“Physical therapists agree that it’s best to return to exercise slowly, and listen to your body in the process,” says Anna Grant, a physical therapist at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. “Listening to your body means monitoring yourself for symptoms and modifying your activity if you have any signs of exercise intolerance.”
Grant suggests postpartum exercise in the following phases:
1. First several weeks postpartum
Take short walks and do gentle core exercises such as Kegels and the drawing in maneuver.
2. 6 to 8 weeks postpartum
Add gentle, low-impact strengthening such as the clam or bridge exercises. Low-intensity water exercise is also safe at this time, as long as you are no longer experiencing vaginal bleeding.
3. 8 to 12 weeks postpartum
Gradually increase exercise intensity, such as including light weight training.
4. 4 to 6 months postpartum
Return to more intense exercises such as running, jumping, planks and sit-ups. Waiting 4 to 6 months allows the pelvic floor muscles and abdominals to heal properly after being stretched during pregnancy and delivery.
When returning to exercise, monitor your body closely. Contact your OBGYN for guidance or for a referral to pelvic physical therapy if you experience any:
• New or worsening pain anywhere in your body
• Increased vaginal bleeding
• Urinary or fecal leaking
• Heaviness in your vaginal region
• Bulging, or a ridge along the midline of the abdomen
• C-section scar soreness that lasts longer than 2 weeks after birth
Learn more about easing into an exercise routine, and how to safely and effectively do 4 postpartum core exercises — Kegels, the drawing in maneuver, the bridge and the clam.
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