Exercise After Pregnancy: Should you see a Physio?

Postnatal exercise

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When can you exercise after pregnancy? Should you see a physiotherapist after giving birth? Caoimhe McNamara, specialist women’s health physio at Six Physio Monument, gives her insight

All women go through different birth experiences, and getting the support you need to return to exercise after pregnancy is incredibly important.

Once you’ve had a baby, your pelvic floor will be weaker and – in most cases – injured. As this added strain can usually be too much for your muscles to control, your body can become symptomatic, which can lead to back pain, the leaking of urine, and pelvic organ prolapse.

But when you see a women’s health physiotherapist, they can access your pelvic floor strength and control, teach you how to perform a correct pelvic floor muscle contraction, and set a personalised strengthening programme for you.

What happens to your pelvic floor during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles are stretched as your baby grows. This can sometimes lead to a stretching of the outer abdominal muscles (the Diastasis Rectus Abdominis).

While this is common (two out of three pregnant women will experience this), our core strength depends on good control and strength of these muscles around our abdomen, as well as our lower back and hips.

If you’re going to return to exercises like running after giving birth, it’s advisable that you have an assessment of these muscles before returning to any higher impact activities. This is often done together with a pelvic floor assessment at a six-week postnatal body check.

Back, neck and pelvic pain are common after giving birth because of the changes your body goes through during pregnancy, but there’s no need to suffer in silence. A postnatal physio can offer specific advice to keep any back injuries at bay and protection from a pelvic organ prolapse.

These can be practical tips simply relating to breastfeeding, carrying your baby and improving your posture.

When can I return to exercise after pregnancy?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions postpartum, but there is no one-size-fits-all answer. There are guidelines, but seeing a specialist women’s health physio will mean the advice is tailored specifically to you. C rucially, your pelvic floor and abdominals need to be strong enough before you get back into gentle exercise.

What are the guidelines?

It’s recommended that a low-impact exercise routine is followed in the postnatal period, with a return to impact exercises from three to six months at the earliest. An example of a gradual load progression would involve starting initially with walking for cardiovascular exercise, then introducing functional activities (like squats and lunges).

The next progression would involve low-impact exercises such as static cycling, swimming (if wound healing is complete), power walking, and building on your functional strength programme.

You need to be strong to participate in high-impact sports, so consider building up your lower limb, core strength and general cardiovascular strength in alternative ways, until your body is ready to return to these activities.

At Six Physio, we have nine Specialist Women’s Health Physios, who are passionate about sharing their expertise to help women safely and quickly get their body back to feeling great! A postnatal body check takes an hour and is available across six of their clinics.

To find out more, visit sixphysio.com

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