“I just had a baby and would like to begin exercising again but I’m not sure where or how to start…”
This is a question we are asked by new mommies all of the time in our physical therapy practice and the best answer is: IT DEPENDS! It depends on:
The main priority during the first 6 weeks postpartum should be to rest and recover from delivery. This is also an important time to establish a feeding routine with your baby. Some women are led to believe that pushing themselves or rushing through this early postpartum phase leads to a faster recovery, but in truth it could ultimately lead to greater dysfunction and hinder your return to exercise or sport.
It took you 9 months to grow that healthy, beautiful baby and it will likely take 12 months to recover. You wouldn’t return to running 6 weeks after an ACL repair, and having a baby is no different. We like to tell our new mommies to allow themselves grace during that first year. There will be plenty of time after that to do all of the things you did before that tireless little bundle of joy entered the world.
Enjoy these precious moments and stop obsessing over getting your pre-baby body back so quickly.
“So what exercises are safe to do in the first 6 weeks after I deliver?”
1. Re-establish good breathing patterns.
To do this start by lying on your back and place one hand on your belly and the other hand on the side of your ribcage. As you draw in a long, slow breath through your nose, you should feel your abdomen, ribcage, and pelvic floor expand. Pause at the top of the breath for a moment. Slowly exhale through pursed lips like you are blowing up a balloon and feel your abdomen, ribcage, and pelvic floor return to their original position.
Perform 2 sets of this exercise 10 times daily. This “connection breath” will help you to regain body awareness and better muscle function.
2. Begin a walking program.
Walking is a convenient, cost-free, and gentle way to ease back into exercise. It may be helpful to wait 7-10 days after birth due to the soreness you may experience whether you had a vaginal or C-section delivery. Begin your first outing with just a 10-minute walk around the block with baby in stroller. If you do not experience heaviness or pain in the perineum you may slowly increase the time you walk on the next outing. The fresh air and sunshine will be good for both you and baby.
3. Gentle stretching and mobility exercises.
Start with simple neck stretches, shoulder rolls, trunk rotations, and knee rocks to soothe sore muscles and aching joints. These exercises will also encourage some low-level abdominal muscle activation.
“I’ve had my 6-week postpartum check-up and have been cleared by my OBGYN/midwife. I feel confident with the exercises above and would like to continue safely progressing my exercise routine. What is the next step?”
The next BEST thing you can do for yourself to ensure that things have healed properly and you are able to safely progress to a higher level of exercise is to get checked out by a pelvic floor physical therapist!
At Breakaway Physical Therapy, our specially-trained, highly motivated, and extremely caring pelvic floor physical therapist offer a FREE 20-minute consultation for you to speak with us one-on-one to learn about how we can tailor a program to meet your unique needs and challenges and help you on your road to recovery.
Or, if you are ready to jump right in and get started now, you can call our office at 410-721-6333 to book your initial appointment. During this 90-minute evaluation, you will receive extensive education about pelvic floor muscle anatomy and function, optimal posture and body mechanics, and proper breathing strategies as well as expert assessment of your hip and pelvic floor muscle strength, posture and pelvic alignment, status of diastasis rectus abdominus, and how to properly engage your abdominals.
Treatment begins during your first session and you will leave happy and confident with a customized exercise plan that is safe and practical for you to complete with all of the joys and stresses that come with motherhood.
We look forward to being a vital part of your postpartum care!