Exercise can be an important part of postpartum recovery for women who have given birth naturally. However, it is crucial to approach exercise with caution and follow guidelines to prevent injury and promote healing. In this article, we will discuss when you can start exercising after a natural birth and what types of exercises are safe and recommended.
The postpartum period is a time of recovery and adjustment for new mothers. After giving birth naturally, the body undergoes significant physical changes such as vaginal tearing or episiotomy, perineal swelling, and abdominal muscle separation. Additionally, the hormone relaxin, which helps loosen ligaments and joints during pregnancy and childbirth, remains present in the body for several weeks after birth, making it easier to injure oneself if not careful.
When to Start Exercising
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that postpartum women wait until at least six weeks after delivery before starting an exercise program. This allows the body time to heal and recover from childbirth.
However, it is important to note that every woman’s body is different and recovery times can vary. Women who have had more complicated deliveries or c-sections may need to wait longer before starting an exercise program. It is always recommended to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.
Types of Exercises
In the early postpartum period, gentle exercises such as walking and pelvic floor exercises are recommended. Walking can aid in circulation, which can help reduce swelling and boost energy levels. Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, can help improve bladder control and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which can become weakened during pregnancy and childbirth.
As the body continues to heal, women can gradually add other low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming, or cycling. Resistance training with weights or resistance bands can also be added under the supervision of a qualified trainer or physical therapist.
It is important to avoid high-impact exercises such as running, jumping, and heavy lifting until the body has fully healed. These activities can put stress on the pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles, which may still be recovering from childbirth.
Tips for Safe Postpartum Exercise
Here are some tips for safe postpartum exercise:
Begin with gentle exercises and gradually increase intensity and duration over time.
Listen to your body:
Pay attention to any discomfort or pain during exercise and adjust accordingly. If something doesn’t feel right, stop and consult with your healthcare provider.
Maintain good posture:
Proper posture can help prevent injury and promote optimal alignment of the spine and pelvis.
Wear supportive clothing:
A supportive nursing bra and comfortable, breathable clothing can help provide support and comfort during exercise.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to stay hydrated.
Engage in pelvic floor exercises:
Regular pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and improve bladder control.
Don’t compare yourself to others:
Every woman’s postpartum recovery is different, so try not to compare yourself to others or feel pressure to get back to pre-baby fitness levels too quickly.
Starting an exercise program after natural birth should be approached with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare provider. It is recommended to wait at least six weeks postpartum before beginning exercise and to start with gentle exercises such as walking and pelvic floor exercises. Gradually add other low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming, or cycling as the body continues to heal. Remember to listen to your body, maintain good posture, wear supportive clothing, stay hydrated, engage in pelvic floor exercises, and avoid comparing yourself to others. With patience and persistence, you can safely and effectively return to exercise after natural birth.