A Guide to Postpartum Exercise

Article By
Sonni-Ann
Published On
25 Aug, 2021
Read Time
4 minutes

No one's postpartum recovery timeline is the same, and it's so important to listen to your body before you try and get back to your pre-pregnancy workouts.

Don't compare yourself to others and certainly don't put pressure on yourself to 'snap back'. Try to enjoy the process and use your recovery time to celebrate everything that your amazing body has achieved!

Vaginal Birth Recovery

If you're recovering from a vaginal birth, it's recommended that you wait until your six-week postpartum check to start any regular fitness regime. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) recommends that ���if pregnancy and delivery are uncomplicated, a mild exercise programme consisting of walking and pelvic floor exercises may begin immediately���.

The hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy can affect your joints and ligaments for up to five months after the birth, so it's best to take it easy at first, think little and often!

C-Section Birth Recovery

If you had a caesarean delivery, you'll need more time to recover than you would after a vaginal birth.

  • Make sure that you get as much rest as possible.
  • Don't lift anything heavier than your baby at first. If you can, ask for help from your partner, friends, or family members.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise. Gentle walks are a great way to get moving and begin your recovery safely.

When you're a new mum gentle exercise can help by...

  • Boosting your mood and energy levels. It increases the levels of feel-good chemicals (endorphins) in your brain.
  • Protecting you from aches and pains.
  • Improving your strength and stamina.
  • Allowing you to get some fresh air and clear your head.

Find an activity that you enjoy and feel comfortable with, and then you can always build up the intensity over time. Remember to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising, and wear a supportive bra and comfortable trainers.

Pelvic Floor or Kegel Exercises

These important exercises strengthen the muscles around your bladder, vagina and bottom, and they can be done from the first few days after birth. You can practice them lying, sitting, or standing, and with a little practice, anywhere, at any time:

  1. Squeeze and draw in your bottom as if you're holding in wind.
  2. Squeeze around your vagina and bladder (urethra) as if you're holding in a wee.
  3. Long squeezes - hold for as long as you can, but no longer than 10 seconds, then relax.
  4. Short squeezes - quickly squeeze the muscles and then let them go immediately. Do this until your muscles get tired.

Aim to build up to 10 rounds of each exercise, at least 3 times a day. Remember, it's important to keep breathing normally and make sure you don't pull in your stomach when you squeeze. Try popping some notes around the house to help you remember!

Tummy Muscle Exercises

The NHS says that ���it's common for the 2 muscles that run down the middle of your stomach to separate during pregnancy. This is called diastasis recti or divarication.���

These muscles should return to normal about 8 weeks after your baby is born. You can check the size of the separation using this simple technique:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Raise your shoulders off the floor slightly and look down at your tummy.
  3. Using the tips of your fingers, feel between the edges of the muscles, above and below your belly button. See how many fingers you can fit into the gap between your muscles.

Do this regularly to check that the gap is gradually getting smaller. If it's still obvious 8 weeks after birth, let your doctor know and they can refer you to a physiotherapist who'll give you some specific exercises.

Back Pain Support

Being pregnant, going through labour, and looking after a little one can put immense pressure on your back. Here are some tips to help you tackle back pain...

  • Sit with your back well supported and straight when feeding your little one. Try putting a small pillow or cushion behind your waist to support your lower back and make sure your feet can reach the floor.
  • Don't bend your back when you're changing nappies, picking up toys or bathing your baby. Kneel or squat while keeping your back straight instead - this will strengthen your thigh muscles too!
  • Keep an eye on your posture when you're walking and pushing your little one's pram. Try and keep your arms bent at right angles and your back straight.

Get Swimming

Swimming is a great, low-impact exercise that's also super relaxing. After birth, don't head the pool until you have had seven days without any bleeding or discharge, and if you've had a C-section, you should wait until your six-week check before taking a dip.

Postpartum Exercise Classes

Joining a class - whether physical or virtual - is a great way to get back into your exercising groove and feel like a part of a community.

BUMP ���offers mothers and expectant mothers a truly one-of-a-kind experience, all under one roof.��� Their classes are designed to offer you a wide array of choices while on your postpartum fitness journey.

Online Classes

These are super convenient and can be done from the comfort of home. We've researched a few for you, but there are so many more out there!

  • CARiFiT creates fun, safe and effective babywearing workouts that're designed by ante and postpartum fitness experts and supported by a team of doctors, midwives, physiotherapists.
  • For Pip and Joan from Mumhood, postpartum ���health and fitness is not about how big your thigh gap is, how rock hard your abs are, or how fast you can run, it's about moving to change your mood.���
  • MAMAWELL's on demand workouts promote strength and energy, and their postpartum programme builds up in intensity through the workout series.

You could also get in touch with your local yoga or pilates studio to find out what postpartum classes they offer. If you go to an exercise class that isn't designed specifically for new mums, make sure that your instructor knows that you've recently had a baby, that way they can tailor the exercises to you.

To sum up, be sure to take exercising after birth at your own pace, don't compare yourself to other mums, ask for advice from your doctor before starting something new, and enjoy those well-deserved endorphins!