So, you actually brought a new human into the world?! Apart from feeling a little (or a lot) sleepy as a result of caring for bub 24/7, chances are you’re feeling great and beyond ready to get back in to it, right? In fact, you’re probably pulling on your joggers as you read this! Postnatal women are often too keen to return to exercise soon after childbirth, and it is a common misconception that everything returns to normal at the magical 6-week stage and you can dive straight in where you left off.
You need to remember your body has been through a major physical event. Gradual progression and recovery from both pregnancy and labor needs to be your focus.
It’s essential you don’t commence any exercise (other than those advised to you by hospital staff) without clearance from your doctor. Your doctor will be familiar with your individual situation and you need to trust that they know what your body is able to sustain at this stage.
If you have abdominal separation, also known as rectus diastasis (RD), your first point of call when returning to exercise needs to be a physiotherapist. RD is a huge topic all on it’s own. Find out more, here.
Remember, even if you feel on top of the world it still may not be safe for you to jump in to certain activities.
Let’s take a closer look at this in stages:
The first few days
The first few days post-delivery, you really need to focus on you, your new bub and getting some serious rest time in where possible.
- Rest and recovery is essential right now, relaxation should be a priority.
- Avoid prolonged periods of standing during these initial days.
- Light walking within comfort is fine, if it has been ok’d by hospital staff (this will be dependent on your own personal delivery experience).
- The pelvic floor and deep abdominal exercises provided by the hospital physio / midwife are really important at this, and all stages.
The first few weeks
Allow this time to settle in to your new life. You will likely feel physical and emotional fatigue during this time, hormones can be out of whack and you need to be very gentle with yourself.
- Gentle walking is great, unless your doctor has advised you otherwise.
- It is really important to continue with the prescribed pelvic floor and deep abdominal exercises throughout these weeks.
- Depending on your previous experience and individual situation, you can possibly perform some gentle Pilates and stretching at home during these weeks.
- Any impact, straining or excessive training at this stage may compromise your pelvic floor, core and recovery, making things more difficult for you down the track.
- Focus on gentle movement and enjoying your newest addition.
- For any movement – ensure adequate breast support and hydration.
First few months
Be sure to gradually ease back in to things. This will be different for everyone and you really need to listen to YOUR body. A good postnatal trainer can help you progress exercise at a pace that will keep you (and your pelvic floor) safe.
- Breast-feeding puts greater metabolic demand on your body, and needs to be considered in both your nutrition and training. Make sure to support any training you do with adequate nutrition to match the level of training – this is not the time to be restricting calories, macros or cutting food groups.
- Avoid high impact exercises and heavy resistance training for at least 12 weeks post birth. The point at which you are able return to this this type of training will be individual to you. It is best to work with a qualified postnatal PT who will perform certain tests to make sure it is safe.
- Continue with the pelvic floor and deep abdominal work you have been doing so far. You can now also work with a qualified postnatal PT to progress this.
If you had a caesarean section
It takes slightly longer to recover from a C-section and you must keep these extra precautions in mind.
- Allow 12 weeks or more for healing to occur.
- Avoid all lifting and straining of the abdominals until cleared by your doctor and physiotherapist.
- It is important that when any pain has minimised you activate the transverse abdominal muscles with simple, gentle activation exercises straight away to ensure tone returns ASAP. Hospital staff usually provide these exercises, or a good physio/osteo that’s been with you throughout the journey.
- It may take up to 14 days post delivery for you to be able to walk within limits of comfort. This is normal, so be patient.
- Progressing exercise with the support of a qualified postnatal PT and physio is essential when returning to exercise after a C-section.
Always remember that your situation will be individual to you, and it’s best to work with a professional to make sure you are doing what is best for your body. To find out more contact us!