Postpartum exercise: What to consider before getting started!
This is just a quick blog to discuss a few things that I find are very important to consider before your return to exercise after giving birth.
1- Have you given yourself time to rest?
Oh thiiiiiis. It’s my number one consideration. Are. you. resting? And by resting, I don’t mean nap when baby naps, because those who’ve been there understand it’s not that easy (so let’s not share this advice). By resting I mean are you allowing yourself to adjust to motherhood? Are you allowing your body to recover? Are you nourishing yourself with foods that help with recovery, when possible? Are you sharing or writing down how you feel so that you aren’t holding onto negative feelings? It’s important to remember that you were pregnant for 9+ months, have powered through childbirth, and are now transitioning to motherhood/postpartum. Be patient with the process, be kind to yourself and don’t try to “push through”.
2- How do you feel?
It seems like a simple question, but if you can bring awareness to your physical and mental being when you ask yourself that question, you may find your answer to change which is totally okay. Are you tired, do you feel overwhelmed, is your body achy, how are your energy levels? By asking yourself this question, you can become aware of your physical and mental self and appreciate the feedback it is giving you. Exercise might be appropriate at this time, or may be something to hold off on.
3- How is your pelvic health?
Are you aware of any pelvic floor dysfunction? I say the word “dysfunction” with no intent to trigger fear or anxiousness regarding your pelvic health. It is simply a term used to flag pelvic floor functions that may not be functioning as they should at this moment. Symptoms that are common however shouldn’t be expected of you to “just live with it because you gave birth”:
Leaking when walking, laughing, sneezing, lifting, whether urinary or bowel.
Urgency to go to pee… as in when you need to go, it’s NOW or else.
Pain during sex or when inserting a tampon, urination or bowel movements.
Feeling tension, heaviness or bulging in your pelvic floor (like something is falling out)
Low back pain or discomfort in the hips, pelvis or SI joints.
Pain at or around cesarean incision.
If any of these symptoms seem familiar to you, you are not alone! They are VERY common. But I HIGHLY encourage women to see a pelvic health physiotherapist during pregnancy, and especially, the first couple of months into postpartum regardless of having symptoms or not. They are very knowledgeable and a great asset to recovery. Plus, I can’t treat the source of your symptoms, it isn’t in my scope of practice. But what I can do is support you in achieving your specific goals while managing your symptoms during your exercise and in connection with your physiotherapy treatments.
Need help finding one? Send me a message and I’ll be glad to refer you to one.
4- Why do I want to start exercising again?
I think this is an important question that we don’t often ask ourselves. WHY do you want to exercise again? Is the urgency to exercise a NEED or a WANT. Be honest, and know that you’re answer is okay for all the reasons. Is it because you are feeling achy and tight? Your energy levels are low? You want to gain strength or help with your recovery? Have a long term goal in mind? Or are there other reasons feeding your need to exercise such as, insecurities, pressures of gaining your “pre-baby body back” (why this term?!!!), anxiety towards your exercise performance, constant comparison with other moms, etc. These are ALL honest, and legitimate feelings and reasons. Asking yourself WHY can guide you in understanding if it’s a want or a need, and understanding whether other aspects of your life are influencing your decisions regarding exercise.
5- It’s a process.
I’ll keep this one short and sweet. But your return to exercise will be a process. It’s not because you’re no longer pregnant or because you’ve had your 6-week medical clearance that your body is ready for all types of exercises. This, however, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to return to the exercises you love, it just means you may have to progressively get back to these activities and focus on strength, mobility, core connection and understanding your body before doing so. As hard as it may be, be patient, trust the process, and embrace the season you are in.
Meanwhile, if you are interested in learning how to return to exercise, and want to progressively build strength, have guidance in recovery and core connection, and have support throughout this journey, we still have some spots in our Mama - Core & Body Strength Class, starting April 4th. You can sign-up here. Spots are limited.