Advice from a pro.
Getting back to your pre-pregnancy levels of fitness, for many, can feel like an uphill battle. Not only have you carried an actual human in your stomach for nine months - not to mention, pushed them out of your vagina - but you've not slept for what feels like years since the birth.
To be honest, you probably haven't had much time to even think about postpartum exercise, but might be beginning to miss the feeling of moving your body (and releasing those handy feel-good endorphins) and having time for yourself, too.
Ready to get the ball rolling with easing back into exercise but not sure where to start? Here, trainer and mother-of-two Emily Skye breaks down everything you need to know about postpartum exercise, from when to go back to working out (note: never pre sign off by a doctor), to what moves are best for core and pelvic floor strength.
Postpartum exercise: your guide
What is postpartum exercise?
In its simplest form, postpartum exercise - sometimes called postnatal exercise - is any movement you take on after giving birth, according to Skye. "Your first steps into postpartum movement may look a little different to the exercise you were doing before you became pregnant – pushing the stroller around the park or doing gentle exercises, rather than running a 10km – but it’s important to approach it with a positive mindset," she explains.
Top tip: Appreciate your body for the amazing things it has done, and be gentle with yourself, she recommends.
Why do you have to change your exercise routine post-birth?
In short, because your body goes through a lot when you’re pregnant, shares the trainer.
"Throughout pregnancy, during labour, and as a new mother – things are changing all the time, and your exercise routine needs to adapt," she explains.
Do note here: Skye warns that the biggest risk with postpartum exercise is going too hard, too early. "You need to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise programme after giving birth," she stresses.
Why? Because your body will be different from your pre-pregnancy body, and that’s okay. "You need to give yourself time and start by focusing on essential things, like strengthening your pelvic floor and rebuilding abdominal muscles," she emphasises.
When should I start working out again post-birth?
There is no set answer for this question, but do know that as above, the trainer says you need to check in with your medical professional and get a sign-off before throwing yourself back in. "This can be anywhere between the six and ten-week mark, and the right time will depend on your overall fitness and birth experience," she shares.
For instance, if you have a pre-existing condition or a C-section, you may have to ease yourself back in more slowly.
Don't get frustrated if you can't get back to it immediately - just thank your body for healing and achieving the miracle of birth. "The timeframe for you may be different than it is for your friend or the women in your mum and babies group – but be patient with yourself," she recommends.
I feel pressured to get back in shape post-birth - help!
First things first here - this is, sadly, normal.
"So many women feel that pressure to “snap back”, especially when we see a celebrity showing off their super flat belly 11 days after having a baby," explains Skye. "I can tell you there was absolutely no snapping back for me after giving birth to my little boy, and it’s unrealistic and unhealthy to compare yourself to other women."
On the flip side, know this: it's never selfish to prioritise your health and happiness, so don’t let anybody shame you for taking the time to exercise when you’re ready. Focus on your own journey and don't be distracted by others.
Postpartum exercise plan: your guide
To follow one of Skye's expert-led postpartum workouts, simply click the link.
Her postpartum exercise plan - FIT Post-Pregnancy - is made up of 3 stages, each lasting for 6 weeks.
Begin your recovery with gentle strength, mobility, and stability movements.
Low-impact strength workouts with light weights help you get stronger, and we get you prepared for cardio.
We lift the tempo with low-impact HIIT and bigger strength movements.
"Plus, there’s a big focus on rebuilding your pelvic floor and core strength throughout – that’s essential," shares the trainer.
Did you know? This is the same routine that she followed after having both of her babies and it’s all about gradually increasing intensity, taking it at your pace, and only moving on when you’re ready, she shares.
"I love hearing how my program has helped women get back to their pre-pregnancy routine, whether that’s regular training, lifting weights, running, or taking part in sport. I’m an extra proud mama!," she concludes.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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