), support pelvic organs in their proper place, and helps you to feel great and look good!

 Recent research leads physiotherapists to believe that it is the normal activation and coordination of all these muscles, and the interaction with their fascial connections (other tissues of the body a bit like gristle) that is altered in people with back pain or incontinence, and not necessarily simply the strength or contractions of the muscles.

 During Pilates classes, you will learn to correctly activate pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles in different positions, and be encouraged to exercise these muscles daily and use them in everyday life.

 It is best if you have been taught exercises individually by your womens Health Physiotherapist, but this is a reminder of the technique…


Choose a comfortable position on your side, on your back, or on all fours or sitting on an exercise ball. Once you have achieved good technique you can also perform the exercises in standing.

 As you breathe out gently engage the pelvic floor by squeezing around the anus, vagina and urethra and gently lifting up the pelvic floor. At the same time imagine the action of drawing the hips in and across the body to the midline. Imagine a wide hipster belt that you need to tighten by 1 notch. Avoid hollowing the upper abdomen. Keep breathing as naturally as possible while maintaining the hold of your pelvic floor and abdominals for 5 seconds. Rest and repeat a few times until you feel like the muscles are tiring. Increase the time you hold for up to 15 seconds as you improve and also increase the repetitions to 15 times.

Pilates is an ideal exercise class as it is designed to strengthen the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.

 A word about sit ups. Sit ups were probably devised by men for men! Sit ups give you abdominal definition (think 6 pack) and front wall support/ movement, but don’t provide your body with underlying stabilization, and if done incorrectly or at the wrong time of your life (eg; during pregnancy, post natally or when you suffer back pain or stress incontinence) can actually weaken your stabilizing supports, esp the pelvic floor and cause further problems.

 When you lift or push or pull any objects use your pelvic floor and abs to support your back and internal organs. This is called bracing. When you laugh, cough or sneeze quickly brace the pelvic floor strongly to encourage support of the bladder and bowel.