As a women’s health physio I am regularly asked
“When is it OK to return to exercise after having a baby?“
It is important to remember that your body changes significantly during pregnancy and these changes remain in the early post natal stages and sometimes beyond if not corrected. Exercise should be progressive, yet specific and challenging to ensure full function is achieved after your baby is born. It should also be fun!
In short, returning to exercise after having a baby, should commence as soon as possible to help your body recover – but how much and when? Check our my Top 10 Tips below:
1. Start simple. Walking is a great way to start and introduces cardiovascular exercise. Start with 10 minutes in the first week and build up to 30 minute by 3-4 weeks
2. Regardless of your delivery, pelvic floor exercises are also really important to start early on as they have had to work very hard in pregnancy and during delivery. Aim for 10 slow holds for 10 seconds followed by 10 fast contractions.
Type of Exercise
3. Deep core exercises and reconnecting with your breathing and pelvic floor muscles after delivery is a vital step in the initial 6 weeks post birth. So simply practice deep tummy breathing in a relaxed lying or sitting position. Repeat 3 times, two or three times per day.
4. Mat based, pilates style exercises are useful to aid with your deep core connection before exercises are progressed.
5. Guidelines recommend that after 6 weeks if you have had a vaginal delivery and 12 weeks if you have had a caesarean section, demands can be increased on the core system. This means the type of exercise you can do including, intensity, load and endurance; whether this is returning to running, circuit style exercises or playing netball. To check whether you are ready to go to the next step and to check your system is working effectively, it is worth seeing a specialist healthcare professional.
6. Get your tummy checked. Separation of the rectus abdominus muscles is very common (rectus abdominus diastasis/ RAD) post natally as this is how our bodies make room for baby to grow (amazing really!). Making sure that your core can effectively control load within and across your abdominals is one way that you know you are ready to progress to more dynamic and challenging exercises; doing it too soon can be detrimental in the long term.
7. Be aware that it takes time to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Significant changes happen over 40 weeks of pregnancy and it can take about the same time to feel strong again and back to doing the types of exercises you enjoyed before.
8. Listen to your body and try not to compare yourself. This is easier said than done but everyone has different experiences of childbirth and the initial post baby period.
9. Once you feel you can activate your pelvic floor effectively and your tummy muscles and ‘core’ control have been checked, from 8-12 weeks more functional exercises can be introduced
10. We live life standing up and I believe that exercises should ultimately be done upright to meet the demands of daily life.
* If you get any of these problems, then stop exercising and see a healthcare professional *
Finally, make it fun and specific to you. If you want to return to running or hockey or gym exercises or simply day to day tasks, the exercises need to be tailored specifically for and for you to have confidence once more in your body after the amazing process it has been through! Do get in touch if you feel that you need some help to return to you chosen sport or activity. For more information please follow our facebook page.