Getting Started with Postnatal Exercise
6 min read
Postnatal exercise is important for mums and can be done anywhere, either at home or with other new parents.
In this guide, we provide an overview of what to expect, when to start and some simple exercises you can try for yourself.
What are Postnatal Exercises?
Postnatal exercise is usually associated with specific exercises, particularly those concerning the pelvic floor (muscles supporting the womb, bladder and bowel) and stomach muscles. However, postnatal exercise refers to any form of exercise after childbirth and is simply about getting your body moving and repairing itself if necessary.
The Benefits of Postnatal Exercise
Exercise is really good for all of us. However, exercise after childbirth can provide a range of benefits that are particularly important for mums.
Regain Your Strength
Childbirth can leave a lot of mums feeling weaker than usual. Postnatal exercise is vital for helping to build up that strength slowly over time.
Strengthen Your Muscles
Pregnancy causes a lot of our abdominal and pelvic muscles to stretch and weaken. However, this can be gradually reversed after childbirth through postnatal exercises.
Postnatal exercises can also help mums that are struggling with back pain after childbirth.
Build Your Confidence
Postnatal depression impacts many mums, and exercise is one of the most effective ways to combat these feelings. Postnatal exercise can help you regain shape and body confidence, while it will also help you improve your general energy levels.
Postnatal exercise can even be done with your little one, helping to strengthen that unique bond between mother and child.
When to Start Postnatal Exercise
According to the NHS, if you have a normal childbirth, you can begin postnatal exercise as soon as you feel capable.
You should always ease yourself gradually into postnatal exercise. Regardless of your condition, the NHS recommends waiting for around six weeks after childbirth - about when you’ll usually have your postnatal check - before beginning any impact exercises, such as running.
As with everything covered on our blog, childbirth is an experience unique to everyone. If you feel that you are ready to begin impact exercises before six weeks, particularly if you exercised before giving birth, speak to your GP or another health professional. They might advise that you are okay to restart exercise as usual.
Postnatal Exercise After a C-Section
If you had a cesarean section or complicated childbirth, your body might need to recover longer before beginning exercise. As a general guide, it’s often recommended not to start exercising until after six weeks and avoid impact exercise until 12 weeks.
However, as mentioned above, everyone’s situation is unique. If you had a complicated birth, we highly recommend that you speak to a health professional or your GP about when exercise is right for you.
Unsure about where to start with postnatal exercises? Here are some simple things you can do at home.
Pelvic Floor Postnatal Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are crucial. These muscles are some of the most affected by childbirth, and strengthening them can stop incontinence and make sex better.
You can do this simple exercise anywhere at any time:
- Squeeze your bottom (as if you’re holding wind) and your bladder or vagina.
- While breathing normally, hold these inner muscles for as long as you can, but for no longer than 10 seconds.
You should look to do ten repetitions of the above at least three times a day. If you can’t do long squeezes, you can do shorter, quicker contractions until your muscles get tired.
Stomach Postnatal Exercises
This stomach exercise can help your tummy to return to its normal shape after childbirth:
- Lie on your side with knees bent slightly and breathe in naturally.
- When you breathe out, draw in your lower stomach as if wearing a corset and squeeze your pelvic floor as explained above.
- Hold that position while breathing normally for as long as you can, but no longer than 10 seconds.
As with the pelvic floor exercises, it’s recommended that you do this for ten reps at a time.
We hope that this guide can support mums as they look to return to exercise after childbirth! If you want to learn more, explore our blog, which is full of advice on topics ranging from baby weaning food to teething, travel and everything in-between!