It has traditionally been assumed that postpartum women should avoid exercise until their 6-8 weeks check up with their doctor. This advice, however, is wrong, is outdated, and has no research to back it up. We now know that there is a lot we can and should do after giving birth and the benefits are vast. How soon after pregnancy can you exercise though? It’s a question I’m asked all the time!
So how soon after pregnancy can you exercise?
Every pregnancy is different, every birth is different, and every postnatal recovery is different. So, it’s important that we learn to listen to our bodies when it comes to postnatal exercise. Our bodies have been through drastic change in the 9-10 months we were pregnant, and labour may have lasted a long time (and felt like a marathon). It’s important that you wait until you feel ready to move your body, and that it is your choice.
The current guidelines are that there are gentle exercises (listed below) you can do as soon as you feel ready after birth. Even a day or 2 afterwards. It’s important to note however that someone recovering from a caesarean or complicated birth may take longer to feel ready than someone who gave birth vaginally.
What is the best exercise after birth?
Pelvic Floor Activation
It is never too early to start pelvic floor exercises/Kegels (if you have no catheter in place). These should combine both holds (up to 6-8 seconds) and pulses and can be performed 2-3 times per day. If you had a vaginal birth, pelvic floor exercises can help bring blood to the vagina. Helping improve healing of any tears or episiotomy scars. Remember that even if you gave birth via caesarean your pelvic floor has still carried the weight of your uterus for 9 months. So, pelvic floor exercises are important.
During pregnancy our breath can be affected as the uterus grows further up towards the diaphragm (our breathing muscle). Postnatally it’s a great time to relearn how to breathe effectively. This means taking full inhales, that travel down to the base of the lungs and expand the ribcage (rather than breathing up into the neck and shoulders). When we exhale we should feel the lungs empty fully. When we breathe, we stimulate our abdominals and pelvic floor, so it’s a great way to get some awareness of those muscles back too. It can also help with relaxation too!
Deep Core Engagement
During pregnancy the abdominal muscles stretch to make space for our growing uterus. And, we develop Diastasis Rectus Abdominis as our Rectus Abdominis muscles move further apart. This is a perfectly normal part of pregnancy and usually the abdominals retract back of their own accord. However, we can help stimulate these muscles as soon as we feel ready with exercises like abdominal hollowing (and our pelvic floor exercises will also help recruit them).
Walking is a great way to gently increase your cardiovascular exercise levels, get you out of the house, boost vitamin D levels, and begin to strengthen the body. It’s free, easy, you can bring your baby with you (or have some “me-time” alone) and is low impact.
How do I know if I am overdoing it?
If your Lochia (postnatal bleeding) gets heavier or changes colour (becomes pink or red) after activity, you could be overdoing it. You may also find you feel more exhausted, so you may need to scale things back. Again, make sure you listen to your body and take it one day at a time. There is no rush to get back to your pre-pregnancy fitness routines. But, a little gentle movement in the first few months can help you feel ready sooner.
So, how soon after pregnancy can you exercise? You can start to exercise as soon as you feel ready to exercise after birth. It’s important to listen to your body and understand that things will feel different postnatally. Starting with some breathwork, pelvic floor activation and deep core engagement is a great start, and ease yourself into movement slowly post pregnancy.
- Keeping Fit and Healthy with a Baby – NHS – click HERE to read
- The Active Pregnancy Foundation – click HERE
- NHS Squeezy App – click HERE to download
- ‘Postnatal exercise: The best workouts for building up your fitness again’ – Read here
If you enjoyed reading this article on How Soon After Pregnancy Can You Exercise and would like to discover more about postnatal & postpartum fitness and your changing body please check out my postnatal exercise program ‘The Bump Plan’ for FREE today – simply click here to get started