Postpartum exercise guidelines

Once you’ve made it through a grueling nine months, given birth, and had your body stretched in ways you never thought possible, and your strength and energy have started to return, the idea of doing something other than tending to a baby may sound heavenly. But what could that “something” be?

Well, if you were active before and during your pregnancy, you’ll probably be eager to get back into the groove of working out. After all, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood, strengthen and tone abdominal muscles, and increase overall health. It’s also one of the few self-care activities you can do with baby in tow, which makes saying “yes” to yourself even easier.

When can I start exercising after pregnancy?

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, if you had a healthy pregnancy and normal vaginal delivery, you should be able to start exercising again soon after the baby is born. The ACOG defines “soon” as a few days after giving birth — or as soon as you feel ready. However, if you had a cesarean delivery or other complications (diastasis recti, severe vaginal tears, etc.) ask your healthcare provider when it is safe to begin exercise again.

What are some ways to get back into shape after pregnancy?

If you’re a bit intimidated by the idea of jumping in with both feet, then give yourself permission to take it slow. Remember, the whole point of exercising after pregnancy is to get moving — that’s it. So forget about the unrealistic celebrity workouts you see online, and just enjoy getting fit again.

  • The day after birth: Don’t think you’re getting through the postpartum period without performing a few Kegels each day. That’s right, the dreaded tightening and releasing of the pelvic floor muscles you performed at every stoplight for the last nine months has a valuable place in your postpartum exercise program. Kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles which help support the uterus, bowel, and bladder.
  • The first few months: If your baby registry included a jogging stroller, then it’s time to take it for a test drive. Once you’ve been cleared to exercise, walking while pushing your tot will give your body an amazing overall workout. And when you’re ready to up the intensity, try stopping every 10 minutes and doing bodyweight squats while holding Baby out in front of you.
  • The third and fourth month: Once you hit the third and fourth month, most moms are ready to include activities such as swimming, lightweight training, yoga and pilates, or a low-impact exercise class. This may also be a good time to increase the time you spend on each workout or add an additional day.
  • The fifth month and beyond: If your body is handling the increase in movement and intensity, then the fifth to sixth month is when your workout can begin to resemble your pre-pregnancy activity level. Make sure you’re eating and hydrating properly and getting enough rest. Even though you feel like things are getting back to normal, your body is still reeling from all the changes it went through. 

Tips for getting started

  • Ease into it: Even if you were a fitness fanatic before pregnancy, your body is an entirely different creature in the months after childbirth. Take your time and pay attention to your body. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes a day and start with simple postpartum exercises that help strengthen the major muscle groups, including abdominal and back muscles.
  • You still might be wobbly: Remember feeling like you could lose your balance at any moment? Well, Relaxin, the hormone that causes the softening of the joints and ligaments during pregnancy, is known to hang around for up to six months postpartum. Be careful about protecting your joints while exercising.
  • Don’t forget to nurse or pump before working out: The last thing you want to happen on your first trip back to the gym is to leak through your workout top. Emptying your breasts prior to working out helps avoid any discomfort that may come from engorged breasts.
  • Invest in a good bra: Support, support, support. Wear a bra that fits well and gives plenty of support. Some moms may even find that wearing two bras is necessary to keep everything in place.
  • Get with other moms: There’s nothing quite like the comfort of being surrounded by your tribe, and joining other moms for a workout is a wonderful way to share stories, feel supported, and get fit, all at the same time. Start a weekly walking or jogging group (with strollers of course), join a mommy-and-me class together, or head to the park for a boot camp class.

About the author: 
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer focusing on parenting, health, and wellness. She is passionate about all things fitness and health and loves spending time with her husband, daughter, and son.  

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Exercise after pregnancy: How to get started.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, July 27 2016. Retrieved July 12 2017.
  • “Exercise After Pregnancy.” American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians. Frequently Asked Questions, Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum Care 131. June 2015. Retrieved July 12 2017.
Get the Ovia Pregnancy app
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store