When Should You Exercise After Pregnancy?
I get lots of questions about when and how to start exercising again after having a baby. What’s safe? How do I know my body is ready? Is there anything I should watch out for? These are all great questions and while I’m going to answer all of these in a general way, it’s really important to ask your care provider all of those questions. They know the particulars about you and your delivery and will be able to tailor an exercise recommendation just for you.
I always recommend the 5-5-5 activity rule for my clients after the birth of their baby: 5 days in bed, 5 days around the bed, 5 days around the house. Basically, you need to rest for about 2 weeks! Your body has been working so hard for the last 9 to 10 months, growing a baby and then working really hard to birth him or her. It needs time to recover!
The only thing you should concern yourself with for the first two weeks is resting and feeding your baby. That’s it! This is a time in your life when you need to take all of your friends and family up on the offer to help—let them go to the grocery store for you, rotate your laundry, and wash your dishes. They all want to help so make sure you let them know what would be helpful to you.
A postpartum recovery garment can be really useful in those first two weeks, too. The gentle compression provides your internal organs with support as they settle back into their normal positions. Also, because your abdominal muscles are a little stretched out from making space for baby, postpartum compression supports your core as those muscles start to come back together. It also helps you sit with good posture while you’re admiring and feeding your baby.
Many moms find themselves hunched over for a large part of the day, which can lead to a sore back and shoulders and only adds to the aches and pains of recovery! Using a postpartum recovery garment can help support your body during this initial recovery and help prepare you for getting back to your normal activities.
About 2 weeks after a normal vaginal birth is a good time to start incorporating some daily exercises to strengthen your core and pelvic floor. These muscles have done a lot of hard work to bring your baby into the world, so they definitely need some TLC before starting back to your usual exercise program. Breathing exercises, pelvic tilts, kegels, arm/shoulder stretches, and walking are a perfect place to start. As you start to resume your normal household and daily activities, it’s a good idea to wear your postpartum recovery garment anytime you’ll be more active (washing/loading dishes, picking up/carrying older kids, walking for more than 15 minutes).
The reason for this is that your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles are still not strong enough for the intra-abdominal pressure these activities can create. Pelvic floor prolapses and hernias can also happen during the initial postpartum and one way to avoid that is to give those muscles external support until they are once again ready to do that job on their own.
If you had an uncomplicated, vaginal delivery and you did some abdominal recovery exercises in the immediate postpartum, then you’re probably ready to resume your regular exercise routine around 6 weeks after your baby’s birth. Always start slow! Listen to your body and if you notice any heaviness in your pelvis, feel like something is hanging out, or if you can’t control your bladder, please find a physical therapist in your area who specializes in pelvic floor therapy.
None of those things should be something you deal with forever! Be patient with yourself as you get back into your usual programs. It’s been awhile since you were so active and it will take some time to build up your endurance again. Stick with it, though, and soon you’ll be back in the game and better than ever!
About the Author
Rebekah Mustaleski is a Certified Professional Midwife with Roots & Wings Midwifery in Knoxville, TN, where Rebekah promotes evidence-based maternity care for families seeking an out of hospital delivery. She is working to improve maternal outcomes during the childbearing year and to promote a sustainable business model for midwifery practices across the country. Rebekah is co-owner of Roots & Wings Midwifery, LLC as well as Treasurer for the Tennessee Midwives Association.
All content published on the Motif Medical site is credited for information purposes only. This information should not substitute as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor or qualified health professional with any questions regarding the health of you or your baby.