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SAFE EXERCISES BEFORE AND AFTER PREGNANCY

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by Jennifer Solomon

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Today's women are so accustomed to multi-tasking on the job that they oftentimes don't slow down during pregnancy and after giving birth. This can lead to unexpected aches and pains.


   

    Back injuries commonly occur when picking up baby incorrectly, or balancing the weight of the little one and a heavy diaper bag the wrong way. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also a frequent hazard for new moms if baby isn’t held properly during breastfeeding.  

    This is why it is so important for women to engage in regular exercises during and after the birthing process.  Here are some simple suggestions:

Kegel exercises: Contract and release the pelvic floor to strengthen muscles for an easier labor and delivery.  After pregnancy, these exercises are recommended to promote perineal healing and regain bladder control, and for overall re-strengthening.  

Isometric contractions: Contract and release abdominal muscles to help with toning and strengthening.  

Abdominal bracing: This exercise activates your transverse abdominals. For beginners, start out by lying on the floor on your back with knees up and feet flat.  For advanced technique, stand against a wall. The following body parts should be touching the floor or wall: soles of feet (beginners) or heels (advanced), backside, mid/upper back and shoulders, head. There should be a space between the floor or wall and your lower back and your neck. If you can slide your hand between your lower back and the floor or wall, you are ready to go.
  
    Inhale first, then initiate the pelvic tilt movement as you exhale. When you exhale, your abdomen should naturally get pulled towards your back.  (An effective pelvic tilt utilizes this leverage begun when the abdomen pulls in during exhale). Continue the pulling and see how far you can tilt the bottom of your pelvis up. This will result in your lower back gently stretching and reaching in the direction of the floor or wall.
  
    Inhale to resume the starting position.  Allow the spine and pelvis to return to their original placement. This movement takes less muscle work than bringing the lower back to the floor or wall.  Most of the effort needed to return to the starting position comes from breathing in, so just allow the body to go back to where it began.


DR. JENNIFER SOLOMON is a member of the physiatry department at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.  She recently became a mom for the second time.


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