Common Questions About Postpartum Exercise

    Many women are anxious to get back into pre-pregnancy shape as soon as possible after the birth of their baby. Since this is probably physiologically unrealistic, it is best not to expect to have the same body as before pregnancy. A more suitable goal is to safely achieve the best shape possible which is often better physical condition than before.

    When can you start, or resume, exercise after baby arrives? As soon as possible! The longer you put off restoring stretched and weakened muscles, the more difficult it may be to do so. You need not wait for lochia (normal bleeding following delivery)to disappear before beginning physical activity. However, if the flow gets heavier or clotting is present, this could be an indication of too much, too soon and should be evaluated by your caregiver. Find out which exercises are appropriate for this time and commence slowly.

    A common concern of many women is urinary incontinence with laughter, coughing and vigorous activity. Kegels (pelvic floor exercises) and abdominal exercises are the best solution for this condition and a good lifelong habit. You may choose to use a pantyliner until these muscles get stronger. Bladder infections are also common postpartum. Lack of adequate water intake contributes to this condition as well as causing problems with breastfeeding and the body’s efforts to heal itself. It’s a good idea to have a water bottle nearby at all times.

    Women with an episiotomy will often experience discomfort or itching during the healing process. Generally, you can perform any exercise that does not cause you pain.

    Marked changes occur in your breasts whether you breastfeed or not. They enlarge and sometimes become hard and heavy. They can feel tender and uncomfortable. A supportive, well-fitting bra is a must. If mastitis, or a breast infection occurs, a woman should avoid vigorous exercise and consult with her caregiver.

    The hormones of pregnancy remain in the body for some time after delivery. As a result, a new mom’s joints are susceptible to injury for some weeks. As a precaution, wait at least 4-6 weeks before engaging in bouncing, twisting and vigorous activity. “Ease” your body into all physical activity.

    Postpartum Exercise Suggestions:

    v Observe the guideline, “Listen to your body and, When in doubt, don’t!”

    v Make Kegels a lifelong habit

    v Practice good posture during exercise and throughout the day

    v Be sure to balance activity with adequate rest, water and nutrition

    v Avoid postures that cause strain on the low back – check the ways you carry your Baby!

    v Check for a separation of the Recti Muscles before beginning abdominal exercise (See “how to” at end)

    v Consult with your health caregiver regarding any suggestions or restrictions for your exercise program

    Diastisis Recti Self-Check:

    Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, raise your head and shoulders up. In this position you may notice a vertical indention from the vicinity of your pubic bone to your navel. If so, see how many fingers you can insert horizontally a couple inches below your navel. Then relax down. One to two finger space is normal. Two or more….. you need to use caution and perhaps perform special rehabilitative exercises for this area. Contact someone who specializes in postpartum fitness if you have any concerns regarding Diastisis Recti.