Whether you’ve recently had a baby or you’re expecting your first grandbaby, returning to exercise after having children can be extremely daunting and confusing! When is it safe to start exercising again? What exercises are safe? How much is too much? In this blog Osteopath Dr Catherine Coventry answers these questions and more to help you take the guesswork out of returning to (or starting) your after-baby exercise routine!

When is it safe to start exercising again?

This all depends up what type of birth you had, whether there are any complications and how long it is since you gave birth.

You can expect that it will take between 6-12 months for your body and your fitness levels to ‘get back to normal’ – depending on the type of pregnancy and birth you had, your body may never quite return to normal, particularly if you have had multiple pregnancies! But never fear, the body has an incredible capacity for healing!

DO NOT compare yourself to others, particularly celebrities! They have a team of professionals working with them – most of us do not have this luxury!

In the case of a natural birth with minimal pelvic floor tearing and no complications during pregnancy, labour or afterwards, you can gradually return to exercise as you feel ready. However, it is unwise to begin any very intense exercise or a type of exercise that you have not performed before – if you’ve never been a runner or weightlifter, now is not a good time to start! Give your body time to get used to familiar and gentle exercises first before contemplating new or more challenging exercises.

Natural birth with pelvic floor tears
Depending on the severity of your tear, it may be helpful to see a pelvic floor physio or osteo for a few sessions before commencing exercise again. Gentle walking is usually not an issue but you want to avoid high impact activities or weightlifting until you have clearance from your therapist.

If you have had a C-section…
You will not even be allowed to drive for 6 weeks post-C-section, so you must take it slow returning to exercise. Remember that you have had major abdominal surgery! It is best to start with very gentle core and pelvic floor exercises – this should ideally be guided by a health professional (eg physio or osteo) who has experience in this area.

They will progress you through the exercises at the appropriate stage and depending on your rate of recovery will advise when you can commence regular exercise again.

Do I need clearance to start exercise?

As discussed above, if you have had a straightforward, natural birth with no complications and minor pelvic floor tearing, you do not need clearance to start exercising.

If you are beginning exercise a year or more after having children, you generally will not need clearance to start, unless you have a current injury. Begin with low impact, lower intensity exercises at first that are familiar to you.

However, if you have had complications during pregnancy or birth (Grade 2 pelvic floor tear or higher, or a C-section) it is best to see an osteo or physio first as you will usually require specific rehabilitation and advice on returning to exercise.

This is also a good idea if you have had a prolapse, a pre-existing injury (eg disc bulge) or any other health concerns.

What activities should/ shouldn’t I do?

It is unwise to begin any very intense exercise or a type of exercise that you have not performed before. Give your body time to get used to familiar and gentle exercises first before contemplating new or more challenging exercises.

Keep in mind that joints are more mobile shortly after pregnancy due to relaxin hormone. This is a particular concern with the pelvic joints. It is best to become accustomed to low load, lower intensity exercises before attempting to perform any running, jumping or heavy weightlifting. Pump, step or body attack classes may not be the best place to start, or should initially be done at a slower pace with lighter weights. Also, avoid single leg exercises at first (such as lunges), as these are common culprits for causing pelvic or lower back pain in post-natal women. Rather work on building some strength first with more basic exercises with a stable base of support. Some helpful exercises to start with are pelvic floor and core activation exercises, walking and swimming. Light body weight exercises or exercises with small weights (eg resistance bands, dumbbells) may be appropriate.

If you have any other questions about returning to exercise, or exercising during pregnancy, please do not hesitate to call our clinic or click here to make an appointment with Catherine or one of our friendly Osteopaths. We would love to assist you in achieving your health goals!