New Parent Series Part 2: When To Get Back To Exercise After Childbirth

“When can I exercise again?” Health care professionals get asked this question quite often by women while they are pregnant and after childbirth.  Moms tend to be very eager to get back to a fitness routine.  The gold standard has been around for many years is that you’re good to go for exercise 6 weeks postpartum. That thought is changing and evolving.  Let’s take a step back and take a few things into consideration. 

 

  1. Your body grew a human.That is no small feat. You have been giving away your vital nutrition for months. These stores can take a while to rebuild.
  2. Your body has changed.  Hopefully you were able to keep up with some physical activity during your pregnancy.  This activity level can vary widely between women based on previous fitness levels, health, and energy levels throughout pregnancy and a variety of other factors such as fatigue. Regardless, your body went through a lot to build and house a baby. Some of your muscles may not be in the same shape as they were previously.
  3. You’ve been through a marathon.  Regardless of if gave birth vaginally, by cesarean section, medicated or unmedicated, it doesn’t matter. Your body has still been through a lot and it does take time to heal. 

 

When to return to exercise?  

The best answer is when you feel up to it.  If you’ve had an uncomplicated birth, you can start light exercises such as walking within a few days of birth.  You should consider walking as exercise and it is a great way to gently start to get your abdominal muscle to re-engage.  Start with short walks; your own health, pregnancy and delivery complications will dictate what your endurance level is like.  Gradually build up your speed and distance.  Once your health care provider has given you the green light to up your intensity, remember to start small!  Go back to the basics and focus on form.

 

150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity spread throughout the week is the general recommendation.  Remember to take time to warm up and cool down, drink plenty of fluids, ensure you are wearing a comfortable, supportive bra with nursing pads to avoid leaks and stop exercising if you feel pain.  

 

Pre-COVID, there had been plenty of resources available for moms in the Ottawa area.  Mom and baby classes are a great way to exercise but also to socialize with other parents.  Many businesses are continuing to run virtually and, when the warmer weather returns, outside. It’s worth keeping an eye on these businesses when they are able to offer classes as regulations change overtime. Some of our favourites have been:

 

What are the signs that my body isn’t ready to exercise again?

If you are experiencing abdominal pain, vaginal pain, increased bleeding, fluid leakage or heaviness in your pelvic region, consult your healthcare provider.  It’s also important to monitor for abdominal doming which is an indication of diastasis recti.  Diastasis recti is relatively common and may self correct for some women 6-12 weeks postpartum.  In some cases, it will persist and physiotherapy can be of assistance.  Exercise modifications may be needed when dealing with diastasis recti.

 

Be Kind To Yourself

When you first bring a newborn home, it can be overwhelming.  Finding time for exercise size can seem impossible at times.  Hormonal changes may also affect your mood and leave you feeling more fatigued somedays. Exercise with a friend or family member that you have bubbled with to stay motivated. You can include your baby by going on a stroller walk or having them lying next to you while you work through a YouTube program such as Yoga With Adrienne. It’s not always easy but can be helpful for your wellbeing and energy levels.

When in doubt, talk to your chiropractor, physiotherapist or registered massage therapists for exercises which may be best for you.