Sports Pitch

How & When to begin exercising after having a baby...

Last updated: 8.01am, Sunday 8th March 2020 by

In line with the recent celebrations around International Women's Day, our Physiotherapist, keen runner and mummy extraordinaire Louise has pulled together this feature with some advice on how and when to begin exercise after giving birth...

There are more people running than ever before, in particular women. Many women are unclear about how to return to exercise or running after having a baby and the safe way of which to do so. I have certainly had many ladies in to see me who have tried to do, too much, too soon. This has resulted in injuries such as hip, lower back pain (LBP) and pelvic girdle pain (PGP). The BJSM published a fantastic article and info gram to highlight a safe approach to running postnatally.

As a runner and a mum, I found returning to running harder after my first child than after my second. Maybe it was the initial shock to the system! Or the feeling that my body was somehow ‘different’….(A woman’s body changes so much during pregnancy!). But These experiences have spurred me on to research this area further.

Having a special interest in Pilates and already having my APPI Matwork certification, I went on to complete my APPI antenatal and postnatal Pilates course that explores modified Pilates in pregnancy.

Modified Pilates exercises are known to provide a number of positive benefits and are commonly used in women’s health physiotherapy. They are stability and strengthening exercises which target the Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFM) and deeper abdominal muscles that become stretched and weakened during pregnancy. They help to: maintain pelvic floor muscle strength and prevent urinary incontinence; decrease the incidence of LBP and PGP; increase the stability of the pelvis and spine; and improve posture and awareness. I would say this is a necessary start in your postnatal exercise journey, whether you are returning to sport such as running or even just walking. Whatever your level, pelvic floor muscle exercises (PFME) are the key, to begin with.

Obviously, everybody is different, as is every labour, and there can be post labour complications such as diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles). It will also depend on your fitness level before and during pregnancy, your pain threshold, and what your body is used to. This is all relevant when considering how much and what exercise to do post-birth. For these reasons, I find charts tricky as not everyone is the same and no labour is the same… Just chat to 3 different mums!

However, as a loose guide this infographic by Tom Goom and colleagues shows a good place to start for runners. As a mum, I would say give yourself an absolute minimum of 6-weeks to just enjoy your baby and settle in to being a new mum. I would focus on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, walking with your baby, and also trying to wake those abdominal muscles up with some pelvic tilting and Pilates!, then move further on up the chart.

I would, however, advise seeing a women's health physiotherapist or practitioner with a special interest in this area if you are unsure of anything. Or feel free to contact me for further information.

Look out for our next blog about exercise during pregnancy...