There is a wide spectrum of views and exercise habits after pregnancy.
On one end are women who are exhausted from birthing and feedings and just keeping baby alive, and they don’t want to do ANY exercise for months after birth.
On the other end are those women who love exercise so much that they want to start back immediately, and a few days after coming home from the hospital they are checking the gym schedule and starting to experiment with yoga poses or Pilates moves.
Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum, if you want your body to recover and heal well, there are certain things that are best avoided during the healing process.
- Activities that stress your healing abdomen and pelvic floor, or those that over-stretch your muscles and ligaments. Remember, you still have altered hormone levels for months after childbirth (and longer if you are breastfeeding) so all stretching should be gentle. Extreme yoga poses and pushing to the limit of a joint’s motion is not recommended.
- Exercises that place high demand on your abdominal muscles. This includes crunches, sit-ups, planks, bicycles, exercises with both legs lifted, exercises that require forced twisting motions, heavy lifting, and exercises where you have to strain or hold your breath. These exercises can contribute to core and pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Any exercise where you cannot maintain GOOD POSTURE, a stable pelvis, and a neutral spine. If you can’t do an exercise with proper form and technique, your body will compensate by using some muscle or joint which was not designed to perform that way. Eventually, compensation will turn into injury.
- Any exercise where you notice a bulge or “tent” protruding from your belly. This is a sure sign of diastasis recti abdominis.
- High-impact activities such as running, jumping rope, and jumping jacks are not a good idea in the first 6 weeks, as they may contribute to a condition called prolapse. During the first 3 months after birth, your ligaments are still healing and returning to their pre-pregnancy length. High-impact activities can cause more stretching, which in turn prevents good healing.
- Any activity that causes you to leak urine or feel pain or bulging/laxity in the vaginal area. Leaking urine is never normal – even after having babies! Exercise should not be painful, and your vagina should stay nicely tucked up inside your body. These symptoms are all indicative of pelvic floor dysfunction, and should not be ignored.
There is an overwhelming amount of information online from both the fitness and health industries on “appropriate” postpartum exercise. Unfortunately, not all of it is correct or based on good health science. If you want solid, safe guidance for returning to fitness and restoring strength and stability in your body, come visit me in my office in San Diego, or check out my online 6 Week Postpartum Rehabilitation Program, which will help you become an expert on your postpartum body and help bring you safely back to fitness.