Exercise Post Birth – Things You Should Know!
Jess is a DediKate Women's Health Physio and also runs her own pracitve and online programme for rural women post baby. Check her out at www.theruralwomensphysio.com
Many mums can be in a hurry to return to exercise post birth, we totally understand this!
We want you to feel empowered, to be able to take charge of your postpartum journey, and to find yourself again. You can do that with exercise - we just need to ensure that you are doing it the right way to ensure you are healing and recovering effectively. It is important not to rush in, to do too much and to avoid placing undue stress on structures that are not ready for it yet. If you push too hard and too fast at this point, you can potentially cause injuries, pelvic floor dysfunction, prolapse, and other complications.
Your return to exercise depends on many factors...
Including pre-existing fitness and strength, your pregnancy journey, how you delivered and the circumstances around delivery, any symptoms you may be experiencing, stress and energy levels of mum, whether you are breastfeeding, and the general physical and mental wellbeing of mum and baby.
Listen to your body, take your time, know that rest is just as important as activity, and seek professional support if necessary.
What listening to your body might look like post baby:
This can be confusing at times! Everything feels different - but what is 'different normal' and what is 'different abnormal'?
Here is a list of signs and symptoms that indicate you need a review with a Women's Health Physiotherapist and a more targeted approach to your recovery:
- Any leaking of pee, poo or farts (incontinence).
- Notice doming/coning/peaking up in the midline of the tummy in certain movements (diastasis recti or poor core control).
- Notice or feel heaviness/bulging/dragging down/pushing down/like a tampon falling out in either the vaginal or anal area (prolapse).
- Have pain (whether new or consistent) anywhere in the body, but particularly the pelvic and back region.
- Notice an area around your belly button that protrudes and may/may not have pain associated with it (hernia).
It is very important that your core and pelvic floor is looked after post baby. In fact, every woman, regardless of how old their child is or the circumstances of their birth, benefits from core and pelvic floor work! That is why DediKate offers 4 postpartum workout sessions that are new each week - Low Impact, Introductory Pilates, Introductory Sculpt and Core Connect.
General Timeline for Exercise Post Birth
As mentioned, many factors come into play when returning to exercise. A general guideline for time is below (as followed by the Fitness Australia pre/postnatal guidelines). Please note: The general 6 week doctors clearance for exercise may not be sufficient in some cases. Please advocate for them to check your full body before commencing exercise. And that green light doesn’t mean jumping straight back into what you were doing pre baby! Post birth reconditioning is a marathon (but can be fun!), not a sprint. Go with Introductory Pilates, Low Impact, Core Connect sessions and/or Introductory Sculpt sessions first!
Gentle walks. Core/deep abdominal reconnection/breathwork/alignment and pelvic floor exercises EG: Core Connect
3-8 weeks (without symptoms mentioned above)
Walking. Core/deep abdominal training/breathwork/alignment and pelvic floor exercises eg DediKate Core Connect, low impact strength training with light weights. EG: Pregnancy Sculpt. Low impact body weighted movement EG: Low Impact workouts on DediKate or Postpartum Pilates.
Similar to 3-8 weeks but increasing weights/intensity BUT NOT YET IMPACT (this might mean increasing reps/sets/pauses).
Similar to 8-12 weeks but increasing weights/intensity (this might mean increase reps/less rest time/sets/pauses) Low impact body weighted movement EG: Low Impact sessions on DediKate or Postpartum Pilates.
Your core and pelvic floor strength will be improving but will still take time and dedication to return to 'your normal' or potentially your 'new' normal.
Before you progress further with your cardio and resistance training to include impact activities, running and heavier weights you MUST be able to complete this checklist.
- Be at least 12 weeks postpartum
- No pelvic floor dysfunction ( including incontinence of wee, poo or farts, heaviness, vaginal bulging, pressure at the perineum, dragging down at the vagina, pushing down, feeling like a tampon is falling out or not sitting correctly.)
- Be able to walk for 30 minutes with NO CONCERNS
- Be able to jump forwards 10 times with NO CONCERNS
- Be able to hop 10 times on each leg with NO CONCERNS
- Be able to jog on the spot for 1 minute with NO CONCERNS
From here and if you were able to complete all of the above you can begin to gradually increase your workout intensity, impact and even begin a running program here on DediKate.
After 16 weeks post-natal
Now it is all about gradual and progressive overload. Ensuring you increase either the length or intensity or weight of your workouts and not all of the above at once. Ensure your body has adapted to the new load prior to increasing this again. If any new symptoms arise, back off, slow down and if they persist seek help.
Remember: This is a general guideline and each postpartum recovery journey is different! Listen to your body and reach out if you have any questions or concerns.
Some Tips for Exercise Post Birth...
- Reconnect with your pelvic floor and deep core muscles FIRST.
- When beginning consciously co-ordinate a slight pelvic floor contraction with the effort of the exercise (you will not need to do this for long just a couple of weeks to re-establish the coordination).
- Exhale through the effort of the exercise. NO breath holding. NO bearing down.
- If breast feeding, being aware that the hormones responsible for increased laxity in your ligaments remains in your body up to 6 months post feeding. This increases the range of motion in your joints and increases your risk of some injuries. Be mindful with high impact or fast directional changes in sports.
- Keeping hydrated and fuelled with nutrient dense foods to support your healing and calorie requirements especially if breastfeeding
- Pelvic floor exercises on their own are important but not the entire picture. Incorporating breath work as well to reconnect to your core and build strength and coordination from here. You will find these in the Core Connect sessions.
- Get clearance from your doctor, women’s health physio or another appropriate specialist before you commence our workouts.
- If you start later on after having a baby, you still must start on our postpartum designed workouts. Your body needs time, but more than anything it needs rehabilitation and strengthening.
Looking for pregnancy and postpartum workouts?
DediKate boasts two incredible women's health physios who take our Core Connect sessions, Celia and Jess. These sessions will enable you to connect back to your core after pregnancy, abdominal surgery, injury or a sedentary lifestyle!
We also have a postpartum programme that you can follow, DediKate GLOW. Over 8 weeks, this postpartum programme will help you heal, recover, and strengthen your body. DediKate GLOW will have you glowing, while feeling confident with your body's capabilities post birth.
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