Bringing a new life into the world is a transformative experience, and the postpartum period is a crucial time for your body to heal and recover. As a postpartum mom, you may be eager to get back into shape, but it’s essential to prioritize your health and well-being during this delicate phase. One of the most common questions new mothers have is, “When can I start working out postpartum?” In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the answers to this question and many more, helping you make informed decisions about your postpartum fitness journey.
How Do You Know If You’re Ready to Workout Postpartum?
The desire to regain your pre-pregnancy fitness level is entirely understandable, but it’s crucial to listen to your body and consider your unique circumstances. Here are some essential factors to consider to determine if you’re ready to start working out postpartum:
- Doctor’s Approval: First and foremost, consult with your healthcare provider before starting any postpartum exercise routine. Your doctor can assess your individual situation, considering factors such as your delivery method, overall health, and any complications during childbirth.
- Postpartum Recovery Stage: The postpartum period is typically divided into three stages: early postpartum (0-6 weeks), mid-postpartum (6 weeks – 6 months), and late postpartum (beyond 6 months). Your readiness for exercise depends on which stage you’re in.
- Early Postpartum (0-6 weeks): In the immediate postpartum period, your body is still healing. You should focus on gentle mobility exercises and deep breathing to aid recovery.
- Mid-Postpartum (6 weeks – 6 months): After your six-week postpartum check-up, most women receive the green light to start more structured workouts. However, these should be low-impact and tailored to your fitness level.
- Late Postpartum (beyond 6 months): As you progress further into postpartum, your body will be better equipped for more intense workouts, but it’s still essential to listen to your body and gradually increase the intensity.
- Physical Symptoms: Pay close attention to your body’s signals. If you experience any of the following, it may not be the right time to start exercising:
- Unresolved pain, especially in the pelvic area or incision site (if you had a C-section).
- Heavy bleeding or abnormal discharge.
- Unexplained dizziness, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
- Pelvic floor dysfunction, such as incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
- Nutrition and Hydration: Ensure you’re consuming a well-balanced diet and staying adequately hydrated, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Proper nutrition is essential for your recovery and energy levels.
- Sleep: Adequate sleep is crucial for postpartum recovery and overall well-being. If you’re sleep-deprived, it might not be the best time to start an exercise routine.
- Emotional Well-being: Your emotional state matters just as much as your physical readiness. Postpartum can be emotionally challenging, so if you’re struggling with mood swings, anxiety, or depression, it’s important to address these issues before diving into a workout routine.
Why Can’t You Workout Before 6 Weeks Postpartum?
In the past, there was a widely held belief that you shouldn’t start working out before the magical six-week postpartum mark. It was seen as a rule etched in stone, and many new moms abided by it. But here’s the deal: this notion has evolved, and the standard nowadays is more about listening to your body and starting when you feel strong and ready.
Gone are the days when a fixed six-week waiting period was the norm. We’ve come to understand that every postpartum journey is unique, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario. While those early weeks are indeed crucial for healing and recovery, there’s no need to follow a strict calendar.
The focus today is on being in tune with your body. It’s about consulting with your healthcare provider, monitoring your physical symptoms, and considering your emotional well-being. When these factors align, and you feel ready to ease back into exercise, that’s the moment to start. This personalized approach not only respects your unique postpartum experience but also promotes a safer and more effective journey to regaining your fitness.
In essence, the outdated notion of a strict six-week waiting period is giving way to a more individualized and body-conscious approach. Listen to your body, seek professional guidance, and remember that you set the timeline for your postpartum fitness journey. A postpartum coach specializing in core and pelvic floor rehab programs will help quite a bit.
That being said, there are several compelling reasons why it’s still generally recommended to wait until at least 6-ish weeks postpartum before starting an intense exercise routine:
- Healing and Recovery: Your body goes through an incredible amount of stress during pregnancy and childbirth. It needs time to heal, especially if you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section. Your uterus is contracting back to its pre-pregnancy size, and your pelvic floor is regaining strength. Starting intense workouts too soon can interfere with these critical healing processes. Finding a good postpartum coach, particularly one with online programs you can do at home, will help immensely in naviagating your core healing and recovery.
- Risk of Injury: Exercising too early can put you at risk of injuries, as your ligaments and joints may still be loose from pregnancy hormones. This is especially true if you attempt high-impact exercises.
- Hormonal Changes: Hormonal imbalances can persist in the early postpartum period. Overexerting yourself with exercise can disrupt these delicate hormonal balances, potentially affecting your milk supply (if breastfeeding) or your overall well-being.
- Infection Risk: If you had a C-section, working out too early increases the risk of infection, as you may still have open incisions that need to heal properly.
- Pelvic Floor Health: The pelvic floor muscles, which support your bladder, uterus, and rectum, can be weakened during pregnancy and childbirth. Exercising too soon can strain these muscles, potentially leading to pelvic floor dysfunction.
To sum up, listen to your body and your healthcare provider, not a set-in-stone date on the calendar when returning to exercise.
Can I Workout 2 Weeks Postpartum?
Working out just two weeks postpartum is generally discouraged for several reasons:
- Healing Is Ongoing: At this early stage, your body is still in the initial phase of healing. Your uterus is shrinking back to its pre-pregnancy size, and your incision (if you had a C-section) or perineum (if you had a vaginal birth) needs time to close and heal properly.
- Risk of Injury: Your joints and ligaments may still be lax due to the lingering effects of pregnancy hormones. Attempting strenuous exercises too soon can lead to injuries, such as sprains or strains.
- Fatigue: The first few weeks postpartum can be incredibly demanding, with frequent feedings and little sleep. Pushing yourself into a workout routine when you’re already sleep-deprived can exacerbate exhaustion and slow down your recovery.
- Breastfeeding Considerations: If you’re breastfeeding, it’s important to note that intense exercise can sometimes lead to a lactic acid build-up in breast milk, which may affect your baby’s feeding. Additionally, exercise can increase your fluid needs, so maintaining hydration while breastfeeding is crucial.
- Emotional Well-being: Early postpartum is a time of great adjustment, both physically and emotionally. It’s essential to prioritize self-care and bonding with your baby during this period.
While starting a structured workout program just two weeks postpartum may be too early for you, there are gentle exercises you can do to aid recovery. These may include:
- Pelvic Tilts: These gentle movements can help strengthen your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.
- Deep Core Exercises: These can help with pelvic floor strength and support, but it’s essential to perform them correctly. Consult your healthcare provider or a physical therapist for guidance. Check out the Core Corrective for the program to help regain core strength.
- Deep Breathing: Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help relax your body and reduce stress.
- Gentle Stretches: Light stretching can help alleviate muscle tension.
The desire to regain your pre-pregnancy fitness level is entirely natural, but your postpartum recovery should be your top priority. Obtaining the green light from your healthcare provider and being in tune with your body and what it can do is the safest approach. Even then, it’s essential to start slow, listen to your body, and make gradual progress.
Remember that every woman’s postpartum journey is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery, you should be able to start light, restorative exercise again soon after the baby is born. Movements like walking, coupled with a restorative program like the Core Corrective is the idea place to start with postpartum exercise. Usually, it is safe to begin exercising a few weeks after giving birth—or as soon as you feel ready. Then as time goes on and you find yourself at the 8-12 week mark, you can start more intense exercises like a diastasis-friendly 4 week challenge. A targeted HIIT program made just for moms that takes diastasis recti into consideration will get you set up to successfully return to more intense exercise as you feel ready.