As a Physiotherapist is it my job when assessing post natal women to guide and recommend when it is safe to return to exercise post baby.
There are four factors to take into consideration when returning to exercise post baby:
1. You’re overall wellbeing
2. Healing time since birth
3. Rectus Diastasis
4. Pelvic Floor strength
So lets dive into these a little closer…..
You're overall wellbeing:
You’ve just brought a beautiful baby into the world, and you’re body has changed to allow this to happen. There have been nine months of changes and events that have taken place within your body so you need to be careful with it… not to mention the flood of hormones.
Whether you were exercising throughout pregnancy and are eager to get back into it or you stopped and want to recommence it’s important to be ready both physically and mentally.
The fourth trimester (those first few weeks after pregnancy) can be very overwhelming and draining to say the least, so don’t set high expectations of yourself or your body. Don’t put pressure on yourself, enjoy the first few weeks or even months with your bub.
2. Healing Time:
Whether you have had a C-section, vaginal delivery, easy or hard labor its important to let yourself HEAL! If you’ve had a C-section they recommend you do not drive for 6weeks post delivery, and lift nothing heavier than your baby, make sure you stick to it. These are in place to allow your scar, muscles and tissues that have been cut to heal correctly (don’t forget, a c-section is classified as major abdominal surgery). If you’ve had a vaginal delivery, it’s also imperative that you give yourself 6weeks to heal, as you to have also had trauma to your pelvic floor.
When I see post natal women I usually recommend to be seen between 6-8weeks post birth, this has given you’re body enough healing time and sometimes by then you can be cleared to start light exercise. 3. Rectus Diastasis:
Rectus diastasis (abdominal separation) occurs during pregnancy when you’re abdominal muscles start to separate. This is due to your body needing to expand to allow you’re baby to grow and move.
With the expansion and separation you’re core strength starts to reduce, and you’re more prone to low back pain post delivery.
On assessment we will look for and measure the separation and prescribe you with specific exercises to help close to gap and improve your overall core strength.
4. Pelvic Floor:
Despite your delivery method you’re pelvic floor has had to change and adapt throughout the nine months. As your baby grows in size and weight, there is more pressure and load put on your pelvic floor. This can cause it to stretch and weaken over time. In order to return to exercise you need to have good pelvic floor strength to cope with the added load of either; weights, running or functional movements such as jumping etc.
If you’re pelvic floor strength is low and you continue to train on a weak pelvic floor overtime this can cause prolapse and incontinence symptoms. If you had symptoms of incontinence throughout pregnancy it is definitely recommended to be cleared before returning to any sort of exercise.
When you have been cleared for exercise it’s important to take it easy and ease yourself back into exercise. We recommend you start by increasing your walking capacity before you run or start with body weight rather than heavy weights initially. If you are unsure then contact your local Women’s Health Physiotherapist for more information.