How Soon After the Birth of My Baby Can I Start Exercising?
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, can be started as soon as your baby’s been born. Exercising your pelvic floor will help to prevent you from passing urine inadvertently such as when laughing or sneezing. This is also known as Stress Incontinence.
Beyond Kegels, how soon you can return to exercise will be very dependent on how fit and active you were before your pregnancy, and also the kind of labour and birth that you had.
If, for example, you were continuing to exercise during pregnancy, it would be reasonable to recommence light exercises and stretching routines as soon as you feel able to following the birth. However if, for example, you had a caesarean birth rather than a vaginal birth, you will probably find that you need more time to recover before starting a gentle exercise regime.
As ever, you need to listen to your body and respond to your energy levels, not forgetting that pregnancy in its own right has profound effects on your body, which in turn means that exercise needs to be gentle to begin with.
What kind of exercise should I do at first?
In addition to the Kegels, ordinary walking is a great form of exercise for new mums. Of course, you can also take your baby with you in a pushchair or carry them. Do make sure that your chosen method of transporting baby is sufficiently comfortable so that it doesn’t impede your movement or cause you to over-stress muscles or joints.
Pace yourself to what feels right for your current level of fitness and where you are in your recovery from childbirth and increase your walking speed and exercise duration as you gain strength and build stamina. Do be careful not to overdo things however, take a break when you need to.
Special considerations for exercise after childbirth
Apart from gentle walking and the Kegels described above, progress gently into your postnatal exercise programme if any of the following apply to you:
– You had a caesarean section.
– There were labour complications.
– You had an assisted birth.
– You experienced back or pelvic pain while pregnant.
– You were not exercising regularly before or during your pregnancy.
If any of these apply, consult your GP before starting an exercise programme, or wait until after your postnatal check and the all clear to start exercising.
Due to the risk of infections from pool water, swimming should be avoided until after your postnatal check and also had at least seven days with no postnatal bleeding or discharge.
As always, if you are in any doubt about what exercise is safe and appropriate for you, consult your GP or Health Visitor.
It’s best to avoid high-impact exercises such as running and high intensity workouts until your joints and your pelvic floor have recovered from pregnancy and labour, which can often take several months.
In addition, be aware of the condition known as Diastasis Recti, which is a gap between the left and right side abdominal wall muscles which can result in a rounded and protruding tummy area. This is a common condition with up to two thirds of postnatal women suffering from it, but it means that some types of exercise – especially crunches – should be avoided. And do make sure your GP or health visitor approves you starting an exercise programme