After the work of labor and the glorious falling-in-love of the babymoon days—but before the cumulative fatigue of months (and years) of broken sleep erodes the psyche—emerges the question: “When can I start working out after giving birth?”
It seems like a simple question, but everybody and everybody’s body is different. The answer, therefore, requires a little more thought.
So many women, eager to recapture their fitness or physique, do long-term (and sometimes irreparable) damage because of their enthusiasm. While I admit it isn’t exciting in our Magic Bullet-seeking society, the work required postpartum is deliberate and slow. It is, however, effective. For women willing to focus on the basics, they’ll find themselves where they want to be far sooner (and more sustainably) than women who jump right back in to their old routine.
This is definitely a time to remember the tortoise and the hare.
When Can I Start Working Out After Giving Birth?
It is essential that you do not do any exercises that you have not discussed with your care provider. Asking them, “When can I start working out after giving birth?” opens the topic to clear communication.
Did you have a no- or low-intervention vaginal delivery with no sign of prolapse? Great! Simple breath and body exercises can begin almost immediately. Note, however, that “simple exercises” do not mean things like squats and crunches!
Rather, simple means basic. But it does not mean unimportant. Simple exercises focus on coordinating the breath and the body to reconnect neuromuscular communication patterns.
Your first point of attention should go to posture. So much of your postpartum days are spent with inward curling of the shoulders due to baby holding and feeding. Finding a supported counterstretch feels fantastic. More importantly, the opening of the front side of the body creates space for the shifting internal organs. Think about lying in a supported savasana (corpse pose) for a few minutes a day.
Aligning the pelvis and spine are critical to regaining core strength. Bringing your awareness to the low back and pelvis may inspire more rounds of hip circles and cat/cow, just as your body craved in late pregnancy.
If there is one thing to remember, both for the immediate postpartum period and the rest of your life is EXHALE ON EXERTION. By exhaling whenever you stand, lift, push, or move any force, you decrease intra-abdominal pressure. Key to maintaining the integrity of the pelvic floor, exhale on exertion should be the battle cry for all postpartum women.
As such, lifting and bending (usually with “load” in the form of baby) must be mindful. Avoid torqueing the back or knees as you lift and twist, even in a transition as mundane as from the bed to standing. Break this movement pattern down into multiple parts (roll to your side, swing feet off of bed as you sit up, stand) so that you can breathe intentionally as you move.
Know also that the timing of exercise vis-à-vis feeding schedule may change taste of breastmilk. I exclusively nursed all three of my kids, but it did take a little extra thought as to the timing of when I would work out. It was worth the extra effort—for all of us.
If you experience an increase of lochia flow or change from pink/brown to bright red, this is a clear indication that exercise intensity is too high. Back off! And inform your care provider for more specific direction.
Over the next few posts, I’ll be walking you through week-by-week the exercises that are safe for the postpartum period. Sign up for our email delivery to make sure these helpful exercises reach your in-box. ——>
Good health and great happiness to you.