Return to Exercise After Childbirth
By Lauren Clarke – physiotherapist who works with pelvic floor and lactation concerns.
Why is exercise important after giving birth?
o Helps muscles affected by pregnancy and childbirth recover.
o Helps you manage your weight.
o Improves your health and fitness.
o Reduces your stress and enhances mental wellbeing.
o Sets a great example for your children.
Return to exercise should be gradual and be balanced with adequate amounts of rest.
In the first 6 weeks after childbirth:
- Focus on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and deep abdominal muscles.
- Build these exercises into your routine: strengthen your pelvic floor while you are feeding your baby; activate your abdominal muscles while you are playing on the floor with your baby.
- Walk for general exercise; start with 10-15 minutes on level ground.
- Gradually increase your walking distance and then add in hills.
When you are 6 weeks postnatal you can progress to low impact exercises:
- Walking: aim to have increased walking to 30 minutes or more most days.
- Cycling outdoors or on an exercise bike: if your perineum is comfortable.
- Swimming: once your vaginal bleeding has stopped and your doctor has checked your stitches or wound.
- Low-impact postnatal exercise classes in the community (such as the mums & bubs pilates classes run through Growing Bones).
- Continue to progress your pelvic floor muscle program.
Avoid high-impact exercises until you are 3-6 months post natal (eg. jogging, running, sport or high-impact aerobics).
When you are ready for high impact exercise:
- You will need supportive shoes and a well-fitting sports bra (She Science stocks a fantastic supply, many with velcro straps that are good for fluctuating breast size and for feeding immediately post exercise, www.shescience.com.au).
- Beware that some exercises can put strain on the pelvic floor muscles and returning to these exercises too early may cause joint pain, prolapse or continence problems.
Exercises that place strain on the pelvic floor muscles include:
- Sit ups, curl ups or crunches.
- Jogging or running.
- Lifting heavy weights at the gym.
- Deep squats.
- Sports that involve stop/start running and rapid directions changes (eg. netball).
If you are unsure at any stage when it is suitable for you to return to a particular sport, speak to Lauren at Grow Physiotherapy who is based out of Growing Bones.
Lauren is available Thursdays at Growing Bones. To make an appointment, call us on 03 96873040 or book online.