The last few months of your pregnancy probably felt like a workout – like carrying a medicine ball everywhere you went.
But now your little one has arrived. Just as you’ve finally figured out the do’s and don’ts of exercise during pregnancy, it’s time to learn about postpartum exercise.
Read on to bust four major myths surrounding postpartum exercise.
Postpartum Exercise Myth #1: You can start exercising again immediately.
Fact: Your body needs time to recover, and your doctor will help you determine when it’s okay to start exercising again.
If you had an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, starting gentle exercise within a few days is usually fine – think walking, pelvic floor exercises, or simple yoga poses. Most women get the green light to resume their pre-pregnancy activities within 6-12 weeks of delivery.
But remember, the road to postpartum recovery is different for everyone, and you know your body better than anyone else. You may need to give your body some extra time before you introduce (or re-introduce) high-impact exercises, weightlifting, or running. Honor your recovery and respect your body’s limits. You’ll get back to the activities you love in no time.
Postpartum Exercise Myth #2: It’ll be impossible to fit in exercise after your baby arrives – you’ll be too exhausted, and you won’t have any time.
Fact: Working out won’t always be at the top of your priority list, but postpartum exercise has some serious benefits, and it’s still possible to stay active post-baby.
Motherhood is exhausting. You probably haven’t had a solid eight hours of sleep in weeks. You’re slowly learning to decipher between the “hungry cry” and the “diaper change cry,” and while tiny baby clothes are adorable on your little one, they’re not quite as cute when they’re covered in spit-up and piled up like a mountain in your laundry basket. And you’re still supposed to fit in exercise?
Sure, postpartum exercise can help support a healthy body weight after pregnancy. But it’s so much more than that. Regular physical activity supports mental health, helping you combat the ever-so-common baby blues. It helps keep your heart pumping strong so you can love your little one fiercely with every single beat. And along with calcium and vitamin D, exercise helps build and maintain strong bones, which is particularly important after pregnancy.*
Perhaps the most enticing benefit for new moms: an energy boost. That’s right – exercise can actually help support healthy energy levels – and you don’t have to go all the way to the gym to get in a meaningful workout. Take a mid-day stroll with your little one in their stroller or bust out a quick 15-minute home workout while your baby naps or relaxes in a bouncer seat nearby. Then, you can reverse the roles – catch your breath while you supervise a tummy time session.
Exercise is a form of self-care, and it’s so important that you prioritize time for yourself post-baby. You won’t always feel like choosing exercise – and that’s okay. Sometimes you’ll need pure relaxation, like a bubble bath (and maybe a bubbly beverage). Other times you’ll need some social support – maybe you meet a friend for coffee or join a local mom group. Be sure to communicate your needs with your partner and support system so they can step in and help when you need it.
Postpartum Exercise Myth #3: Abdominal exercises are off-limits post-baby.
Fact: You can strengthen your core, but it’s important to learn how to do abdominal exercises safely and correctly.
As your belly grows during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles usually separate a little bit. Some separation is perfectly healthy, and most of the time, this gap closes on its own after delivery. But, some fitness professionals caution against crunches and other abdominal exercises during the postpartum period to prevent further separation.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), crunches aren’t the enemy, and when performed correctly, they can still be a safe and effective tool for restoring core strength. But it’s incredibly important to make sure you learn how to do abdominal exercises properly. If you’re concerned about your abdominal muscles post-baby, talk with your healthcare provider about working with a physical therapist to strengthen your core safely.
Postpartum Exercise Myth #4: It’s normal to pee a little when you exercise (or cough, sneeze, or laugh).
Fact: It’s common, but it’s not normal.
Pregnancy and delivery can weaken the pelvic floor muscles that help with bladder control. So, postpartum incontinence is pretty common. You’ve probably even heard other moms joke about it light-heartedly. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal.
If you find yourself peeing a little bit when you run, jump, cough, sneeze, or laugh, your pelvic floor muscles probably need some attention. You can start with pelvic floor exercises, like Kegels. But if you’re still struggling, be sure to address it with your healthcare provider. You may need to visit with a pelvic floor physical therapist to help you resolve any lingering issues.
Developing a postpartum exercise plan may not be one of your top priorities as you settle into life with your newborn. And that’s okay. The benefits of postpartum exercise are waiting for you when you’re ready. Start slow and take time to figure out what works for you.