More than anything else in the world, I love being a mother. Pregnancy however was a completely different story. Although I was fit when I conceived, my pregnancy was challenging and had complications. After giving birth the changes in my body, from my feet all the way up to my hair were not at all rewarding.
Recently I have become an Aunt and God Parent, reminding me of my experience and the extreme physical challenge of birth and body recovery after giving birth. In honor of the women in the world who joyfully and nobly are birthing and raising the next generation of leaders, here is the first of a two part series on recovery and exercise tips to help you get back on top!
PART ONE: What's Going on?
Many of the physiologic and orthopedic changes that we experience during pregnancy are due to the decreased ability of the abdominal musculature to provide stability around the spine and from the hormone relaxin which is present in 10 times its normal concentration in the female body during pregnancy. Relaxin is good in the sense that its function — as you might guess from the name — is to relax the joints in the pelvis so the baby has room to pass through the birth canal. Unfortunately, relaxin also causes abnormal motion in many other joints of the body, causing inflammation and pain.
It is not a myth that your feet grow/change during pregnancy and thereafter. Because there are joints in the feet, when your body releases relaxin you also experience changes in your feet. A woman’s feet change during pregnancy and can change even more afterward. Have your feet re-measured every six months after pregnancy for 18 months. Proper footing will help you avoid heel pain and calf discomfort
Upper Back and Neck Pain
Because our little babies are now outside of our bodies, we go from carrying them close to our spines to holding them in our arms in a forward posture for nursing and feeding. This causes the Scapula of the upper body to be continuously shifted forward, stretching the muscles that lie between the scapula and the spine, namely the small musculature of the spine, Rhomboids and the Upper and Middle Trapezius. We need to counter that stretching and pulling with strengthening of this musculature.
Despite what you may have read, getting rid of body fat is actually quite simple. There are 3500 calories in one pound of fat. In order to lose a pound of fat, you must have burned or be negative 3500 calories. What you may not know is that because women lack the necessary testosterone to anabolize protein, or grow muscle beyond a certain normal level, resistance training may be more effective at increasing the total amount of calories burned than cardiovascular exercise alone.
There are two types of problems you could be experiencing with a muffin top belly.
1. Skin Quality
If during your pregnancy you were prone to excessive stretch marks, and after giving birth, the stretch marks are still present and the skin hanging over your pants is thin, it’s likely that your muffin top may not be addressable through exercise. This type of muffin top is due to a lack of skin plasticity. A solution to this problem would be a tummy tuck. However, wait until you reach your goal weight and until you are finished having children. You may notice some reduction in the appearance of the muffin top when achieving your goal weight that would keep you happy enough to avoid potentially dangerous surgery.
2. Body Fat
The second cause of a muffin top is simply increased body fat. Regardless of what you have read, you can do 1000 crunches a day, and still have a muffin top. Imagine for a moment that you have a rock in sock full of jelly. You will not see the rock (muscle) no matter how large the rock gets, until you remove some of that jelly (body fat). We cannot spot reduce fat. In other words, your body will lose fat in random areas from everywhere, and there is no predicting what will come off first. The best solution again is to focus on a general fat loss and achieving a healthy body weight.
Stay tuned for PART TWO of From Feet to Hair: The Post Pregnancy Body.