Typically around 6 weeks postpartum you will get the “all clear” to return to activity. Some doctors/midwives will give you detailed guidelines as to what exactly this means, and others will just tell you that you’re good to go.
Regardless of your health and experience, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to return to exercise after baby. Your body has been through major changes (and traumas), your life demands are extremely different, and emotions are all over the place.
Each person will have different concerns, and I recommend everyone find a professional to help guide you, but I’ve put together a few tips to get you started:
1. Find a Women’s Health Physical Therapist – It is important to get checked out by someone who specializes in pregnancy/postpartum health. These PTs are trained in the management of pelvic floor and core dysfunctions, and they can guide you on how to properly strengthen these areas after having given birth.
Who are these people and where can I find one? First, ask your doctor/midwife if they have a recommendation for you. If you still need help finding one, check out this directory here and search in your area.
2. Find a Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach – The next step would be to find someone who can help you return to your sport of choice – and yes, motherhood is a sport! These coaches are trained in all of the considerations of a postpartum athlete – physical, mental, environmental, emotional – and how to work with each person’s individual needs. Everyone’s body, health, pregnancy, and birth experience is different, and so there is no one correct way to recover and train postpartum!
To find a P&PA coach in your area, check out the directory here
3. Some things you can do on your own if you just need to get moving:*
Walk – and get out of the house if you can! The fresh air + movement is like instant therapy for the mental and physical drain of new motherhood. If the weather isn’t cooperating, or if you don’t have easy access to a walking path, find a local mall and go walk around during the times when it won’t be crowded (because, germs). Just remember to take it easy, gradually work up the distance, and BREATHE.
Breath work – speaking of breathing…one thing you can begin doing right away is to work on coordinating breathing with pelvic floor & core engagement.
INHALE = relax your belly/abs + relax your pelvic floor
EXHALE = gently contract your abs + lift your pelvic floor
Be sure not to overly “squeeze” anything, and relax just as much as you contract. This is where a Women’s Health PT is extremely beneficial in helping you connect to your core & pelvic floor!
Gentle stretching & bodyweight movements – Back pain and hip tightness is no joke in the first few weeks/months postpartum, due to lots of sitting & baby-holding with less-than-ideal posture. Try doing stretches that are the opposite movement of what you do all day, like this chest opener , this yoga move, and this hip flexor stretch.
Check out this blog with exercise recommendations for early postpartum!
FINAL THOUGHTS: Your body just went through major trauma, no matter what your birth experience was like. Please give yourself time to recover! Rest as much as you can, sleep whenever the baby allows you to, and eat all the food!
Start slowly, and progress slowly. You will not be ready right away to jump back into what you were doing before you had your baby, and that’s okay! Use this opportunity to rebuild a stronger baseline that you can continue to build upon.
You might not have any interest right now in doing what you did before – and that’s okay too! This is such a short period of time in your life, so spend it how it serves you.
*Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.