"When can I start exercising following delivery?"
New mommies have a lot to think about: feeding schedules, napping schedules, germs and visitors, and their personal recovery (just to name a few). However, it seems most new moms also start reminiscing about their pre-baby bodies and begin to wonder when they can start exercising again and how quickly they can achieve their pre-baby body.
First of all, let me just say, your body created and carried a tiny human from scratch! Your body may never go back to “pre-baby” physique and that is most certainly o.k. Wear it like a badge of honor! Instead of thinking “when can I get back to my pre-baby body?”, start thinking “how can I make my body strong for this thing called motherhood?”.
All deliveries are unique from mother to mother, from baby to baby. You can take one mom and every one of her birth stories could be different. There is no one recipe for all moms to “become strong”. The things that remain equal across all moms recovering from any type of delivery is “listen to your bodies” and “start slow”.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) tells us “If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery, you should be able to start exercising again soon after the baby is born. Usually, it is safe to begin exercising a few days after giving birth—or as soon as you feel ready.” It is important to take it slow and listen to your body as you are getting into an exercise routine.
In our research for this post, we spoke with Dr. April Lundy of Harmony Chiropractic (one of our FIT4MOM Partners) who works with pregnant and postpartum moms as one of the focuses of her practice. She informs us “not everyone is created to bounce back at the ‘normal’ standard of time. Individual mommies need to be aware of their own limits. Feel comfortable asking for modifications and communication is important with ALL moms. Even a birth that would be considered normal takes a lot [out] of the mother and coming back too fast to exercise can create problems”.
As of February 2014, ACOG reports around 32% of deliveries are done by cesareans. There are many reasons behind cesareans, but the most important thing to remember that a C-section is a major surgery. Cesarean mamas need to take time to recovery, this does not mean you are fully ready to start exercising at a normal pace 8 weeks postpartum (even with a doctors note).
Dr. April Lundy suggests beginning slow: low intensity slow walks, band exercises, light weights, no lifting anything heavier than the baby, and modification for abdominal workouts – no step ups, squatting, overhead presses, and other abdominal exercises. Progress slowly in the first four weeks after “returning to exercise” and reassess before you change your exercise routine. Be sure to be cleared by your OBGYN after 8 week’s recovery. “Think of someone with knee surgery, an ACL repair; it takes months before they are fully able to get back to some of their normal routine. C-sections should be looked at in the same light.”
Diastasis Recti is a complication that can arise from pregnancy. Diastasis Recti is the separation of your abdominal muscles. If you are unsure whether you have separation, there are ways to check. Your OBGYN, Chiropractor, or FIT4MOM® instructor can help define whether or not you have a separation and how severe it is. Anything larger than a 2 finger width is considered problematic. If you have diastasis recti, it's important to avoid traditional prone plank & traditional crunches so as not to worsen the condition. Instead there are other exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles and, in time, shrink the separation.
Another complication that can arise following delivery is serious or deep vaginal tearing. If you experience this it is important to avoid deep squats, lunges, or heavy lifting. Instead engage your pelvic floor with breathing exercises and kegels.
Our FIT4MOM® instructors undergo training to help instruct the postpartum mom. If you are in a class and feel scar pain, abdominal or pelvic pain, difficulty with movements that should otherwise be normal, and/or poor ranges of motion in the pelvic or other areas, don’t hesitate to grab your instructor and bring it to their attention. Our goal is to help strengthen you for motherhood. Listen to your body and know when to ask for help.
If this pain persists, it may be time to seek additional help. Your doctor should be informed of any persisting pain. They can refer you to a pelvic floor physical therapist to strengthen your pelvic floor. Binding or support belts may be prescribed to help healing. Chiropractic centers, such as Harmony Chiropractic, can work with your individual body to adjust and realign your center.
Always check with your doctor prior to starting an exercise routine. Remember, it took nine months to grow a baby, it will take time to lose those pregnancy pounds. Listen to your body and measure your successes with short-term, “baby” goals. A lot of moms find it difficult to work around their new schedules and priorities: taking care of a newborn, juggling older children, work, etc. The wonderful thing about FIT4MOM® is the love and support of other moms around you, you don’t have to worry about childcare while exercising, and you set a healthy example for your children. We look forward to seeing you in one of our classes!