Haley Wilensky

When can I start exercising after baby is born?

Being a new mom means new everything – new family, new responsibilities, and a new body. We jump into this new role feet first, with no manuals. No manuals for “how to parent” and no manuals for “how to adjust to our new selves”.

“How to adjust to our new selves”. There is no question, our bodies have changed. We now find ourselves faced with physical changes we may not have expected or been prepared for – changes that can limit our ability to enjoy activities we once turned to for comfort or stress relief. The postnatal experience can be daunting and downright scary at times. There are so many questions that rush into our minds as new moms. This is why communities like FIT4MOM are so important. They provide a place where we can connect with other women who are going through the same things we are.

Deciding when to return to exercise can be tricky. There are different pelvic floor dysfunctions, a postpartum mom should take into consideration when deciding if it’s the right time to return. To name a few: there could be tearing and scar healing, musculoskeletal pain, abdominal separation (called diastasis recti), or pelvic organ prolapse (when one or more organs in the pelvic region may be protruding from the vagina or rectum).

Among the most common postnatal health issues is urinary incontinence. Many of us have heard a friend say or have experience with “peeing a little” when we jump or run. This may be common but it is NOT normal! Incontinence is a sign that you need to stop, take a beat, and pay attention to your own body. There are safe non-surgical ways to become “pee free.”

After many years as a pelvic floor physical therapist, I can tell you, we all come in different shapes and sizes, have had completely unique pregnancy and birth experiences, and have our own past medical histories to consider. There is no definitive answer to the question “when can a postpartum mom return to “normal activities”? A pelvic floor physical therapist is trained to examine and assess your body as a whole, taking many factors into account, to come up with a complete answer and plan for you to follow to return to exercise.

What is a pelvic floor exam? This is not a gynecological exam. There is no speculum or cold instruments. Rather, the examination involves assessing the muscles and structures that are actually squished back behind the speculum when you have your gynecological exam. This is what pelvic floor physical therapists specialize in. There are many benefits from a pelvic floor examination (internal and external) after childbirth by a pelvic floor physical therapist. The exam will help you gain knowledge and understanding of your new body as well as detect possible issues that may need assistance in healing. One visit could help you to avoid incontinence, pain, prolapse, or sexual dysfunction that can follow childbirth.

So back to the main question posed to me, “How do we know when it’s safe to return to running or high impact exercise?”

If there is no pain, pain with intercourse, pressure, organ prolapse, incontinence, or other issue that your doctor has highlighted as a concern for return to exercise, than a low impact exercise program would be ideal to begin around 3 months, with a progression into running around 3-6 months. However, it would be beneficial to see a pelvic floor physical therapist for evaluation of your readiness to return to this type of exercise to ensure continued healing and avoid exacerbating a pelvic floor dysfunction. Your physical therapist will take into account any physical findings, personalized strength testing, fitness level, scar tissue, breastfeeding considerations, and more – ensuring that your recovery plan is customized to your individual needs.

Are there ways for me to test my readiness at home?

You should be able to:

1) Balance on one leg for 10 seconds

2) Squat on one leg for 10 repetitions each side

3) Jump forward and back and jump on one leg for 10 repetitions each side

I have been a physical therapist in the Atlanta area since 2004. After my own experiences with a dysfunctional pelvic floor I decided to see a pelvic floor physical therapist myself. It completely changed my life. I was so grateful for the specialized care, that literally no other healthcare professional could provide, that I made it my mission to help others find the same relief that I did. After many years of specialized training, and my already extensive background in orthopedics, I am able to see a more complete picture of my patient’s health and incorporate the whole body in my treatments.

This is my passion, and after the many encounters with women just like me, I feel like it’s my calling the pay it forward and help others struggling with this complicated and sensitive part of the body.

The state of Georgia is a direct access state, which means you can go to a physical therapist without a doctor’s prescription. So take action, make the move and get the help you need to get your life back after baby!

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