Want to know the postpartum exercise timeline you should follow? This is the ultimate guide that will help you return to exercise.
After having a baby you’re probably eager to return to exercise but wanting to do it safely. It can be hard to know when to return especially with differing view points on the matter and comparing yourself to what other women (including your friends and social media) are doing.
You are going to learn what exercise you can do and when.
In this post you’ll get the ultimate guide to your postpartum exercise timeline and feel confident to return to exercise.
Postpartum Exercise Timeline
The First 6 Weeks
Your first 6 weeks after having your baby should be focused on rest, nutrition, light movement and bonding with your baby. Soak up this special time and focus on looking after you and your baby.
You should be able to start your pelvic floor exercises once you leave the hospital. Make sure to stop if you have pain with it or if you think they’re worsening your symptoms and discuss this with your doctor or women’s health physio. Also, please note- do not to do your pelvic floor exercises with a catheter insitu.
In the first week I would recommend doing a 1 second hold x 10 reps and repeating this three times a day. You can progress this to 2 secs in week 2 and from week 3 to 6 keep increasing the seconds by the week you’re in and aim for 5-10 reps (e.g. week 5 hold for 5 seconds for 5-10 reps). I would recommend doing them either laying down or sitting.
At 6 weeks postpartum I highly recommend seeing a women’s health physio and be guided on your pelvic floor strength and function by them.
You can start breathing and core activation exercises in your first week postpartum. These can be done laying on your back or in all fours. Breathe in and relax your muscles then breathe out and contract/engage your abs.
Once you feel confident you’re activating your core well you can progress to more challenging exercises. Make sure to do ab exercises that are at your level. Doing ab exercises that are too hard for you won’t necessarily be any better for you- the exercises where you’re engaging your core well and creating tension in the midline are the best ones.
Again, I highly recommend seeing a women’s health physio to help guide you with this.
Unless otherwise directed – you can usually begin walking in the first week. I would keep the first walks very short and monitor if you have symptoms during and after. If you do it’s likely a sign you’ve gone too far or done too much. Progress your walking distance and pace slowly.
At around 2-4 weeks it is usually safe to do light low impact exercises unless your doctor has said otherwise. Examples include bodyweight glute bridges and shallow squats. Again, make sure you’re monitoring for symptoms like leakage or heaviness.
Your women’s health physio will be able to advise you on how to progress your exercises safely.
In those early days and weeks I would spend a lot of time laying your back with your legs up (if it is comfortable) to rest and let gravity do it’s thing and help you recover!
If you’re reading this while pregnant I highly recommend you see a women’s health physio so you can learn how to activate your pelvic floor and core and discuss your early postpartum care.
6 – 12 Weeks
At 6 weeks you’ll have your check up with your doctor and women’s health physio who will let you know if you are able to start and progress exercise.
If cleared by your health professionals you should be able to start progressing your cardio and strength exercises at this stage. Remember to progress slowly and continue to monitor your symptoms. Or even better- be guided by your women’s health physio (catching on to a theme here! haha).
If your goal is to return to high impact exercise it is important that you build your strength in this time. I recommend adding in single leg exercises like clams and the standing running woman.
Scar mobilisation can usually start after 6 weeks if it is healing well- check with your doctor first.
Note: Even if you’re ‘cleared’ for exercise by your doctor at 6 weeks this does not mean you are ready to return to high impact exercise
12 Weeks +
Three months postpartum is the earliest recommended time you should return to high impact exercise like running and jumping. Some may take longer before they are ready and cleared to start.
Your women’s health physio will determine if and when you are ready to return to high impact exercise. There are a few factors that need to be considered.
- Pelvic floor strength and function
- Symptom free (eg leakage and heaviness)
- Body strength
- Functional testing
Women’s health physio measure these by a subjective examination (talking), an internal examination and functional testing.
The functional test includes movements like forward bounding, squatting and running on the spot. If you can complete the tests with no symptoms it will be a factor in clearing you for high impact exercise.
Once you are cleared you will begin with single high impact exercises (any movement where you land on one leg). This, like everything else, will be done slowly and progressively. It’s not a green light to go out for a 5km run immediately.
After mastering single leg high impact exercises you can progress to double leg (eg box jumps, jump squats). These are usually harder on the pelvic floor so take the longest to progress to.
This is just a very brief and general guide.
It is important that you are cleared by your doctor and women’s health physio and follow their advice when it comes to recovery and exercise postpartum.
Warning signs to look out for while exercising include bladder and bowel leakage, unexplained bleeding, vaginal heaviness, bulging or dragging sensation and musculoskeletal pain.
While there are timelines to follow, clearances to have and warning signs to look out for- postpartum exercise is good. In fact, it’s great. It is important that you are exercising (the appropriate exercise for you) because it is going to help you be healthy, strong and active to be able to look after you and your baby.
If you want help returning to exercise after having a baby Postbump offers 8-week custom made fitness programs tailored to you and your goals.