The steps to returning to exercise postnatally
Congratulations on being here, on giving yourself this time. It’s a gift.
This is step one in discovering how to re-strengthen after bub.
Returning to exercise after having your baby can feel daunting. How and when you do this will have a massive impact on your pelvic floor recovery and ability to avoid injury. The focus should be to return to exercise SAFELY.
And sometimes you aren’t even sure where to start… so let’s just start right at the beginning.
Your postnatal re-strengthening depends on many factors, including:
· Your fitness and strength during pregnancy
· Your birth experience and as such the recovery of your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.
· Whether you have pelvic floor dysfunction or pain.
· Whether you have any other musculoskeletal injuries.
· Your energy levels.
There are no specific guidelines to return to exercise postpartum. The following is a general outline based on available evidence-based information and our expertise and experience.
The first 0-6 weeks (0-8 weeks following a caesarean):
We recommend that you focus on recovery
This means prioritising rest, especially horizontal rest in the early stages of your recovery. This allows your pelvic floor muscles or c-section scar to rest.
Wear a support garment such as SRC recovery shorts to support your abdominals and help minimise your separation, while also supporting your perineum.
Don’t lift anything more than your baby. This is not the time to start hitting the weights.
You should not have any vaginal heaviness or bladder leakage, pain, or abdominal doming during while exercising. If you experience any of those symptoms then the exercise you were doing was too much and you need to step it back. Rest more and modify the duration, frequency or intensity of the exercise you are doing.
Start pelvic floor exercises
Regardless of how you birthed your baby, providing you don’t have a catheter in situ, you can start your pelvic floor exercises within hours of delivery!
There are so many benefits to starting to strengthen your pelvic floor straight away. Getting started early will:
· Increase blood flow to the area
· Reduce perineal swelling
· Improve healing of your pelvic floor muscles and any tearing or episiotomy
· Help prevent prolapse
· Help reduce bladder leakage
· Improve your core strength and stability, the first step to return to exercise
The trick is to start off really gently!
In the early days, do 4-5 pelvic floor contractions per day. Focus on gently lifting the pelvic floor and then releasing completely.