Postpartum Exercise Routine After Birth

Postpartum Exercise Routine After Birth

After childbirth, some parents itch to get back into a regular exercise routine. But it's not as easy as hopping on the treadmill or rejoining your pre-baby pilates classes.

New parents should be realistic and patient when it comes to postpartum exercise—after all, it takes around 40 weeks to grow your pregnant body, and it can take nearly as long to feel like you're somewhat closer to your pre-pregnancy self.

Here's what you need to know about postpartum exercise, including how to get started and stay safe.

5 Exercises to Try After a C-Section

When Can You Exercise After Giving Birth?

According to the American Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you can usually start light walking within a few days of giving birth if you had a normal vaginal delivery. In general, the organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week, which equates to about 20 to 30 minutes of walking per day. But you will need to work up to this level of movement.1

Start by taking a five-minute walk, then come home and see how you feel. If nothing bleeds, pulls, or aches, take a six-minute walk tomorrow and a seven-minute walk the next day. During these first few forays out into the world, don't carry your baby in a front-facing carrier or push them in a stroller because the strain may be too much. After you've walked comfortably and safely for a week or two, build up from there, adding some gentle upper-body stretching or a postpartum exercise class (but get the green light from your health care provider first).

Keep in mind, that if you had a C-section or complications, you may need to take it even slower. Talk to your healthcare provider about when it's safe for you to begin exercising and how much you should do each day.

Benefits of Exercising After Pregnancy

Exercise keeps your body strong, and it protects against some chronic medical conditions, so it stands to reason that you should be exercising after pregnancy. Exercise also can benefit your recovery in a number of ways. According to ACOG, exercise can:

  • Strengthen your abdominal muscles
  • Prevent postpartum depression
  • Promote better sleep
  • Elevate your energy
  • Relieve stress
  • Promote weight management2

How to Start Postpartum Exercise

You'll need to wait until your doctor gives you the OK to start postpartum exercise after birth, which might take several weeks (or longer if you had a C-section or labor complications). In the meantime, you can brainstorm a post-pregnancy workout plan by following the nine important steps outlined here.

1. Introduce postpartum workouts slowly

Jumping back into your workout regimen right after birth is not a great idea, even for ultra-fit people, says Kameelah Phillips, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN. "I would recommend that new moms not try to exert themselves before two weeks. If you are recovering from a C-section, I would defer a routine until after your first post-operative check."

Dr. Phillips also recommends confirming that the skin is properly closed and that you're cleared for a walking routine. "I usually recommend you take ibuprofen prior to any return to activity because the uterus is still healing and can cause discomfort. Give your body a little time to heal and enjoy a leisurely walk."

If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, you can actually be setting yourself back from real recovery. That, of course, does not mean you need to be held hostage in your house for six weeks. A walk can be considered a good start to your road back.

2. Wait for the bleeding to stop

Once you embark on some heavier activities, pay attention to signs from your body. Some people find that bleeding that had tapered down starts to get heavier again, which is a sign that the body needs more time to heal before a postpartum workout plan.

It may also be beneficial to talk with a healthcare provider about your symptoms. They can let you know what's normal and what needs more attention. But most of all, be patient and allow your body to heal. Recovering from having a baby is a marathon, not a sprint, and you will get there.

3. Take it easy if you're breastfeeding

Weight loss should be the last thing on your mind after childbirth—and that's especially true if you're breastfeeding. Some experts recommend not starting an exercise routine until a couple of weeks postpartum when your milk supply is firmly established; talk to your provider for their input.

During the first few days after childbirth, some weight will come off automatically as your body relinquishes the stored fluids it needs during pregnancy. The rest will come off gradually as you become more active. If you're nursing, your body needs 500 calories a day more than it needed before you conceived, so eat enough and eat nutritiously.3

4. Evaluate your pelvic floor

If the pelvic floor is weak, intra-abdominal pressure (from exercises like crunches, pilates, or general ab work) can put too much strain on the pelvic floor and inhibit healing. It can even lead to organ prolapse in some cases.

One of the first forms of postpartum exercise you can start to incorporate daily is a kegel routine. Start by strengthening or even re-familiarizing yourself with your pelvic floor muscles. If you are having difficulties, it may be beneficial to see a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor exercises—especially if you experienced complications. They can advise you on the best way to strengthen and heal your pelvic floor.4




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