7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Resuming Exercise 6-8 Weeks Postpartum
"Moms can safely return to their exercise routine 6 weeks after vaginal delivery and 8 weeks after c-section delivery." That's what our doctors tell us, so it must be true, right? Nope. That's a very general statement that is often not true for most moms. Especially when it's their 2nd or 3rd (or more) baby and they weren't able to rest completely. There's a lot to consider when your doctor gives you clearance to exercise. Here are a few things to ask yourself:
#1 How is your bleeding?
If it's still bright red, you're definitely not ready. If its brownish but you still need to wear a pad, you should wait until it lightens up. Try taking 10 minute walks before doing a full workout. Think about how big the placenta was (if you didn't see yours, just google some pictures to see how big it is). That placenta was attached to your uterus the way a mole is attached to your skin. When it detaches, that huge wound is on the inside of your uterus. You need to let that wound heal completely before resuming normal workouts. This is also true (if not more serious) for women who have had c-sections. Start slow and easy to see how your body responds.
#2 What number baby is this?
If it's not your first and you don't have someone at home with you to allow you to completely rest during the first 2-4 weeks, then you need to think about how that placenta wound (and c-section scar) is healing. When you have to be up taking care of your other children or doing other tasks, your body isn't able to heal as quickly. If you weren't able to stay in bed for the majority of the time during the first 2-4 weeks, you might need more time to heal and recover before you start exercising. Keep an eye on your bleeding, that usually tells you how your body is healing.
#3 How is your sleep?
Kind of a dumb question but I'm assuming not very good! Taking care of a newborn all day and night, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, numerous diaper changes, a crying baby, taking care of your other children, its all a recipe for no sleep and extra stress! Remember, even moderate intensity exercise is a form of stress on the body. It's a healthy stress but it's not healthy if you don't get to rest/recover afterwards. So, if you're extremely tired/exhausted all the time, consider prioritizing rest before going to the gym. Rest is just as equally important as exercising. If you're not too exhausted or stressed, you can start with short and easy exercises to gage how your body responds.
#4 How is your nutrition?
Are you eating wholesome foods and a lot of veggies? Are you drinking enough water every day? If you're breastfeeding, this is even more important because it requires a lot of water and around 500 calories to produce nutritious food for your baby! If you're not eating enough and add in an exercise routine, you're going to feel fatigued and have a harder time recovering from your workouts. Prioritize your eating habits first and make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet.
#5 How is your core functioning?
Your baby created a nice inner-core support for the past 5 months, but he also stretched your actual core support system making it inactive for the past 5 months. He's now on the other side and is no longer providing that support for you, but your core is still inactive. You need to wake it up again before you start doing other workouts. A weak core is going to prevent you from having an effective/optimal workout and may lead to aches ands pains. If you have severe diastisis recti (abdominal separation), you definitely need to focus more on core rehab before starting a normal workout routine.You can start working on Transverse abdominis/Pelvic floor breathing exercises immediately after birth. Those exercises will help to re-activate your core support system.
#6 Can you walk around or stand for longer than 10 minutes without pain?
If you can't, then your body is definitely not ready for an exercise routine. When your bleeding has stopped (or your c-section scar has healed and bleeding stopped), work on daily walking and add a couple minutes to your walk every few days. You can also try gentle yoga exercises as well. Be in tune with how you feel. If your lower back/lower abdomen hurt or you feel like your insides might fall out (speaking from personal experience), then you need to focus on your core and pelvic floor exercises first to give your body proper support.
#7 Were you active during your pregnancy?
One of the many benefits of exercising during pregnancy is the ability to recover more quickly. If you were active during your pregnancy, you will most likely heal and recover more quickly and might be ready to exercise 6-8 weeks postpartum. If not, your body may need some more time to heal and you'll want to start at a slower pace.
Before jumping into your normal exercise routine, listen to what your body is telling you. I know we all can't wait to "bounce back" to our pre-pregnancy body, but you're moving in the opposite direction when you try to do too much too soon. Just be patient and breathe. Literally, just focus on diaphragmatic breathing, TVA, and pelvic floor activation to get your core functioning again! Those simple exercises are going to help you get back to an exercise routine soon!