Returning to Exercise After Baby
There is sooooo much information on returning to exercise and on what is ‘normal’ postpartum on social media. Heard the phrase ‘bounce-back’ or perhaps ‘pre-baby body?’ Is that pressure fair? New mums are often busy multi-tasking, sometimes super tired, and their body is also realigning/healing after pregnancy and birth. As we return to exercise after meeting baby, it is helpful to strengthen first and ensure that our postpartum body is functioning at its very best.
- Generally, a return to gentle exercise (such as walking) is recommended after 6 weeks (after an uncomplicated vaginal delivery) & at around 10 weeks after a C-section delivery. You should have your maternal healthcare provider’s approval before you begin exercise. These guidelines will depend on your individual fitness, pregnancy, birth experience, recovery and healing – it’s just fine to wait a little longer.
- Abdominal Separation: The ‘Rec Check’ is simple to do and your maternal healthcare provider can help you. Do ask your GP/OB or Midwife to help you check your tummy for abdominal separation at the 6-week check-up. Important for all new moms: please avoid any form of ‘sit-up’ movement as this can make separation worse.
- See a specialist Women’s (Pelvic) Health Physio. Any leaking (i.e. sneeze pee) or pelvic pain/symptoms are NOT normal (even if they are common) and you CAN seek help. The physios will check your pelvic floor, give you bespoke exercises and even tips on c-scar massage. So important to make this appointment- even if you have no immediate concerns.
So, what is ‘safe’ exercise after baby? Of course, respecting that everyone is individual, I do suggest taking it slow.
Did you know running puts around 3 times your body weight through your pelvic floor?
Remember your body has been through huge changes physically and it is healing and realigning. There are also some pregnancy hormones that may make some women more susceptible to injury postpartum. Connect with a qualified postnatal exercise specialist. (If you are unsure about their qualifications, then do ask to see them - we don’t mind). I recommend that my postnatal clients focus on their alignment, choose low-impact exercise options and aim to get a ‘reflexive core’ i.e. a core (tummy and pelvic floor) that functions with their breath correctly and without thinking – before subjecting it to repeated impact/stress.
A group mom and baby exercise class can be a fun and supportive way to return to exercise - making some new mama friends too! Getting out and getting fresh air can also be valuable in so many other ways. Walking is a great and accessible exercise that you can enjoy with baby.
Did you know around 5 years after delivery around 1/2 of women report some degree of urinary incontinence?
Many clients ask me about this. When you do decide to return to higher-impact exercise again, consider seeking professional advice and remember that even with a jogging stroller (with suspension and a hand-brake/wrist safety strap) it is not recommended to jog with baby until they are around 9 months old, owing to their neck strength. And, irrespective of delivery type, if you have no abdominal separation or pelvic health concerns that’s (perhaps) not a bad time to start a gradual return to jogging for mommy too. (Of course, respecting that everyone is different.)
Rest is equally important and some days it may just be the best decision to have a nap instead of working out. Be kind to yourself, listen to your body, try to be patient and take your recovery steady– your incredible, hard-working body needs rest to strengthen and heal! If you have any abnormal symptoms ‘down-there’ or any concerns about your tummy (abdominal separation) please seek professional help and advice. Ps. You are doing great, mama!
Sarah Pearce BSc, is an Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Specialist – a personal trainer and fitness instructor. Sarah first worked in fitness nearly 15 years ago. A #YourPelvicMatters teacher & #DiastasisDetective – Sarah favours an individual and whole-body approach when working with her clients. We look at everything from relaxation -to feet -to breathing!
Sarah is passionate about providing a safe, kind, realistic and fun environment for women to exercise in. A military veteran of 16-years service, Sarah is mom to 2 energetic little boys (4 &1) and also a military spouse – currently posted to East-Coast Canada. Follow Sarah on Instagram and Facebook @StrollerFiit or www.sarahlouisepearce.com
This blog post is designed to be informative and is in no way intended to replace the professional guidance of your healthcare provider. If you have any concerns about your health seek medical advice soonest and it is imperative that you speak to your healthcare provider before beginning exercise during pregnancy or returning to exercise post birth.
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