Most women will usually carry a couple of extra pounds of body fat after giving birth, and are in a rush to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight. “When can I start exercising?” “How long will it take me to get back my pre-baby workout routine?” “What kinds of exercises should I do? Or Avoid?” These are typical questions I hear from training clients.
“When Can I Start Exercising After Giving Birth?”
It’s absolutely critical to get the medical sign-off from your Doctor to begin exercising, as every mother’s situation is different. Also, please do discuss the types of exercise you’re planning to do, with your Doctor.
However, in general a Doctor will permit you to begin exercise after a 6 week check-up. For caesarean sections, it is often longer, at 12 weeks.
Some women may have additional complications, and will need to wait until those are fully healed and cleared by your Doctor, such as:
- If the placental site is still healing and Lochia
- Secondary post-partum haemorrhage
- If you have suffered an air embolism
- If you’ve got an infection in your breasts, urinary tract, or wound site
- If you’ve suffered pelvic floor trauma, loss of sensation, or prolapse
“How long will it take me to get back my pre-baby workout routine?”
I won’t sugar-coat it. It’s not a couple of weeks. It’s going to take some time.
Try not to focus on losing weight, but rather on allowing your body to fully heal, and building the strength to regain normal body function.
Increase exercise gradually. Make note of any unusual aches and pains and discuss any concerns with your Doctor.
“What kinds of exercises should I do After Having A Baby? Or Avoid?”
Exercises To Do
Simply walking up to 30 minutes a day, 5-7 days a week can be enough exercise initially.
A great exercise you can do at home is Pelvic Floor Pull Ups to regain control of your pelvic floor. All you do is to replicate the sensation of trying to stop peeing—try to hold the squeeze for a few seconds, then repeat for reps.
You can also work on your core. Start with exercising the Transverse Abdominis, and build up slowly to other exercises. Avoid crunches and sit ups.
You may choose to work on your balance and coordination, if you’re having problems readjusting to your centre of gravity after giving birth.
Having a heavy bump at the front of your body for 9 months alters your posture— creating an excessive arch in your lower spine and rounding your upper back. Working on re-aligning your posture is another great goal to have.
Strength straining is another important element to include in your training, to help improve your lean muscle, and increase your metabolism.
Exercises To Avoid
Many people decide to join a group exercise class, or work with a Personal Trainer. The only problem is that not all trainers have an ante-natal / post-natal qualification. They may suggest exercises that are completely unsuitable for you, and dangerous (many trainers are blissfully unaware of this, and just assume that as long as you have the Doctor’s approval, then you can go full on).
Let’s take yoga, or stretching in general. The hormone relaxin, which makes joints less stable, and enables you to stretch beyond normal limits, can still be in effect for 5-12 months after giving birth. Instead avoid intense stretches which may damage your body, and just do short maintenance stretches.
Stay away from high-impact exercises until your pelvic floor has fully healed, otherwise you can create further trauma. High impact exercises are anything that involves jumping, or where your body pounds the ground. So steer clear of jogging, trampolining, exercise to music classes, or vigorous dancing! Bootcamps typically do a lot of high-impact exercises, such as running, jumping and burpees, which put you at risk of injury.
Some clients have told me there are trainers running buggy workouts, where they get the new mothers to sprint with the buggies! Sprinting is definitely a no-no.
Be cautious with exercises that squeeze the thighs together, or spread your legs wide apart, as the joints around the pelvis area can be weak for some time after the birth.
If you’re still breastfeeding, then avoid getting dehydrated when you exercise, otherwise it may reduce the amount of milk you produce for your baby.
Exercising after giving birth will help you to get back in shape—expect to get a little muscle soreness. Monitor any pain any discomfort, and change the exercise if it doesn’t feel right. Find a dedicated ante/post-natal exercise class, or work with a Personal Trainer who has the correct qualification—always check, as most don’t have one.
Your body has experienced some major changes and trauma over the last 9 months, so focus on regaining your normal strength and function, and eating healthily, rather than losing weight. It seems like the long way round, but by fixing your body first, you’ll get there faster in the end. Remember, your body is for life—take care of it.
George D. Choy
Personal Trainer — Ante-Natal and Post-Natal Exercise
Gymnacity in Oxted, Surrey, United Kingdom