Congratulations, you have just gone through an absolutely amazing journey and have a new bundle of joy in your life! I’m presuming you are now reading this blog because you are thinking about getting back into exercising but maybe you don’t know when you can start?
Getting back into exercise after pregnancy is different for every person. My first piece of advice would be to take it one day at a time and set some goals to have as a target. When it comes to pre and post-natal fitness, it really comes down to the variety and type of movement you do, as opposed to just getting up and moving your body. Your body needs to adapt to the changes it is going through and you need to train accordingly. This includes the type of movement you are doing and the intensity at which you are doing it. Your routine will need to allow you to build muscle and improve your stamina and flexibility while not completely taxing your body. After all, you now have a little one to be running around after!
In general, you will know when your body feels ready to go back to exercise. Before you start back, it is essential you get clearance from your doctor to return to full exercise. This is usually 6weeks post-partum but this is dependent on the type of delivery you had, how quickly your body recovers, etc. In general, you will know when your body feels ready to go back to exercise. What will dictate your recovery time will be whether you had a natural birth or a caesarean delivery.
A natural Vaginal birth recovery is pretty quick once there are no complications. Provided there is no episiotomy and tears and you have stayed active during your pregnancy, you can begin your pelvic floor exercises as soon as 12 hours after labour. New mothers can then begin gentle exercise and walking 1-7 days after labour. Pelvic floor exercises are essential in improving muscle tone of the lower extremities, promote circulation, increase recovery time & improve lung capacity and rib cage expansion.
The recovery time for a caesarean delivery is a lot longer than a natural birth. The incision healing time is generally 10-14 days; however, the uterus and deep tissue healing is generally 5-6weeks. After a caesarean, you can greatly benefit from scar mobilization by gently massaging the area 2/3 times per day for 5-10 mins. Only do this once your stitches have healed.
If you are breastfeeding, you will know how your body feels and when it is ready to return to exercise (excluding the delivery type). The general recommendation is to return to exercise 4-8 weeks post-partum. When you do return to exercise, it is essential to a drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid fatigue. Remember, if you are sleep deprived and exhausted, exercise may only bring on more stress to the body. You also need to ensure you are consuming enough calories to ensure your body can recover well after exercising and continue to produce milk. Also remember to have a sports bra with good support and ample room. A good cotton material will help to avoid any irritation and absorb any moisture.
When you return to exercise, ask yourself the below questions.
- If breastfeeding, is your baby progressively gaining weight and feeding normally?
- Are there changes in bleeding or an increase in bright red bleeding within the first month postpartum during or after exercise? (You may be pushing harder than your body is capable of, therefore you may have to decrease in exercise intensity and duration may be necessary)
- Are you feeling an extreme level of fatigue and discomfort?
- Is there drastic weight loss over a short period of time?
- Is urine clear?
- Are there any changes in well-being or any signs of extreme stress during, or after exercise?
If you experience any of these or have any concerns, speak to your trainer and/or your GP.
And remember, everyone’s fitness journey is different. Focus on your fitness level, your body, and your goals!