Returning to exercise postpartum

Jun 7, 2023 | Physio, Pilates

As a new mother, you may be starting to think about returning to exercise. No two pregnancies are the same, neither two births nor the postpartum recoveries that follow. You may find yourself with a few too many question marks on the what, when and how’s of returning to exercise after having your baby.

It is beneficial for you to identify your physical readiness to return to exercise and from there you can plot a path back to your desired level of fitness. Physical readiness can be measured through special testing and questionnaires that your Womens Health or Sports Physio can provide you with.

We have a quick guide to help you find your way to returning to exercise safely and confidently.

The 6 week clearance check – See a Women’s Health Physio

The 6-week check is often used as the big tick box needed to return to low impact exercise for both normal and C-section deliveries. The check is often done by your LMC, can sometimes overlook the more specific tests to the pelvic floor and abdominals and how they work together.

Seeing a Women’s Health Physio at 6 weeks post-delivery, can more specifically assess your pelvic floor and core function and help you identify whether your pelvic floor and core are ready for the step up in your exercise plan.

Do I need to wait for 6 weeks to start exercising?

Not necessarily, the 6-week check is to clear you to begin low impact exercise such as group exercise classes, ab/core focussed work and adding weights or resistance. Gentle exercise and movement can be started as early as day 1 after birth – if you have the will and energy to start this early!

Plan your outfit

Supportive clothing can make all the difference for you when returning to exercise. A well-fitted and custom-made bra can take the stress off your breasts, upper back and shoulders. Sports specific shoes with good fit and cushioning can help to manage the load and tension through your feet and lower legs when exercising. Research has also recently shown that supportive underwear can help your pelvic floor and reduce the symptoms of leaking!

Lay the Foundation in the first 3 months postpartum

The first 12 weeks are all about taking it slow and at a pace you are comfortable with, laying the foundations for a return to higher impact exercise after 3 months (at the earliest). The pelvic floor is our main priority here. Learning how to do a proper contraction and teaching the muscle to work in all the ways needed to cope with daily life. Secondary to pelvic floor control is to start engaging with the core and to progressively ease into heavier loaded core work from Week 6.

Return to higher impact exercise from 3-6 months postpartum

If you plan to return to a higher impact sport postnatal, another check with your Women’s Health Physio is advised at Week 12. This is to ensure your core and pelvic floor is ready for the impact. High impact sports include running, road cycling, mountain biking, football, netball, bootcamp, to name a few.

All sports should begin with a graded return to sport plan running over 8-10 weeks (at the shortest). A Physio and/or Sports coach can help you with designing a plan specific to your sporting goals. Around 6 months post birth, at the earliest, should be the first time you enter your first non-competitive event or when you begin more competitive exercise training.

There is so much more that goes into getting back into a consistent exercise routine postpartum. For more content on a variety of topics please follow our Postnatal Return to Exercise series for more valuable guidelines on getting yourself moving again.