When can I return to exercise postpartum?
After nine months carrying your new baby, it can be tempting once you give birth to rush to return to the way things were previously, before you have given yourself a chance to properly recover. Both carrying, and having a baby, are physically and mentally demanding though, and it’s important to make sure you give yourself enough time to heal properly before rushing back to certain aspects of your earlier life – most notably, exercise.
As a general guideline, the NHS advise you to wait around 6-weeks if you have had a vaginal delivery, and 8-weeks if you have had a C-section, before attempting any form of strenuous exercise, but remember this is only a guideline and to seek advice at your 6-week postnatal check-up before starting any high impact activity, such as running or aerobics.
Return to running is not advisable prior to 3 months postnatal or beyond this if any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction are identified prior to, or after attempting, return to running.
What types of exercise are best?
Again, this depends on how difficult your pregnancy and labour were and whether you suffered any complications, but it’s always best to be kind to your body , focus on low impact exercise and take things slowly and gently.
Consider visiting a women's health physiotherapist for a postnatal abdominal muscle check and pelvic floor muscle testing before returning to high-impact exercise, running, sport or abdominal exercise programs.
Walking – as long as you don’t experience any pain – is a safe, gentle way to start building up your fitness again slowly. It’s also a great way to get outside in the open air, which can do wonders for your mental health, which is of course all the more important for new mothers who might be experiencing postpartum depression, or tiredness and anxiety as a result of getting less sleep.
Pelvic floor muscles exercises - you can start your pelvic floor exercises: long and short squeezes as soon as you feel comfortable after having your baby. Daily pelvic floor exercises help you to regain control of your bladder and bowel.
If you prefer to exercise in a group setting, try one of the following gentle types of low-impact exercise:
Barre combines Pilates, ballet and yoga-inspired moves for a toning, low-impact workout, focusing on your core, that your instructor should be able to modify for you as a new mother.
Gentle yoga and Pilates
Not all yoga is suitable so soon after childbirth, but the gentler types, such as Yin yoga and restorative yoga and specially design postpartum yoga as well as postnatal Pilates, are good options.
Water aerobics/water Pilates
Be sure to tell your instructor that you recently gave birth, but both of these water-based classes are low-impact and can help your build your strength back up without putting pressure on your joints.
Always listen to your body
Whatever stage you are at post-childbirth, the most important thing to remember is to always listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, or if you experience any pain, be sure to stop and ask advice from your instructor, or a medical professional. Paying attention to how your body feels, and whether recovery is a bit too challenging, is the best way to ensure that you don’t risk any damage to your health that could affect you or impact your ability to look after and enjoy spending time with your new baby.