Without a doubt, this has to be one of the most common questions I get asked, so let's talk about it!
Here's why going back to exercise postpartum is SUCH a big deal!
Once your baby is born some of these hormones (like relaxin, for example) stay around in the system for quite some time and your ligaments will still be softer and more elastic for 4-5 months post pregnancy. Your body is also going through a natural healing process - whether you delivered vaginally or via C-section there are muscles, skin tissue and joints that need time to recover - it's a pretty major thing having a baby!
So where does this leave us when it comes to the rules around returning to exercise?? Well, first off, unless there is a very specific reason for you not to do them you can start your pelvic floor exercises from day 1! No excuses there! If you don't know what to do for pelvic floor exercises get help from a professional - ask us!
Now, let's talk about what could be a typical postpartum exercise journey, this won't be suitable for everyone but it gives you a rough idea;
For the first six weeks, give yourself the time and space to let your body recover and bond with your baby and get used to your new routine - whether that be as a new mum or a mum new to 2, 3, 4 or more children! In this time doing your pelvic floor exercises and gentle mobility (like walking 5-10 minutes) if you're feeling up to it. This is a crucial time for tissue healing and recovery so just go with the flow! The other big thing on the to-do list? See a Physiotherapist so that you can have your core function, pelvic floor, abdominal muscles and pelvic control checked! This is also the perfect time to get a plan in place for your rehabilitation and strengthening as well as goal setting!
For the first 2-4 months, after those initial 6 weeks you can start walking within your tolerance (monitoring for any unusual pelvic floor symptoms as you go!), gentle stretching/mobility exercises, mum and babies appropriate yoga/pilates/exercise classes that focus on control, core, pelvic floor and strengthening is also recommended. At this point you'll have discussed with your Physiotherapist your goals and will be working towards them with appropriate exercise classes, gym work/home exercises, body weight training or rehabilitation exercises!
At around 6-12 months, depending on your goals this is when you'll start doing more dynamic, faster, more intense activity after having first set down the foundation work of control and strength!
In regards to returning to your previous activity levels or sport well that depends on quite a few factors such as:
- what type of training/exercise you were doing prior to getting pregnant
- what type of training/exercise you did throughout your pregnancy and how your body coped/responded
- your injury history, predispositions, biomechanics, posture, sport, training type
- your postpartum recovery (complex birth, infections, feeding issues, etc)
- your new exercise or fitness goals
There are SO many factors at play which is why when you ask professionals this question (or type it into google) you can't get a one-size-fits-all answer because we really can't give one - it's a very individualised and personalised process getting back to your previous training or hitting new goals!
"Running too early can predispose you to injury because relaxin is still making your ligaments softer/more pliable and you'll need to work on pelvic and core strength in order to strengthen your body to be ready to run! "
What's the take away message here?
Whilst child birth is something the female body is designed for, it is still a huge process of change and adaptation that the body goes through and therefore some aspects like your core, pelvic floor and pelvic control will need work to restore optimal function postpartum. Exercise and return to sport is best achieved with the guidance of a Physiotherapist who lives and breathes postpartum care (your's truly!) so that you make a safe and effective return to the activities you love or the new activities you want to try!
The biggest and best advice I can give? Go and see your Physiotherapist so that you can get assessed, set goals and be prepared for this new phase of your life!