a mother exercising with her newborn baby
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getting back into exercise safely

4 minutes

So, you’ve just had a baby and you’re ready to get back into exercise. Whether you were super fit before pregnancy, or just starting your fitness journey now, there are some things you need to consider before pounding the pavement:

1. What kind of delivery did you have?

2. How many weeks postpartum are you?

3. How do you feel “down there”?

Let’s start with type of delivery:

All women should let themselves take as long as they need after childbirth to rest and recover. There is no mini Jillian Michaels screaming in your ear to get back into the gym/out on a run/attend a bootcamp.

We know exercise has loads of benefits but just going for a regular walk with your little one in their pram is enough to boost your physical and mental health.

If you had a vaginal delivery:

  • Take it easy for the first 6 weeks. You can go for a gentle walk each day (or as often as you can), slowly building up pace and distance.

  • From about 4 weeks, you might want to include low impact exercise like Pilates, yoga, swimming, cycling/spin or light weights. The key is to take it slow, take it light, and don’t feel like you must push yourself too hard. You might like to include this kind of activity 2-3 times each week.

  • Stick to low impact exercise for the first 12 weeks after delivery and then, if you feel up to it, you can progress to more high-impact exercise i.e. anything that involves running and jumping.

If you had a c-section:

The information is basically the same as above except you want to take it easy for the full 6 weeks after delivery, only adding some low impact exercise in after that.

Of course, you also want to take the advice of your LMC or doctor as they may have advised you to wait longer to get back into regular exercise.

How is your pelvic floor doing?

Something that will impact the kind of exercise you’re able to do after birth is your pelvic floor. Some women will be okay to get straight back into high impact exercise, and others will need to wait even longer than 12 weeks after birth.

Some things to consider are:

  • Do you have a diastasis/abdominal separation?

  • Incontinence?

  • Back or pelvic pain?

  • A feeling of heaviness/bulging in your vagina?

Leaking or wetting yourself might be a common joke among new mums, but it’s not normal and shouldn’t be something you put up with. This can indicate your pelvic floor needs a bit of work and getting back into high intensity exercise too soon may only make the issue worse.

Booking an appointment with a women’s health physio might be all you need to get back on track.

What kind of exercise is safe for new mums?

  • Walking and other light impact exercise (as mentioned above) should be safe after having a baby – if everything is feeling good!

  • A Pilates, yoga or other exercise class run by a women’s health physio will be safe.

You can also get back into gym classes, personal training or bootcamp-type workouts but you want to:

  • Let the instructor know you’ve recently had a baby so they can give you modified exercises

  • Use light weights until you feel strong again

  • Avoid sit ups/crunches, full planks, core exercises where you lift or lower both legs at once, running and jumping, heavy weights

For example, if you have a diastasis, prolapse or other issue, burpees, tuck jumps or full press ups won’t be safe.

I really want to exercise but I can’t get childcare

Why don’t you try involving your baby in your exercise regime?

Here are some of our ideas:

  • Set yourself and baby up on the living room floor and follow a yoga or Pilates workout online.

  • Go for a walk or run with the buggy. Some little ones have trouble napping during the day but most doze off when they’re being pushed in a pram.

  • Look up a workout you can do with your pram – seriously, you’ll find anything online! You can hold onto the pram for balance while you do a mixture of upper and lower body exercises. Your baby will be entertained just by watching you.

I’m ready! What do I need?

If you are just walking around the block, you just need yourself and baby in their stroller or carrier. If you plan on going for a longer walk, or bypassing a café with friends, take a nappy, some WaterWipes, your keys and phone, and you’re good to go.

If you’re heading to a Mums and Bubs class, make sure you pack your nappy bag with something for baby to lie on and a few toys. You might need a towel or yoga mat.

And if you’re a gym bunny, don’t forget to pop a packet of WaterWipes in your bag with your towel and headphones. You’ll feel instantly fresh after a workout if you can quickly wipe yourself down before heading home.

Disclaimer: the information provided in this blog is based off current guidelines. You should always consult a health professional before starting new exercise, or if you’re worried about any issues postpartum.

References:

1 Recovery after birth: post natal exercise. (2016). Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://unitystudios.co.nz/blog-page/recovery-after-birth-post-natal-exercise

2 Caitlin Day, qualified Physiotherapist and postgraduate certificate holder in Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy & Women’s Health Physiotherapy has reviewed this blog.

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