Giving birth can feel like a marathon in itself, but how soon after birth is it safe to commence exercise? Postnatal exercise is an excellent way to gently stretch your muscles and get some fresh air, whilst simultaneously releasing any stress you may be feeling during this challenging time of nurturing a newborn.
How you gave birth will influence when you can commence postnatal exercise and of course it’s essential to obtain the clearance of your general practitioner (GP). obstetrician or midwife before doing so1. If you gave birth naturally, you’ll likely find that you’re able to resume extremely gentle exercise fairly soon after the birth, even within the first few days. That’s if your newborn baby allows you to get enough sleep and if you actually feel up for it!
How to start postnatal exercise
The easiest way to commence postnatal exercise in this case is to coincide your exercise with your baby’s sleep times. If you’re keen to get some fresh air and the weather permits, place your baby in his or her stroller and gently walk as far as you feel is comfortable. Remember, even if you’ve given birth naturally, your body has undergone some incredible changes over the last nine months so be gentle on yourself and gradually increase the time and distance of your postnatal exercise. If you feel pain or discomfort during any exercise, you should always stop immediately and visit your GP for assessment2.
Mother’s who have birthed by caesarian section will find their body understandably takes longer to heal. General advice usually suggests gentle postnatal exercise can be commenced after approximately six weeks of downtime. Depending on the rate at which your body heals, you may find you need longer than this. Try not to over-challenge yourself during the recovery process or you’ll delay your ability to commence postnatal exercise, along with other complications. Once you have received clearance, the types of exercise that will be beneficial for you at this time are breathing, walking, core restoration, and bodyweight exercises3.
Postnatal exercise doesn’t have to be boring! Enjoyable options include:
Low-impact aerobic workouts
Light weight training
Following pregnancy your ligaments and joints will still be loose for at least three months after the birth, so it’s important to avoid high-impact exercises or sports that require rapid direction changes. Also avoid vigorous stretching and take long, gentle holds on stretches instead4.
Another critical element is to be gentle on your tummy muscles. Your belly and all the body parts inside it has performed wonderful things! Take a ‘less is more approach’ to abdominal work, and be very careful as you slowly introduce more challenging abdominal exercises. You may wish to be guided by a physiotherapist along the way as you commence your postnatal exercise.