Exercise can help you recover after childbirth, make you stronger and improve your mood. Even if you’re tired and not feeling motivated, there’s plenty you can do to get your body moving. But no two pregnancies are the same. How soon you’re ready to start exercising depends on your circumstances – so always check with a health professional first.
Regular exercise after you’ve had a baby will strengthen and tone your muscles, help you recover from labour, and raise your energy levels, so you feel less tired. It may help you also to lose weight and become fitter. One way of incorporating exercise into your day is to walk with the baby in the pram.
Exercise is good for your mental well-being. It can relieve stress and help prevent postnatal depression. You are also more likely to get outside and meet people. Always remember caring for a newborn can be hard work, and you might not have the energy or time to work out as regularly as you’d like. Do the best you can – even 10 minutes is better than nothing.
How your body changes after pregnancy
When you feel ready to exercise (usually 6-12 weeks post-birth), it’s very important not to overdo it. Even if you’re feeling great after having your baby, your body will have gone through big changes and will need time to recover.
Labour and birth can cause physical problems, including back pain and a leaky bladder, both of which can be made worse by vigorous exercise. Pregnancy hormones can affect your joints and ligaments for up to 6 months after birth, putting you at greater risk of injury.
Your pelvic floor – the muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus, and bowel – can be weakened after pregnancy.
Regular exercises will help to strengthen your pelvic floor. But you should take care not to do more damage by exercising too vigorously too soon. Be careful of using heavy weights or doing high-impact exercise, as this can increase your chance of prolapse (when an organ, such as the uterus, drops down).
How quickly you return to exercise depends on how fit you were before you had the baby and what happened during the labour.
The following exercises are suitable in the days after you have your baby:
Pelvic floor exercises: Sit and lean slightly forward with a straight back. Squeeze and lift the muscles around your vagina as if you are trying to stop a wee. Hold as you count to 8, then relax for 8 seconds. If you can’t hold for 8, just hold as long as you can. Repeat about 8 to 12 times.
Other exercises that are safe after pregnancy include:
- Swimming and aqua aerobics (once the bleeding has stopped)
- Lightweight training (bodyweight only)
We would recommend getting a full check-up and rehabilitation program from a health professional after birth and then again before starting any form of vigorous activity such as heavyweights or running.
Caitlin from Unity Studios is a fantastic physio who can take you on a step-by-step guide back to full health post-pregnancy.