Post Natal Exercise

The Fitness Physiotherapist's guide to post-natal recovery

The number one thing that needs to be included in ANY post-natal exercise regime is pelvic floor muscle re-training.

Even for those women who did not have a vaginal delivery it is critical to re-train the muscles of the pelvic floor- the analogy I use with my clients is to leave an elephant sitting on a trampoline for a few months and then see how bouncy the trampoline is after that!

The other really important reason is that the pelvic floor muscles work with the muscles of the abdominal wall helping to reduce any degree of muscle separation that may be present and restoring the function of muscles that have undergone a caesarian section.

Every pregnancy is different and every woman’s body is different so exercise needs to be individually tailored for each woman. Consideration needs to be taken for those women who are breastfeeding- this prolongs the effects of the hormones that are present during pregnancy so ligaments stay softer making high impact exercise potentially harmful and risk of overstretching the joints with flexibility training.

For those women looking for weight loss I have some news- it’s only 20% exercise and 80% nutrition so watching what goes into your mouth is super important. Many people take the attitude of “I’ll just exercise more and eat what I want” but it doesn’t work that way!

The most important exercise post natally is work that focuses on rebuilding your core- pelvic floor, abdominals, pelvic stabilising muscles (mainly your butt) and the muscles of the arms and upper body. The baby is only going to get heavier and you often have to move and lift them from awkward positions (in and out of the car etc).

Oh and lots of squats for leg strength- you’ll be getting up and down from the floor- a lot and often, usually carrying the baby!

As for cardiovascular exercise you can’t beat walking for low impact, cheap and plentiful exercise that can be undertaken early in your post natal period- more vigorous forms of exercise can be straining on the pelvic floor early on until it regains function which can take up to 6 months or longer- this is where you need guidance from an appropriately trained professional.