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Postpartum Exercise: Guide to Working Out Post Pregnancy

After childbirth, you may decide it is time to start exercising again. However, the thought of exercising may cause some anxiety. After all, it was only a matter of weeks ago that you gave birth to another human! Truth: it is important to be realistic with your expectations after giving birth. Don’t be surprised if, at first, it is challenging to hop on a treadmill and do a two-mile jog. You will not be at the same exercise level you were before pregnancy. Let's discuss when you can begin to exercise and what to watch out for. 

How soon can you start exercising after giving birth?

Depending on the intensity of exercise and type of delivery, you may begin doing light exercises a few days after birth. However, if you had a c-section delivery, complicated delivery, or vaginal stitches, it is best to wait until you receive clearance from your care provider before resuming exercise. 

Tips for getting started

  • Begin slowly
  • Remember to nurse/pump before working out
  • Invest in good postpartum shapewear
  • Connect with other moms to create a supportive community 
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Get enough rest
  • Be gentle with your abdominal muscles
  • Find an exercise routine that works for you

What types of exercises are best for postpartum?

Kegel Exercises

Kegel Exercises are more beneficial than you may realize. Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic muscle exercises, strengthen the pelvic and vaginal muscles relaxed during pregnancy. Studies have shown that women who perform Kegels after birth benefited by:

  • Strengthening the pelvic muscles
  • Gain bladder control 
  • May reduce the risk of urinary incontinence
  • May help tone the vaginal wall to increase sensations and better orgasms
  • May help prevent pelvic organ prolapse 
  • May reduce anal incontinence
  • May help heal pelvic muscles that were loosened during delivery. 

How to perform Kegel Exercises: 

Kegel exercises are easier to do than you may realize. For example, if you have had to hold your bladder until you find your bathroom, that is the same squeeze you use during a kegel exercise. To do a Kegel exercise, you contract your pelvic floor muscles. Then, hold it for 10 seconds and release it for 10 seconds. Repeat ten times. This exercise may be repeated three times a day. To practice the proper kegel form, try to stop your urination midstream by squeezing your pelvic floor. 

Pelvic floor tilt

Pelvic floor tilt exercise is a great way to strengthen your abdominal muscles. To do a pelvic floor tilt, lay on your back with your knees bent. Then, with your back flat against the floor, tighten your abdominal muscles, rotate, and tilt your pelvis slightly. Hold each tilt for 10 seconds at a time. Release for 10 seconds. You may repeat for up to 20 repetitions. It is okay if you cannot get 20 repetitions, work your way up to 20 as you gain strength. This exercise may be repeated up to five times a day. 

Diaphragm Breathing

In the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, your diaphragm becomes squashed and has a more challenging time expanding correctly. After birth, it is essential to re-engage your diaphragm to help strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles. Your diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles work together to provide proper blood oxygen. 

To do diaphragmatic breathing, you want to start by taking a long and slow breath through your nose with your mouth closed. When you inhale through your nose, your stomach should rise, and your ribs should expand to each side of your abdomen. To exhale, it is helpful to imagine you are blowing out birthday candles or making a wish on a dandelion. Be sure that the exhale breath is slow and not too quick. 

Walking/ Running

Going for a walk may be the last thing on your mind after giving birth; however short walks are beneficial during your postpartum recovery. After you deliver, it is important to promote positive blood circulation to prevent blood clots. In addition, movement helps improve your mood and reduce postpartum swelling. 

Start with short brisk walks and work up to your exercise routine. The rule of thumb is to start at 25 percent of what you would normally walk. 

Are there any exercises to avoid postpartum?

If you had a vaginal delivery, you should wait at least six to eight weeks before doing extraneous exercises or heavy lifting. Because every birth is unique, contact your care provider before resuming any strenuous exercise. 

If you had a c- section delivery, listening to the post-op procedures and guidelines laid out to you by your care provider is crucial. A c-section is considered a major surgery, and recovery time for everyone is unique to your body, complications, and prior pregnancies. 

Strenuous exercises to avoid include: 

  • Heavy weight lifting
  • Sit-ups
  • High-intensity aerobics
  • Crunches
  • Reverse Crunches
  • Pilates 
  • Targeted core and abdominal workouts

Benefits of exercising postpartum

  • May help tone and strengthen abdominal muscles
  • Increases energy 
  • May reduce the risk of postpartum depression
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Releases endorphins for a better mood
  • May help lose the extra weight gained during pregnancy