When can I exercise?

Exercise is an important part of your body's return to normal after pregnancy and childbirth.

Moving around soon after delivery will not only help you feel better, it will also keep blood clots from forming in your legs or pelvis.

Very light exercise, such as gentle leg or tummy lifts, is a good way to help healing and regain your pre-pregnant strength.

Consider the following:

  • Walk and move around a little as soon as you are able. Movement may be difficult at first, but keep trying.
  • No lifting, pushing, or pulling for the first two to four weeks.
  • Try to keep good posture while walking, standing, or sitting. This will help stretch your muscles.
  • Be aware of how you place your legs when sitting or in bed. To keep your blood flowing, try not to cross your legs, flex them too tightly, or position them with pressure against the back of the knees.
  • You can try exercise in bed. Bend and straighten your knees, pressing the back of your knees into the bed and then relaxing them gently.
  • Performing Kegel exercises will help return muscle tone to an area stretched during childbirth. Try to squeeze the muscles you use to control the flow of urine. Simply tighten and relax ten times, for about ten seconds each time and then rest. You will improve bladder control and help your perineum heal faster by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the tissues. You may even improve sexual intercourse with this muscle control as you are also exercising your vaginal muscles.

If you gave birth vaginally, you may be recovered enough after two weeks or so to be able to exercise a little more.  You will probably need more time to rest and recover after a cesarean birth or after a labor and birth with complications.

  • Continue and increase your Kegel exercises.
  • Exercise your pelvic muscles. Lie on your back and tighten your lower belly while supporting your lower back.  Gently lift your hips for five seconds, release for two seconds, and repeat. This exercise will help to firm your loosened abdominal muscles.
  • Exercise your legs: first tuck your hips forward and firm your abdominal muscles and buttocks. Keeping your back straight and your arms stretched in front for balance, slowly and smoothly bend your knees and squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, hold for two to five seconds, and then slowly and smoothly stand up. Be careful not to lock your knees or bend them too far.

Have your health care provider help you plan a light exercise program as you recover. Plan to increase your activities once you are able. Walking and swimming (six weeks after delivery), are good choices for getting back in shape, since they put less strain on joints.

Don't forget the three most important companions to exercise: warm-up, stretching and cool-down.

References

AWHONN. (2006). The Compendium of Postpartum Care, 2nd Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Medical Broadcasting Company.

Riley, L. (2006). You & Your Baby: Pregnancy. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Corporation.