Staying active post-pregnancy can play an important role in aiding your body's recovery, restoring strength and increasing your energy levels. We spoke to pre and postnatal exercise specialist, Tammy Obst, about safe ways to start moving and exercising in the weeks following birth. Tammy is based in Adelaide and runs an online studio featuring pre and postnatal workouts.
Tammy says: "The recovery post-baby depends on many variables and it can be overwhelming for most of us to know where to begin, particularly with returning to exercise. Your body has undergone a birth marathon and, no matter how your baby is born, it's important to be patient and give your body time to heal, repair and re-strengthen."
Birth - week 3
- Start with slow, short 10-15 minute walks and gradually build up duration.
- Spend time diaphragmatic breathing in bed before you go to sleep as your diaphragm has been impacted during pregnancy.
- Start short basic pelvic floor contractions three times per day lying, sitting and standing.
- You can now increase walking duration to 30 minutes if you’re feeling up to it.
- Do diaphragmatic breathing for two minutes three times per day to help with pelvic floor and core repair. It may be helpful to chose three activities that you do each day (like showering or laying in bed at the end of the day) to create a habit and remind yourself to do this.
- Pelvic floor strength: a great app recommended by many physios is the Squeezy NHS Pelvic Floor App. Try three positions per day from the app to build up endurance with pelvic floor lifting.
Week 6 onwards
- You can usually resume 30 minutes of low-impact cardio three to five times per week after your six week check up with OBGYN/GP. This might include walking, swimming, cross-trainer or gentle cycling on a stationary bike.
- It's important to continue focusing on your pelvic floor and deep core and to build strength through body weight movements prior to returning to weights or higher-impact workouts. A postnatal pilates class or program is a great way to work on increasing your strength.
- You may also want to see a women’s health physio to check your pelvic floor.
Birth - week 6
- It's important to listen to body and take things slowly.
- When getting in and out of bed, remember to roll onto your side and exhale to push up to a seated position.
- Start diaphragmatic breathing as this will help repair your core and activate your pelvic floor.
- Short walks with regulated diaphragmatic breathing will naturally relax and activate your pelvic floor while walking.
- Try doing pelvic floor lifts while lying, sitting and standing using the Squeezy NHS Pelvic Floor App (focus on quick lifts and releases and endurance holds).
Week 6 onwards
Once you have the tick of approval from your OBGYN or GP, you can commence the following activities:
- Pilates core, pelvic floor and glute strength exercises (take a look at Tammy's free Post Natal Mini Course on how to do this).
- Start to increase your short daily walks up to 20-30 minutes per session and gradually increase by 10-15 per cent each week to work up to 150 minutes per week. You can also cycle on a static bike instead.
- You can start bodyweight strength training twice a week to build up your strength through squats, lunges and bridging exercises. Make sure you lift your pelvic floor and deep core on the up phase of the squat, lunge or bridge. You can integrate pelvic floor and core activation into your day-to-day life too, especially as most new mums pick up their baby 60 times a day on average.
EXERCISES TO AVOID
The following exercises should be avoided for up to 16 weeks or until your pelvic floor and core have repaired (both for natural and c-section births):
- Front core work that puts pressure on your inner abdominals such as planks, sit-ups, push-ups and chin-ups. This also includes any exercise that causes the abdominals to bulge/pop or requires the core to support most of your body weight.
- Strength training with weights.
- Plyometric exercises such as star jumps, squat jumps, jump lunges, burpees, stairs, running, trampoline and skipping.
- Cycling hard or for long periods of time.
Tammy has given us access to her Postnatal Recovery Mini Course, which you can access here. You can follow her @tamobst for some great content around pregnancy and postpartum health and fitness or join her live-streamed workouts through her At Home Studio (use code BLOOMBERRI for a discount).
PLEASE NOTE: we recommend speaking to your doctor if you are unsure about beginning or resuming exercise post pregnancy.