Updated: Apr 5
After nine long months, it’s time to say goodbye to swollen ankles and uncontrollable gas and hello to sleepless nights, dirty nappies, and breastfeeding on demand. You’ve watched and felt your body change throughout your pregnancy and now you have one thing on your mind- to get your pre-baby bod back. But when is it safe to start? What exercises should you be doing? What intensity should you be working at? What should you be feeling during and after exercise? There are so many questions and who better to answer them than your physiotherapist!
Regardless of whether you were a prenatal yogi or a master of the chip and dip workout, there’s no doubt that exercise is important postpartum. However, it’s very important to realize that your body is in need of recovery during this time and that certain exercises can do more harm than good. Even if you weren’t working with a pelvic floor physiotherapist during your pregnancy, it’s never too late to start seeing one to ensure you return to an active lifestyle safely and effectively.
Exercise and Postpartum Recovery
You’ve seen the Kardashians after they’ve had their babies and you’re eager to fit into your skinny jeans again. If they did it, so can you right? Well actually, no. The postpartum period is all about letting the body recover. Think about it, you’ve just carried a baby for 9 months and then pushed it out of your body. Supermom or not, your body needs some well deserved R&R.
Taking it slow and steady after pregnancy is the key to making sure your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, C-section and labour related scars are healing well. Certain exercises can be too aggressive for the postpartum body and can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic pain, fecal and/or urinary incontinence, worsening diastasis recti and scar tissue. To top it all off, relaxing a hormone that loosens the pelvis and hips during pregnancy, circulates in the body for up to 6 months postpartum increasing your risk of injury.
Working with a physiotherapist allows you to create an individualized exercise plan that is safe and effective. With knowledge on how active you were before pregnancy, what type of labour and birth you had, and your personal health goals, you and your physiotherapist can safely get you back on track. So here’s what you can do:
For new mamas, pelvic floor exercises can be done from day 1! In the first 2 weeks postpartum, it’s important to relax and avoid any heavy lifting outside of the weight of the baby as this can strain muscles and connective tissue. To all of my C-section ladies, this one’s especially true for you!
Once you’ve started to get into a bit of a routine, it’s okay to begin light, low-intensity exercises such as walking. Start low and build up to about 20-30 minute walks. Light intensity means that you can pass the ‘talk test’, i.e maintain a conversation without feeling short of breath. So enjoy the scenery, get out of the house, and show off your new bundle of joy to passersby.
What about crunches? They may have worked in the past but crunches place a lot of stress on the low back and hips and can worsen any diastasis recti or splitting of the abdominal muscles. Instead, focus on core before crunches. Abdominal bracing or hollowing exercises can be done to help strengthen your core and stabilize your spine.
After your postnatal check at 6-8 weeks, you can move beyond walking and Kegel exercises if cleared by your doctor. This is the perfect time to go see your pelvic floor physiotherapist and create a return to exercise plan.
If you’re eager to get back into shape or want to start being active following your pregnancy, book an appointment with Alyssa today. Remember, it’s never too late (or too early) to start!
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