Working out During All Stages of Pregnancy Series – Postpartum and the Healing Period
Congratulations! You’ve had your baby and are slowly starting to get the hang of this parenting thing (whether it’s your 1st or your 5th baby!). No matter how many babies you’ve birthed, the recommendation is always to wait about 6 weeks after having your baby to start back to a rigorous fitness routine. However, this is not a pass to do nothing physical for those first 6 weeks postpartum.
I had two very different experiences in this postpartum period with my body. With my first baby I had an amazing recovery and felt soooo much better after having the baby. As I mentioned before, I didn’t have the easiest of pregnancies so when both babies finally came out I felt like my old self again. Just because you may feel like your old self again doesn’t mean your body is completely ready to act like its old self again. I went for my first postpartum jog 9 days postpartum after my first pregnancy and my uterus just about fell out. I thought this sensation was just normal and to be expected so I kept pushing myself to do more runs for longer periods of time. At about 14 days postpartum I experienced heavy bleeding and at 16 days postpartum I passed several tangerine sized clots. I learned a lot from this experience and backed off a bit (for me) to walking from that point until I saw my doctor at my 6 week postpartum appointment. Because I was still bleeding pretty heavily at that point I wasn’t cleared to start exercising like I should have been. My bleeding went on until about 9 weeks postpartum and was neither normal nor was it environmentally friendly 😉 So needless to say I learned from that experience with my second baby and didn’t even attempt to run until after my bleeding had completely subsided. That being said, I did do other forms of activity not only to help with my running comeback but also to mentally help myself with my body imagine after giving birth. Even just a little something will really help any of you who may be experiencing body image issues after giving birth. A little movement is great for you both mentally and physically.
Day 1 through the First Week
I know what you’re thinking, “Day 1!? Are you kidding me!?” And the answer is, well kind of kidding but not really. Believe it or not it’s actually better to move within the first few hours after giving birth than to lay in a bed. Studies show that movement helps with the healing process and makes for a slightly faster recovery. I don’t mean getting on a stationary bike and biking for 30 minutes. Movement just means you should get up (with the help of a nurse or someone staying with you) and move your legs around. Walk around the hospital room or your home but no more than that. The recommendations are the same for someone who has just had a c-section or surgery. Just be sure to check with your medical team first. Continue with this light form of movement throughout the first week. Lifting your baby will also be a great toning exercise for your arms 🙂 You may also find that stretching and gentle moving feels good as well. You will know you’re doing too much too soon if your bleeding picks up and becomes heavy and red. Back off immediately if this starts to happen. Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel up to the challenge of getting up a few or even several hours after giving birth. Sometimes just making it to the restroom could feel like an overwhelming task. With my first child I did very little movement after he was born. I laid in the hospital bed until I had to go home with the exception of a shower and using the restroom. My second child was a little bit different and I not only was able to walk around my room but I also ventured out into the hospital hallways. They were two very different recoveries and I listened to my body first and foremost and did what was most comfortable to me.
By now you should be feeling a little better and maybe even a little adventurous meaning, you may leave the house by yourself with your newest family member. A little walking at this point is just fine and actually encouraged by most health professionals. However, if you’ve had a c-section you may want to hold off on walking much more than around the house and only lifting your newborn. You don’t want to damage your lower abdominal area where the insertion site is by picking up your daily pace too soon. You need to do what’s right for you and what feels best for your body. With my second baby I was happy walking about 3-4 leisurely miles a day. I didn’t always do all these miles at once. Some days I would walk the dog twice a day (once in the morning for a mile and again at night for a mile) or I would set out for a walk with my newborn in a carrier and my toddler in a stroller. We’d walk to get coffee, groceries, to a park or to the library. I would feel amazing after I’d get home and it was a great way to clear my mind and get the kids out of the house. My bleeding had almost completely gone away by this point so I wasn’t afraid to walk this much and it felt good on my body. I was also doing some modified yoga as well to help with toning my body and stretching it which also felt great at this point.
Around this point your bleeding should be just about over or completely done and you’re right around the corner from getting the green light from your doctor to start a fitness routine. If you’ve had a c-section you’ll probably not get the green light from your medical team until about 8 weeks postpartum due to the nature of the incision and the slower healing process. I felt fine to run and go to the gym by this point without getting my doctor’s approval. This is my own experience though so you again, have to do what feels right for you. I know my body and knew that because my bleeding had stopped it was probably OK to kick it up a notch. I have been a runner for over 15 years so I know when something doesn’t feel right and knew that the second something was “off” then it was time for me to stop. I felt great running and doing strength training at the gym so I went for it. If you do feel up to trying something more strenuous than just walking or yoga and are craving a sweat session, start slowly and only do a little at a time. For example, pre-pregnancy I was running for about an hour at a time, but my first postpartum run was only 20 minutes. I didn’t look at how many miles I had done, I only went off of how my body felt and how much felt right for me. I gradually worked back up to an hour but it took over 3 months. Be gentle on yourself and know that in time, you’ll be right back to where you were before having a baby.
A few things to keep in mind while getting back into a fitness routine postpartum:
-Listen to your body. If you’re feeling up to it try a walk at first and progress from there.
-C-sections take a little longer to heal from so be patient and don’t rush things if you’ve had one.
-If your bleeding increases or becomes bright red then back off
-If you are experiencing any pain stop immediately. Soreness is a normal part of the postpartum period but pain is not.
-Don’t do too much too soon. Start slowly and work your way up to more every few days.
-Don’t spend too much time on a fitness routine right now and enjoy your tiny newborn!