When Can I Start Exercising Again After Having a Baby?

September 21, 2021

As a new mother, your focus is best spent on your baby and on helping your body regain flexibility, endurance and strength after childbirth. Each woman’s postpartum journey is unique – even differing with each child – and a wide variety of factors can influence how quickly your body heals and how long it will take before you can resume activity again. 

Changes During and After Pregnancy 

While your baby is growing, you’ll experience many physical changes:

  • As your uterus expands, your stomach and intestines push upward.

  • Your bladder comes under pressure, which can lead to urinary issues like incontinence.

  • The hips widen and spine adjusts to support the added weight of your womb, changing the way you move. After pregnancy, these structural changes may remain.

  • Muscles in your groin, back and stomach stretch, and hormonal changes increase their elasticity in preparation for delivery. Sometimes they don’t realign properly or right away.

  • A hormone called relaxin makes your joints looser in preparation for childbirth, and it can take up to five months for them to return to their previous stability. When you do get back to activity, stick to lower-impact exercises (yoga, swimming, Pilates) if your joints are still sore. 

After your baby is born, some of these changes will go back to the way they were before you got pregnant, but it won’t happen overnight and it’s normal for some changes to be permanent. 

Rest and nutrition are important to support your body on its journey to recovery. Before starting a fitness program, you’ll want to check with your doctor to identify any health concerns that need consideration. 

Conditions That Might Slow Your Recovery 

Pregnancy alone puts strain on the body, but there are conditions that could bring additional challenges as you work toward regaining your energy, strength and flexibility, such as: 

●      The number of babies you’ve had and how much each weighed.

●      Type of delivery, depending whether you had a C-section birth or vaginal delivery.

●      Associated injuries such as perineal tears during delivery, which can result in muscular and fascia damage, slowing recovery.

●      Other health issues, such as diabetes or preeclampsia, either preexisting or as a result of your pregnancy.

●      Physical issues associated with pregnancy, such as diastasis recti (a condition where your stomach muscles do not realign properly), or pelvic organ prolapse (a weakening of the supportive tissue holding up vaginal and pelvic organs). 

Consider This Before Resuming Exercise 

Before beginning any fitness program, clear it with your doctor to ensure you are healing properly and verify there are no other medical concerns. First steps they might recommend include: 

  1. Pelvic floor rehabilitation. Postpartum women often suffer from pelvic floor issues like urinary incontinence, sexual pain or pelvic organ prolapse. Depending on the issue and severity, a pelvic floor physical therapist might suggest specific exercises, behavior modifications, biofeedback monitoring or referral for surgical evaluation. 

  2. Dietary guidance. Eating healthy foods is important both during pregnancy and after childbirth. Rather than focusing on weight loss, pivot to thinking about a nutritious diet that supports your recovery. If you are still breastfeeding, you’ll need additional calories to support you and your baby’s overall health. 

  3. Personal training. Many postpartum conditions, such as diastasis recti, can be improved with proper exercise techniques. But improper form and overexertion can lead to additional problems. A personal trainer or physical therapist with experience working with postpartum women can provide direction and monitor progress. 

Finally, remember that being a new mom is hard work. Be patient and kind to yourself.  Every pregnancy is different, so don’t try to compare them. Focus on your health and wellness, not the scale. Everyone’s road back has its own starting point and takes its own path.

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