It’s difficult to think about exercise whilst you’re sitting on an icepack after an episiotomy. But I knew I had to get moving after a few days so I started walking up and down the maternity ward twice a day. At home I started hobbling down to the corner (a miserable 20m) and back twice a day then gradually increased as I felt better and less sore. 12 weeks later and I've returned to my pump and cardio classes at the gym and my body is feeling normal with some additional jiggly bits.
Returning to exercise depends on a number of factors:
- How fit and healthy you were before you had your baby
- How your pregnancy and labour was
- Caesarean vs normal birth
- Whether you have injuries
Be guided by your healthcare professional but general guidelines are as follows.
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Slow walking as able
- Gentle stretches – Some muscles were getting tight from breastfeeding, carrying my little one and spending too much time in our confined room. So I started stretching regularly my neck muscles, shoulders, plus lower limb muscles.
- Walking - Pick up the pace and distance as able.
- Swimming - Once your stitches and bits and bobs have healed fully and bleeding has stopped.
- Gentle low impact exercise - For example Pilates and Yoga. Keep in mind that your ligaments and joints are more pliable and at risk of overstretching.
- Light upper limb weights - You’ll be spending your days carrying your little one which mainly uses your biceps so build your other arm muscles to balance it out.
- Stretching – add back stretches to your neck, upper and lower limb stretches. Get down onto the floor and do some back stretches whilst your little one does their tummy time.
- Brisk walking
- Cycling (once you can sit again!)
- Low impact aerobics – let’s not stress out that poor weak pelvic floor with star jumps yet.
- Back to your pre-pregnancy exercise whether it is brisk walks, weight training, gym classes or jogging.
Please give yourself plenty of time to heal (physically and mentally), particularly if you have had a complicated pregnancy or labour. If you feel any discomfort or are unsure please consult your doctor/midwife/maternal health nurse/physiotherapist. Aim for a gradual return to exercise and don’t place too much pressure on yourself. I like to exercise because it gets me out of the house for some ‘me’ time, boosts my energy and keeps me sane. You’ve just gone through a tough 9 months growing a human and this is the time to enjoy being a mum!