Postnatal Exercise Tips

When to start

For some women, exercise is the last thing on their mind during the first month postpartum. In fact, many obstetricians and midwives suggest waiting four to six weeks after you give birth before beginning to exercise. (And you may need even more time to recover if you’ve had a c-section, a bad perineal tear, or other complications.)

But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it’s okay to start exercising sooner if you feel up to it. Just get your doctor’s okay before you begin any postpartum physical activity and remember to take it easy at first.

Start out slow with low-impact activities

You can start addressing the weaker areas such as core, back and glutes at six weeks post-delivery (or up to eight weeks after a C-Section), if your doctor or physio is happy with your recovery. Postnatal Pilates and yoga, or light weights would be ideal for this. You can also begin low-impact cardio work such as static bike, swimming or using a cross-trainer.

Try to gradually optimize your core stability and strength before re-starting high-impact exercise (such as jogging and aerobics) at around three to four months post-delivery.  Do not push through any pain at any stage – see a specialist physiotherapist who can treat any niggles before they become bigger issues.

Pelvic floor strengthener (Kegels)

If you had an episiotomy or if your perineum feels bruised or swollen, then doing Kegel exercises to tighten your pelvic floor muscles will improve circulation to the area and help avoid problems such as incontinence. These muscles tire easily, so it’s best to do several contractions repeatedly throughout the day rather than in one session.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Tighten the muscles of your vagina (as if you’re trying to interrupt the flow of urine when going to the bathroom).
  • Hold for a count of ten, then release. Repeat ten times. Try to work up to three or four sets about three times a day.
  • Don’t tighten leg or abdominal muscles.

Pelvic tilt

This is another good exercise for strengthening your abdominal muscles.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhale and expand your abdomen.
  • Exhale and lift your tailbone toward your navel, keeping your hips on the floor.
  • At the top of the tilt, tighten your buttocks, then release.
  • Repeat eight to ten times.

Push-ups

Push-ups are a good way to strengthen the upper body muscles needed for carrying your new baby. If you have time to do only a few exercises, make this one of them.

  • Start on all fours with your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back flat and your stomach in, gently bend your elbows and then straighten again. Breathe normally, and don’t lock your elbows when you straighten them. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged. (You don’t need to lower yourself all the way to the floor to benefit from this exercise.)
  • Repeat ten to 12 times. Work up to three sets.

When to stop

If you notice your lochia becoming heavier or turning bright red, stop exercising and call your doctor. The bleeding could be a sign of a hemorrhage (though exercise doesn’t make this more likely).


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