Each and every birth is different which also means each Mother’s return to exercise and postnatal recovery will be different too. It is important to check in with your health professional before returning to exercise, ideally this would be a women’s health physio.
How long should I wait?
There is no one rule that fits all in this circumstance but the general guidelines will differ significantly depending on what type of birth you have. It also depends on what your exercise levels were before giving birth.
Vaginal Birth: It is safe to start doing very gentle pelvic floor exercises and slow walks a few days after birth, although more vigorous based exercise should be avoided until after your 6 week check up. Once cleared to resume exercise you should not be exercising at full, pre-birth intensities until around 16 weeks postpartum.
Caesarean Birth: As a Caesarean is a major operation it will take at least 6 weeks for tissues to heal. Gentle pelvic floor exercises can be done a few days after birth but gentle low impact aerobic exercise should be done 6-8 weeks postpartum. High impact exercise and heavy weights should be avoided until 3-4 months postpartum once scar tissue has fully healed.
Why is exercise beneficial for new Mum’s?
Whilst everyone benefits from regular exercise there are some additional benefits for new Mum’s, which include but are not limited too;
What pregnancy changes might affect my ability to exercise postpartum?
The female body is amazing and goes through many changes over the course of pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
During pregnancy and labour our hormone levels are at an all time high and this can affect your joints and ligaments for up to 6 months afterwards. This highlights why it is important to ease back into exercise even if you are feeling great.
During your pregnancy your abdominal muscles may have separated causing Diastus Recti. This can have long term effects if not treated correctly in its early stages and will determine what types of exercises are safe to be doing.
The Pelvic Floor is made up of muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus and bowel. This can be weakened during labour, particularly if you had a vaginal birth. Regular pelvic floor exercise can help to strengthen the area and prevent prolapse and leaky bladder in the future.
What type of exercise should I be doing?
Low impact exercise will be the best place to start postpartum. In the first few days after birth, focusing on resting and caring for your newborn baby is most important. Some gentle pelvic floor exercises can be done. Think about Squeezing and lifting the muscles around your Vagina as you are trying to hold in a wee, try holding this for 5-8 seconds and then fully relax. Other low-impact exercises that maye suitable include;
Try starting small by incorporating short bouts of exercise into your day. For example walk with the pram down to the shops, think about doing your pelvic floor exercises whilst feeding your baby, etc. Before returning to any exercise postpartum it is important to consult your health professional first and go at your own pace.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist.