Postpartum Exercise- Why You Should Proceed with Caution
Waiting in line to check out at the grocery store, it’s hard not to catch headlines about a celebrity getting her “pre baby body back” after delivery or someone else “still hanging on to their baby weight.” It seems like there’s a lot of pressure on new moms to get back to grueling exercise as soon as possible. However, as women try to jump right back into the same types of workouts they were performing pre-baby, we see many people really hurting themselves.
The misconception out there is that once you deliver, your body is ready to jump up and get back to all of its normal activities. In actuality, regardless of the method of delivery, even very straightforward childbirth is one of the largest traumas an average body will go through in a lifetime. You would not recommend a person return to Cross fit 2 weeks after a serious car accident- your pelvic tissues need similar healing time periods.
The following wisdom was shared with me by midwives at Austin Area Birthing Center:
Week 1 postpartum: IN the bed. That means laying down. You may get up to go to the bathroom. All baby care can be performed in the bed or at bedside. Others should be responsible for cooking, housework, running after additional children. Do not be entertaining visitors. Sleep as much as your baby will allow and eat nutrient rich foods to replenish your energy stores and healing capabilities.
Week 2 postpartum: ON the bed. You are still mostly sedentary, but can now sit up to interact with baby, nurse, take slightly longer showers, sit in the bath. You are not doing chores or running errands.
Week 3 postpartum: NEAR the bed. Get up and combine some quick ingredients for a snack or walk around the house without lifting anything heavier than baby. Your day is still mostly comprised of rest and baby care, but you are not going grocery shopping and are not going out to exercise.
In the realm of exercise, gentle walking is the best way to start getting back around week 4.
Why so strict? Your uterus needs to be resting to shrink back to its original size and, pending you had a vaginal delivery, your pelvic floor was just stretched to its extreme and needs to slowly return to a functional length. Don’t pay it the respect it deserves? Your organs may start descending downward and result in prolapse, urinary leakage, or bowel dysfunction. Tears will be very painful and have a difficult time healing if tissues are strained. Also, your placenta detached from the uterus and left a salad-plate-sized open wound behind. Bleeding slightly more one day? You opened up your scab by doing too much.
We want you to get back to exercise, but it needs to be done slowly.
Contact a pelvic floor physical therapist for assessment and a rehabilitation plan to allow you to get back to your favorite form of exercise safely. We’d rather see you for 1-2 visits postpartum to make sure you’re safe and have a plan to reach your workout goals than see you down the road when you’ve already done damage.