There is a lot of confusion and mixed messages regarding when to start exercising after the birth of your baby, as well as what type of exercise is okay and at what intensity. Having worked extensively with pre and postnatal mums for over a decade, I’d like to share some of my advice with mums out there.
The postnatal period, or approximately the year
following delivery is a time where special consideration
is required when commencing exercise.
There are many situations and conditions that require exercise modification in the early weeks or months following delivery.
So what should you be doing in the early stages?
0-6 weeks postnatal
Postnatal exercise programs in the early days and weeks should include mobility exercises, deep abdominal exercises and of course pelvic floor exercises.
I encourage women to prioritise and incorporate their health and fitness early into motherhood. The benefits of exercising in motherhood are well known – not only the physical benefits (posture, core, pelvic floor, back health) but also for psychological well-being or the ‘feel good’ factor. Pelvic Floor and deep abdominal exercises can usually start within a few days and a slow return to walking over the first few weeks. The first 6 weeks is really about rest, allowing recovery and enjoying your baby. In terms of exercise some gentle walking and deep abdominal and pelvic floor exercises must come first.
6-12 weeks postnatal (approximately)
Doing too much too soon can certainly lead to issues. This is why we urge new mums to return to exercise gradually – at approximately 6 weeks you can progress from gentle core exercises and walking to gentle resistance / weight exercises and low impact cardio options (eg bike). The recommendations for returning to running and high impact exercise is a minimum of 3-6 months. The reason for this is that it is imperative to allow repair of your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. An appropriately qualified physio with experience in pre/postnatal care can assess you and give more specific guidelines and preparation exercises depending on your goals.
To all the pregnant women and new mums out there – congratulations on entering this special and exciting stage in your life. I hope this has helped you in making some healthy exercise choices.