Pregnancy and Post-Natal Recovery with Deborah

Pregnancy and Post-Natal Recovery with Deborah

If you hadn’t noticed already, we love to talk about the benefits of Pilates for pregnant women and mums. And there is a good reason for this, aside from scientific studies we’ve seen many of our Instructors and clients enjoy a more positive pregnancy (and recover more quickly post-partum) because of their sessions with us. You don’t just need to take our word for it though.

At Breathe Pilates, we love to share stories so we have decided to start a series of post-natal journeys with our Instructors and clients. This week the spotlight is on our newest mum, Dr Deborah Wong who shares with us her pregnancy, labor, and her recovery experience.

Deborah Wong

How was your pregnancy and exercise routine during this time?


When I found out I was pregnant, I continued my exercise regime, although my focus changed during each trimester.  Prior to my pregnancy, I was doing strength training (powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting) 3x/week, 1x/week of GYROTONIC, 2x/week of Pilates.

In the first trimester, with lower energy levels and changing hormones, my main priority was to simply keep moving as my body allowed. For strength training, recovery is just as, if not more important, than training. Depending on how I felt that day/week, I would vary the volume and intensity of each workout session. I found myself doing a lot more Pilates and GYROTONIC during the first trimester, and cut back my strength training sessions to once or twice a week.

During my second trimester, as my energy levels came back, I focused on maintaining strength and cardiovascular fitness in preparation for labour. I was back at the gym doing strength training at about 70% of my previous workouts.  I also continued to do GYROTONIC and Pilates 3x/week, focusing on strengthening my postural muscles and keeping my muscles, fascia, and connective tissue healthy and flexible to accommodate the growing baby.

Circuit breaker started during my second trimester and only ended when I was just about to deliver. I have a gym at home so I continued with my strength training as per normal. I did a lot of mat Pilates and GYROKINESIS with Breathe live-streaming classes which was a lifesaver!

At the end of my third trimester, I stopped strength training and mainly walked and did breathing exercises and focused on relaxing my pelvic floor and core. Little known fact,  50% of women have hypertonic pelvic floor – meaning their pelvic floor is too tight (doesn’t mean it’s strong! It just means that it can’t relax which obviously is a problem if you are having a vaginal delivery).  For those of us with hypertonic pelvic floor, doing kegels and focusing on relaxation is really important as opposed to the contraction.

Luckily, I didn’t experience any discomfort or physical ailments during my pregnancy. No backache, no shoulder ache, no insomnia, no swelling, no nausea. I actually really enjoyed pregnancy – I did gain a whopping 17kgs though! 

How was your labor?

It went really really well! I would 100% credit my doula for that. I had a non medicated natural delivery with no interventions at all. I think I’ll have a home birth for my next one! ;). I did sustain a second-degree tear which required a few stitches but recovered from that in a few days.

How was your recovery and how soon did you start exercising after giving birth? 

I started doing breathing exercises, deep core activation and kegel exercises the first day postpartum. All these can be done lying down! I was told by many wise women to give myself complete bed rest for the first few days postpartum regardless of how I felt. So I did! I spent the first week lying in bed and deep core activation, kegels, and breathing exercises at times. 

Starting from the second week I added some mobility and light stretching exercises. The third week, I started going on walks around my neighborhood.

It takes about 6 weeks for everything to kind of get back together again. And it’s cool because it’s something your body will do on its own without you having to do anything! You just have to trust it. It was really strange because postpartum you are like – WHAT IS THIS BODY?! It feels really foreign and you can’t imagine ever feeling as strong as you once did, but somehow magically as the weeks go by, without you really doing much, things kind of start to come together. It is pretty awesome and you really learn to respect your body so much more – how it created life, gave birth to it, and then recovered from it.

At the 6 week mark, I saw a women’s health specialist to check that everything was alright. Namely for diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction. I didn’t have any diastasis recti (WOOHOO!), but did sustain some pelvic floor weakness/trauma from the birth. It wasn’t anything serious that time couldn’t fix, however, because of my desire to return to my rather intensive workout regime sooner rather than later, we had to approach my rehab plan much more aggressively. I was also told to hold off core and ab exercises as I had a tendency to use them to compensate for my pelvic floor weakness.

I was given the go-ahead to start functional fitness and I restarted strength training with bodyweight exercises and light resistance bands and weights. I actually had to hold off Pilates for a bit, because it was core-intensive. I restarted Pilates 10 weeks postpartum once we achieved the targeted pelvic floor strength where my core and pelvic floor were working together instead of my core overpowering everything. I’m now 13 weeks postpartum and have started to reintroduce running and jumping into my workouts. I’m really looking forward to adding more weights to my fitness regime again!

What were your favourite exercises?

Glutes! Anything that works your glutes. Squats, shoulder bridge, hip rolls. After spending 9 months with a big belly and your pelvis in anterior tilt, your glutes are often quite neglected. Working on your glutes help take the load off your lower back and bring your overstretched abdominal muscles (from that big belly) closer together. It’s also really safe to work your glutes even if you have pelvic floor dysfunction and/or diastasis recti.

What are some of the benefits mums can experience from post-partum exercise? 

For most people, the areas that require the most work postpartum are the pelvic floor and the abdominal muscles. Pilates is probably one of the few exercises out there that targets both! The body awareness you gain during Pilates is also really helpful for regaining connection with your body postpartum. Childcare is also really exhausting and the stretching and lengthening of the muscles used feel really good as well.


What is recovery to you?

Recovery is different for everyone! During one of my pre/postnatal trainings that I attended, I learnt that regardless of how strong you are or what your exercise regime was like pre-pregnancy, everything is different postnatal. It depends on what your pregnancy and labour were like and even for the same person, each pregnancy is very different. Recovery to me is learning to listen and work with your body to establish a new equilibrium. People are always thinking of bouncing back when we should be thinking of bouncing forward! 

What would you tell those postnatal mums out there that are scared to start exercising again?

There’s nothing tougher than becoming a mother! And you did that, so exercising really is a walk in the park after.

How do you balance life (including work, exercise, wellness etc) and a newborn 

Go with the flow!  It was crazy and chaotic in the beginning as a first-time mum. I learnt to take things a day at a time and just deal with stuff as it came up. I am very fortunate to have capable help and a flexible job that allows me to work my schedule around. My new life is really different from my old life. My priorities have changed and so my idea of what balance is has also adjusted accordingly.

Deborah Wong and Mark

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