Core stability after pregnancy Part II: Where do I start with core stability after I had my baby?
In Part I of this series, we discussed about the 3 structures of the Coke can that represents the 3 dimensions of Core stability:
Coke Can Vs Human Core stability
Top Lid : Diaphragm
Cylindrical wall : Abdominal wall, back and spine
Base of can: Pelvic floor muscles and buttocks/hips
Today we will focus on the first and most forgotten structure: the Diaphragm
The diaphragm is a muscle that sits right under the rib cage, separating the abdominal organs from the lungs and heart. The main function of the diaphragm is to help us to breathe. When we breathe, the diaphragm descends and this draws the lungs open for air to enter the lungs via the nose.
The diaphragm (and pelvic floor muscles) contracts voluntarily when movement of the limbs is intended: this increases the pressure in the trunk, called Intra-Abdominal Pressure (IAP). IAP is also increased during a cough or a laugh.
The Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFM) closes the pelvic canals to maintain a higher pressure to withstand the IAP.
This coordinated force closure of the diaphragm and PFM gives stability not only to the abdominal region, but to the back as well. They are essential to creating abdominal pressure for a strong cough. This explains why so many people with spine or pelvic problems also have pelvic floor dysfunctions such as incontinence, or breathing problems.
Question: How do I start my core stability exercise?
The answer is simple, but not easy.
Start with Diaphragmatic breathing.
Try this yourself!
You can start with lying on your back, knees bent, hands on belly and chest.
When you breathe in, the belly button should rise in a relaxed manner, as high as you can inhale.
Neck, shoulders and chest should be as soft and relaxed as possible.
If you just had a baby, you may feel that your belly has a slight tremor at the deepest inhale. This is your diaphragm working hard to contract, like your biceps lifting a 10kg weight.
As you exhale, the belly deflates like a balloon, in a non-exerting manner.
The most important part of this exercise?
Think and feel more, use less muscles.
It should be done as frequently as possible, in fact majority of your breathing should be done this way, unless you are scolding someone, or if you are exercising.
Diaphragmatic breathing is the first, and the best exercise to start once you have delivered your baby. It is the safest exercise to perform, and has great benefits to early recovery and movements of your abdominal wall. Diaphragmatic breathing was, and still has been a powerful tool for me to feel calm, centered and let go of my tensions when my mind gets overwhelmed.
Some women I have worked with may need some help to be able to perform diaphragmatic breathing. Some reasons that contribute to that difficulty include:
- Stiff ribs and midback
- Stressful lifestyle, leading to a lot of breathing using the neck and shoulders muscles
- Poor body awareness
- Tight muscles in the chest, back, abdominal wall and shoulders
Most of them have successfully learnt how to perform a satisfying diaphragmatic breath. It also helped us in our next steps of core stability exercises.
In Core Stability after pregnancy Part III, we talk about the best exercise program ideal to kickstart your post-partum active lifestyle.
Before starting any exercise program after your pregnancy and labour, consult with your doctor or our dedicated physiotherapist who can assess your ‘blindspots’ in your post-partum body.
Breathe in, breathe out.