Returning to Exercise PostpartumLeave a Comment
After giving birth, a lot of questions arise on how to return to a workout program safely once cleared by your doctor. Every birth is different (vaginal delivery vs caesarian section), so it’s important to discuss with your doctor before returning to exercise. Typically, walking and gentle exercises are permitted immediately after birth, but most doctors do not clear women for impact activities until at least 6 weeks postpartum. Certain women’s recoveries will be longer, and it is important to ease into abdominal strengthening. Starting a vigorous workout too early can cause problems such as incontinence or prolapse of the pelvic floor (when organs in the pelvis slip down from their normal position).
During pregnancy, the abdominal walls have been stretched and weakened. Benefits to exercise postpartum include promoting weight loss, increasing energy levels, improving mood, and strengthening and toning abdominal muscles. Here are some tips as well as exercises to return to exercise postpartum.
General guidelines for resuming exercise:
- Listen to your body, and do not push through pain
- Gradually increase intensity, frequency, and duration
- Wear a supportive bra
- Drink plenty of water to hydrate, replenish electrolyte stores, and focus on proper nutrition intake
Starting a walking program is always a good way to begin, slowly advancing mileage and pace. Always be sure to check in with your physician before starting any exercise program. Physical therapy can provide you with advanced exercises but here are a few suggestions to start with:
Pelvic floor contraction (Kegels)
- Begin lying on your back with your legs bent. Inhale, then exhale, and contract your pelvic floor muscles, as if to stop the flow of urine, relax, and repeat x20
- Begin on all fours with your arms directly under your shoulders and knees bent to 90 degrees
- Slowly round your back up towards the ceiling, then let it sag down to the floor while looking up and repeat x20
- Movements should be slow and controlled
- Begin on all fours with your arms directly under shoulders
- Engage core, then straighten one arm and opposite leg at the same time until they are parallel to floor. Hold for 2-3 seconds then return to starting position.
- Repeat with other arm and leg x20
- Keep your back straight and chin tucked while performing
- Begin lying on your back with arms resting at your side, legs bent and feet flat on ground. Engage your abdominals, and slowly lift your hips off the floor into bridge position, keeping your back straight. Repeat 20x
Advance exercises by adding reps once these exercises are less challenging, then slowly transition into your pre-pregnancy workout letting your body’s response guide you.
If you are having any issues with pain, abdominal wall separation (diastasis recti), incontinence, or weakness, follow up with your doctor. An Athletico women’s health specialist can also conduct an assessment and provide recommendations for next steps. Schedule a free assessment in-clinic or virtually through our telehealth platform.
Physical therapy is usually the thing you are told to do after medication, x-rays or surgery. The best way to fix your pain is to start where you normally finish – with physical therapy at Athletico. Schedule a free assessment in-clinic or virtually through a secure online video chat where our team can assess your pain and provide recommended treatment options.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
Postpartum exercise: How to get started. (2020). Retrieved 7 October 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/exercise-after-pregnancy/art-20044596