Exercise After Pregnancy
It is recommended to gradually resume exercise as soon as you get the go-ahead from your doctor and as long as you feel up to it after you have had your baby. After your six week post-natal check up we check to ensure that you have recovered well from your mode of delivery, irrespective of how you deliver. It is important to allow the physiological changes that have occurred during pregnancy to repair itself as well the hormonal changes to balance out before attempting high level exercise.
Generally if you have exercised throughout your pregnancy and had a normal vaginal delivery then you can safely perform light exercises such as walking, modified push-ups and stretching within days of giving birth, as long as you are not in any discomfort.
If you were not active during your pregnancy, or tapered off your fitness routine as the pregnancy advanced it is important to check with your doctor.
Immediately after giving birth it is safe to perform gentle core exercises and walking within a comfortable range.
After six weeks, once you have had your post-natal check up you are usually able to resume low intensity exercise. This includes yoga, Pilates, swimming, riding a stationary bike and if you enjoy walking, it is usually fine to add walking up stairs or hills to make it more challenging. If you are used to doing weight work you could resume this but make sure you start light and progress slowly.
After 12 weeks you may resume high intensity exercise like aerobics, running or spin classes. Progress safely and cautiously as to not cause injuries.
If you had a caesarean section the incision takes several weeks to heal and it may be some time before you feel physically well enough to work out. However, walking at any pace is encouraged as it does promote healing and helps prevent blood clots and other complications. Many exercise studios offer classes specially designed for new mums and are often run by physiotherapists.
If you have had a complicated delivery or a pregnancy which required a lengthy period of rest you may find that these guidelines are not appropriate. Make sure you only attempt exercise once you feel you are capable of doing so safely. If you are unsure as to how to progress your exercises it may be worthwhile to see a post-natal physiotherapist to ensure that you are getting the right advice.
Exercise will not affect your ability to breast feed as long as you drink plenty of water. You will want to avoid exercises that make your breasts sore or tender. It is important to wear a supportive sports bra while working out.
Exercise has the following benefits for post-natal women:
- Helps strengthen and tone abdominal muscles
- Boosts energy levels
- May be useful in preventing post-partum depression
- Promotes better sleep
- Relieves stress
Daily exercise after having a baby can help restore muscle strength, reduce fatigue and improve your sense of well-being.
Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced Obstetricians and Gyanecologists. He has delivered more than 20,000 babies and has worked in the public and private system for more than thirty years.