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When can I start exercising post birth?

By Angela Jameson on 2 September 2020

So, many mums ask me this in my pre natal Pilates classes and the truth is there is no right answer. I am sorry I can’t make it black and white for you but that’s the way it is I am afraid. With every woman being very different and experiencing pregnancy differently makes how you exercise during your pregnancy very specific to each woman. Where some women feel sick in their first trimester, some may feel sick throughout which may make wanting to exercise a challenge. Some may experience pelvic pain and others have a blissful pain free pregnancy. So, everyone is different and your level of what you would like to do will vary from woman to woman and from each trimester.

So, as it’s very different and unique to each woman exercising pre pregnancy it’s the same school of thought for post- delivery. However, there are a few more things to consider. How was your delivery? Did you tear? How big was the tear? Did you have a c-section? And the list goes on. Don’t panic…. you will be able to exercise again and start to feel your ‘old self again’ but when you start will be specific to a number of factors. So, please don’t rush back to running 2 weeks post baby (you laugh but people do this!!) and please ensure you have had your 6 week GP check or/and consulted a pre and post natal exercise specialist for advice on when you can start and at what level you should be starting from. One exercise you can start with immediately after giving birth is your pelvic floor exercises and breathing correctly.

Cortisol Levels

Another reason as to take it easy on getting back to exercise to soon after delivery is the adrenal hormone cortisol. When you exercise, your adrenal glands pump out cortisol to increase your heart rate and breathing rate, and to increase blood flow to your muscles. There is a significant drop in cortisol levels post-delivery, going out for a run two weeks after giving birth will draw on the tapped resources of your adrenals before they are ready, and this will knock your recovering body out of balance. There are also many studies showing that most new mums have an elevated level of cortisol in their system to deal with the interrupted sleep and demands of new born baby. A high level of cortisol sitting in your system has been shown to slow wound healing, so if you have suffered from an episiotomy, diastasis separation or C-section this will have an effect on how quickly you recovery post-delivery. 

Flexible Ligaments

You may have enjoyed an increased degree of flexibility during pregnancy. Your joints will still be loose for the first few weeks post-delivery and loose ligaments mean greater risk of injury. Exercising too hard in those first weeks can also delay the healing of episiotomy and caesarean section. If you haemorrhaged after giving birth, you may be anaemic, and you will need to build up your iron levels for a while before you’re ready to exercise. Consider taking a supplement that will have a good level of iron and increase your dark green leafy veg intake. 

So, in general there is no right answer, seek medical help or advice from a pre and post natal fitness specialist to get a guideline on when to start and most importantly listen to your body.

Happy exercising x

"I started physically-fit for mothers who want to prepare and recover quickly from childbirth. We offer group and one to one fitness sessions and our membership club allows you to follow our premium videos at a time and place right for you."
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