Postpartum Exercise: A Guide to Safe and Effective Workouts After Pregnancy
by Evelyn Valdez·
Doctors recommend continuing exercising during pregnancy due to the benefits it provides, but what about after giving birth?
Childbirth is a transformative experience that can leave a woman's body feeling quite different from what it was before. The postpartum period is a time of physical and emotional recovery that requires careful attention to the body's needs. One aspect of this recovery is exercise, which can help new mothers regain their strength and energy while promoting overall health and well-being.
In this article, we'll explore the benefits of postpartum exercise, the recommended timeline for getting back into physical activity after giving birth, and some tips for safe and effective workouts.
Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
Exercise offers a variety of benefits for new mothers during the postpartum period. These benefits include:
- Improved mood and energy levels: Exercise has been shown to help alleviate postpartum depression and improve energy levels.
- Strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles: Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to issues such as incontinence. Exercise can help strengthen these muscles and prevent these issues.
- Increased cardiovascular health: Regular exercise can improve heart health and reduce the risk of conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Weight loss: Exercise can help new mothers shed the excess weight gained during pregnancy and achieve a healthy weight.
- Improved sleep: Exercise can help regulate sleep patterns, which can be disrupted by the demands of caring for a new baby.
When can you start working out after giving birth?
It's important to give the body time to heal after childbirth before beginning any exercise routine. The amount of time needed for recovery will vary depending on the type of delivery and any complications that may have arisen. In general, most healthcare providers recommend waiting six weeks after delivery before beginning any exercise routine.
During the first six weeks after delivery, the body is healing and adjusting to the demands of caring for a newborn. New mothers should focus on rest, hydration, and nutrition during this time. Gentle stretching and walking may be appropriate during this period, but high-intensity exercise should be avoided.
After the six-week mark, new mothers can gradually increase the intensity and duration of their exercise routine as their body allows. It's important to listen to the body's signals and not push too hard too soon. Overexertion can lead to injury and delay the recovery process.
However, if you had a vaginal birth with complications or a c-section, you may need a longer recovery period of 8 weeks. Ultimately, there are no set rules. Consult with your doctor and listen to your body before starting any strenuous exercise.
Signs you're not ready to start exercising yet
If you're not sure whether you're ready to start exercising, here are a few red-flag symptoms to look out for:
- Abdominal pain
- Vaginal pain
- Heaviness in your pelvic region
If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, avoid exercise and check in with your primary doctor, OB/GYN, or midwife.
Tips when you're ready to start working out after pregnancy
Once you're cleared by your doctor and you feel ready to start hitting the gym or doing home workouts, you may feel lost on how to start. Don't worry, we have a few tips that will help you ease back into your workout routine...
This one is a given, but it is very important to take it slow. You may feel 100% ready to start working out like you were pre-pregnancy, but in actuality, your body is still healing – after all, you grew a tiny human and gave birth! The body needs time to rebuild strength and stamina after childbirth. Pushing yourself too hard, in the beginning, can actually set you back from real recovery.
That said, start by doing gentle exercises, such as walking, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of their workouts. If you were strength training pre-pregnancy, work your way up to it, and don't go too heavy on the weights. We suggest starting with training with resistance bands to help ease your way into heavier weights, like dumbbells. Using short and long resistance bands will help improve your flexibility and ease your joints back into the exercises you used to do. This is very important because your joints won't be the same postpartum...
Watch your wobbly joints
Relaxin is a hormone responsible for softening the ligaments and joints during pregnancy and childbirth, It's what helps prepare the body for the baby's passage through the birth canal, but it can actually stay in your body for up to six months postpartum.
This can lead to unstable joints that may be painful and a loose pelvis. This is why we recommend starting slow. Going too fast on your fitness journey can lead to an unwanted injury. So, take it slow and work on your flexibility and gradually build your strength back.
Do postpartum exercises
Not only are your joints weaker, but pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the core and pelvic floor muscles too. This can lead to issues such as incontinence. A great way to start working out again is by starting with postpartum exercises, such as pelvic floor exercises, core exercises, and diastasis recti (the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles during and after pregnancy) exercises.
Pump before you workout
This tip is for the new mommas that are breastfeeding and/or pumping! Working out with full breasts is going to be very uncomfortable and can lead to engorgement and clogged ducts. To make your workout more comfortable, pump right before your workout! That way your baby has a fresh bottle of milk in case he or she needs it and you can avoid painful swollen breasts.
We also recommend dressing comfortably, so wear a sports bra that isn't too restricting.
Drink a lot of water
It's important to stay hydrated during and after exercise, especially while breastfeeding. Drinking water before, during, and after workouts can help prevent dehydration.
Listen to the body's signals
Lastly and most importantly, pay attention to their body's signals and don't push too hard too soon. Overexertion can lead to injury and delay the recovery process. So, if you ever feel overworked or start feeling pain while exercising then listen to your body and stop.
Ready to restart your fitness journey?
Postpartum exercise is a great way to regain your strength, but remember to be patient and take it slow. Focus on walking, stretching, and postpartum exercises, and gradually increase the intensity as you make progress. You got this momma!
Need resistance bands to help get you started on your postpartum fitness journey?
Check out our UPPPER Resistance Bands! They are available in long and short bands, various resistance levels, and various colors and cute designs. Perfect for home workouts, warm-ups, and supersets at the gym!