Postnatal Exercise | When can I return to exercise

Women are made to feel we should bounce back to our former selves after having a baby. I am here to tell you, you absolutely don't! Your body spent months growing a human so a postnatal body needs to be respected not punished. 

There is no rush to get back into the gym, yoga, to go for a run or do anything else other than looking after yourself and your baby. That being said it can feel like you've lost a piece of your identity after having a baby and being so immobile can be tough on your physical and mental wellbeing. 

When can I start to exercise again? 

Ensuring you take time to rest and recover. During labour when your placenta comes away it can leave a dinner plate sized wound in your womb that needs to heal alongside the trauma of your labour whether you have had a vaginal or caesarean birth. Alongside that you may have been in labour for a few hours or a few days but no matter what your experience your body needs time to heal. 

Most people feel mostly recovered in 6-8weeks but it can take much longer for some. Check in with a Doctor or women's health physiotherapist to get approval on starting to exercise. 

That being said during the weeks after labour try to focus on 

  • gentle walking
  • light stretches, especially on long sitting/laying days
  • pelvic floor exercises

After a natural birth

Once you have the all clear from your health care professional start with low impact body weight exercises, if something feels like too much adapt the movement.

For example if you were doing a press up, try with your hands on the sofa, still too much? then up against a wall.

You can always progress as the weeks go on but an injury can really dampen your recovery and spirits. The last thing you want is a prolapse from going to hard to quickly - trust me on that! 

Also try deep controlled breathing exercises to improve the strength of your pelvic floor and other deep abdominals. 

Start slow, you are tired, your nutrition is probably not where you would like it to be and if you are breastfeeding your body is working hard to produce milk for your baby too. 

After a caesarean section (C-section)

A caesarean is major surgery, if you rush to get back you may find you do more harm than good. Whilst a Doctor may clear you for exercise at 6-8weeks this does not mean your body is actually ready. 

To start continue throughout this period with walking and stretches where is does not cause you pain or discomfort. Additionally your pelvic floor exercises should continue too. Any abdominal work, running or heavy lifting is an absolute no at this point. 

My best recommendation to you is to see a women's health physiotherapist who can provide you with a tailored recovery programme after giving you a personal assessment of your body and its recovery. You can pay privately for this service but you can also be referred by your GP. 

I know that starting slow and playing the long game can be extremely frustrating but it will be a road worth taking in the long run.  

No matter what your journey to recovery make sure you feel supported in your activewear too - the maternity and postnatal leggings can help you with your body confidence and a breastfeeding sports bra can ensure if you need to feed mid workout you can or that you can pop your sports bra on so if the opportunity arises you're ready to go. 


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