For many new mums, dealing with their new post-pregnancy bodies can be quite an ordeal. Certainly all eyes will be on Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge after the royal baby birth to see how quickly she'll get back into shape.
Even those royal mums (who 'might' have more help from personal trainers or nannies to hold the baby while they head to the gym to regain their pre-pregnancy silhouette) won't be immune to basic post-partum physical changes.
According to babycenter.com, common complaints from new mums include hair loss, increased breast size, swollen feet, an extra tyre around the belly and a certain lack of control 'down there'.
"It's not easy when your pelvic floor is weak, causing you to leak urine when you sneeze, cough, or exercise," she says.
"Women often also complain that they have a “mummy tummy” and still look pregnant!"
Caroline Sandry, HuffPost UK blogger, personal trainer and Pilates teacher adds: "There are many horror stories about what will happen to your body post-pregnancy, but actually with a little commitment you can be in even better shape than you were before baby!
"During pregnancy and for a while after, your body has the hormone ‘relaxin’ floating around, which softens ligaments to allow the pelvis to open for the birth. This softening is good and bad when it comes to post natal exercise.
"On the down side it means that your joints are unstable, so no impact sports or major stretching for a while but on a positive note you can use this as an opportunity to improve bad posture or balance out tight spots!"
HuffPost UK Lifestyle asked if she would mind sharing some of her top tips with us!
Understand your body
Underneath the bulge of your “mummy tummy” is an unstable core and a weak pelvic floor, compromised by pregnancy and birth, says Wendy. If you have diastasis recti (abdominal separation), that is a symptom of excessive intra abdominal pressure, pushing everything downwards and outwards. You need to understand these problems and be careful to reduce that pressure and heal your body first before attempting any exercise that could make this weakness worse. No amount of dieting, running, sit-ups or Pilates classes will flatten your tummy and tone your pelvic floor unless you have re-built the foundations first
Easy does it for weeks 1-8
Don’t launch into any fitness plan until you are at least 6 weeks post partum. During the initial period of healing, you can help your body’s natural repair process by simple, gentle movements, says Wendy.
Lower back ache
According to Caroline, pelvic tilts are the answer to this perennial problem. Your back has been under tremendous stress carrying the baby and going through the birth, she explains. To ease out your lower spine, lie on your back with your knees bent and on an exhale breath, press your lower back into the floor. Do this 10 times in time with your breath, and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and tummy muscles in at the same time
Try postnatal yoga, suggests Caroline. Exercises such as the cobra are fabulous for counteracting round shoulders (from breast feeding and carrying baby). Lie on your tummy with your hands flat on the floor under your shoulders and then use your upper back muscles to lift your head, neck and shoulders up off the floor. Build up gradually to hold for several breaths.
Find your pelvic floor and stomach muscles
Don’t *exercise* them, just *find* them, says Wendy. Gently draw your belly button towards your spine on a long slow exhale whilst lifting your pelvic floor. Try to think of the pelvic floor contraction not as a squeeze at the front, but a deep lift, right in the middle. Keep shoulders and chest relaxed. Take a few deep breaths like this whenever you remember, relaxing everything as you inhale, then contracting again as you exhale. Don’t push away on the inhale, just let go.
Go for a daily walk if you can manage it, which will get your circulation going, important for helping your body to repair your weakened core muscles, including your abs and pelvic floor, says Wendy. Caroline agrees: Most babies love the motion of the pram, and going for a brisk 30-40 minute walk every day will really help the weight come off. Make sure that you draw your tummy muscles in and keep your shoulders pulled back as you walk, and take plenty of water to stay hydrated.
If you're struggling from increase rib/chest size, Caroline suggests doing Pilates controlled curls, roll-ups and oblique crunches Curl your head & shoulders off the floor and then twist one shoulder towards the opposite knee as you exhale. The breath is very important, so make sure you feel your ribs closing down as you breathe out)
Work your whole core
6-8 weeks after having your baby, with your GP’s all clear, you can gradually start to increase your levels of activity. Helpful exercises for flatter abs and a stronger core include stretches, squats, lunges and twists, but you must learn to engage your core muscles correctly in order to make these exercises also work your core, says Wendy. This takes as much mental focus as physical at first, but it is important to exercise your core dynamically and mindfully.
Never do crunches or sit ups
Any exercise that positions your body like a jack knife is ‘out’ for mums. As you crunch, you increase intra abdominal pressure, exacerbating weakness in the midline, re-opening the diastasis recti or ‘gap’ in the middle of the rectus abdominis and pushing forcibly downwards on your pelvic floor, says Wendy.
If you're struggling with wider hips (than before) Caroline suggests lying on your side and with your top leg straight out and lift and lower that leg 20 times keeping your hips and waist still. Follow this with 12 circles in each direction
Kegels aren't the answer
Kegels involve repeatedly contracting the muscles that form one part of the pelvic floor. The idea is to get your pelvic muscles to contract your urethra, while your stomach or buttocks muscles are at ease, says Wendy. These exercises have been traditionally recommended as a treatment for pelvic floor weakness, stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. There is a place for isolated exercise such as these, but they are not even close to the full answer, in my view. They may tighten your pelvic floor muscles, but do little to strengthen them, or help them do their job properly. In fact, being too tight (just like being too saggy) prevents the pelvic floor from effectively supporting your bladder, uterus and bowel. To improve function, it’s much better to do a variety of exercises that work your entire core system with correct muscle engagement, getting it to work dynamically, toning and strengthening it.
Improving the way you hold your body is key to reducing the intra abdominal pressure that causes a weak pelvic floor and diastasis recti, says Wendy. The most important thing you can do is get out of heeled shoes –choose completely flat, or barefoot shoes. The next step is to un-tuck your butt, find your neutral spine, and make sure your hip bones are stacked directly over your pubic bone, with no pelvic tilt forward, or backward. Stop sitting on your tailbone (sit up on your sit bones!), keep in good alignment as you move around and walk and your pelvic floor will naturally start to do its job more effectively.
Improve pelvic floor function
To get this hammock of muscles working as it should, I suggest a combination of adjusting alignment as above, connecting with and engaging all core muscles, and working them dynamically with squats, lunges, stretches and resistance exercises, says Wendy. Exercises that involve abduction and adduction against resistance – that’s moving your legs apart or squeezing them together, while pushing against something for resistance are hugely effective. In your exercise program, instability and vibration are helpful in toning the pelvic floor. Using a Swiss ball or Bosu as you get stronger and more stable, will give your pelvic floor an extra challenge.