Returning to exercise after having a baby can be quite daunting. There are so many types of exercise, sports and classes, it’s hard to know which one would be suitable. Whether it is 4 months postpartum or 4 years, there are a few things to consider before returning back to exercise safely.
1. Find a postnatal qualified fitness professional
Not every fitness professional is familiar with postnatal or pelvic floor health. It is important to choose someone who is qualified in this area. They will generally conduct a pre-screening assessment to ensure there are no red flags and that you're good to go.
The exercises they prescribe are geared towards low impact and pelvic floor safe. Many trainers offer mums and bubs classes, which are fantastic as you can bring bubs along and socialise with other mums.
2. Avoid high intensity / high impact exercises
This is not forever, but if it has been a while since you have done any form of exercise, then jumping right into a high intensity workout will not be kind on your pelvic floor. High intensity exercises place an increased downward pressure onto the pelvic floor muscles, increasing susceptibility to pelvic floor problems. It is important to allow enough time for sufficient recovery from childbirth before commencing high intensity exercise.
High intensity/high impact exercises include:
- Jumping, Running, Skipping
- Star jumps, Box jumps, Burpees
- Exercises where both feet are off the ground
- Heavy lifting
3. Spend some time working on your ‘core’
The ‘core’ muscles (transverse abdominis) work in synergy with your pelvic floor, diaphragm and spinal stabilising muscles. Spend some time activating this inner system and strengthening these muscles, especially if you had an abdominal separation during pregnancy.
Having the core working well will aid in maintaining optimal intra-abdominal pressure, which is necessary when wanting to progress to higher intensity exercises. Your trainer or health professional can help you locate the core muscles and talk through co-coordinating them with the breath.
4. Seek professional help if something is ‘not quite right’
A little bit of leaking during exercise or a heaviness down there is an indicator that something isn’t quite right. Any form of leaking during exercise is a form of incontinence. This is an important indicator that the pelvic floor muscles aren’t doing their job of maintaining continence during activity.
Did you know that it can be managed? You don’t have to live with it, in fact 84% of women who see a physiotherapist with stress urinary incontinence are cured after 5 visits. Pretty impressive!
Other symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored during exercise are:
- Vaginal Bulge
- Pelvic Heaviness or Pelvic Pressure
- Lower Back Ache
- Lower Abdominal Pressure
Listen to your body to avoid exercises that cause pain or discomfort. Most exercises can be modified. It is important to chat to your fitness professional in order to find a safe version for you that doesn’t exacerbate symptoms.
5. Have fun!
There are many fun ways to get moving. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore - it should be enjoyed. Here are a few examples of some pelvic floor safe exercises that are perfect for beginners.
- Cross trainer
- Bike riding
- Spin classes (stay seated and chose low gears)
- Water based exercise
- Low impact fitness classes- such as a mums & bubs