I’m so excited to bring you this Blog on postpartum exercise, which was created in collaboration with Jenni Diamond, Founder of Jenni Diamond Health and The Postnatal Academy. I chatted with Jenni about some of the most common questions that new moms have when returning to exercise after having a baby.
Before we jump into Jenni’s expert advice, here are some of the key takeaways that I learned in the first four months since Miles was born.
Miles was born by c-section so postpartum recovery was a whole other ball game for me physically. I did not even think about exercise until around 7 weeks. I walked lightly prior to that, but I really stressed keeping it SLOW. My body went through a serious surgery and I was juggling being a new mama. It was a lot and I did not want to jump into anything right away. I felt lucky that my c-section recovery went well and as expected without complications. For two weeks after surgery, I did not drive, barely lifted anything besides Miles and seriously took it easy. I had help from Jacob, my husband, and my parents who were staying with us during this time. I think around that 2 week mark I started going for light walks. Again, I took it super easy and tried to wear my bellyband as much as possible.
When I finally got cleared to workout at 6 weeks, I started really light. I focused on majorly modified workouts and worked up to things. I tried to be patient with myself even though I found it frustrating to be so weak. It is hard to find time to workout as a new mama, but I really tried to make it a priority. They were (and still are) short and sweet workouts during naps or when I had help. These days, at 4.5 months postpartum, I feel like I am finally getting into a routine and feeling stronger. I even workout with Miles by my side on his play mat! He loves watching me move too. I do not put pressure on myself and I truly just try to enjoy it.
No matter what your postpartum fitness journey looks like, please remember that everyone is different and all babies are different. Do not be hard on yourself and make sure you just listen to your body. If something does not feel right, it probably isn’t. I hope you find this this blog post helpful in your postpartum journey!
Let’s hear from Jenni on the science of what returning to exercise after baby should look like:
Sari: Why is it important to get back into an exercise routine after baby?
Jenni: Regular exercise after baby is so important for your well-being. Some of the key benefits as a new mom include increased energy levels, stress relief, improved mood, decreased risk of chronic disease, fewer cravings, improved brain health, increased muscle mass and bone density, and improved confidence.
Sari: How soon can you get back to exercise after having a baby?
Jenni: Your doctor or primary care provider (PCP) will clear you to safely return to exercise as early as 6 weeks after baby. Apart from gentle daily movement as approved by your PCP, you should not return to an exercise program until you are given this clearance, as it is important to make sure all necessary healing has occurred. Once you are given clearance, you can start a slow and gradual postpartum exercise program, such as The Postnatal Academy.
Sari: How is exercising after having a baby different than before you were pregnant?
Jenni: New moms are at greater risk for developing injuries postpartum due to the physical changes to their body during pregnancy, labour, and the postpartum period. Common postpartum injuries include pelvic floor dysfunction, abdominal separation, pelvic organ prolapse, joint pain, back pain, and lumbopelvic pain. Thus, while we know how important it is to exercise in the postpartum period, it is equally important for women to engage in exercise routines that are safe for their body and decrease the risks of injury.
Sari: Knowing that there’s a greater risk of injury in the postpartum period, what can we do to minimize that risk during our workouts?
Jenni: I like to break this down into 3 key components:
- Start small and increase your exercise intensity slowly and gradually,
- Select the right exercises given what your body has experienced during pregnancy, labour, and the postpartum period.
- Know what “red flags” to look out for to manage and decrease your risk of injury. You can view a list of red flag symptoms to look out for here.
Sari: What are some examples of exercises you can start with?
Jenni: This is always going to vary depending on the individual person, but some of the exercises I like to recommend when starting out include: cat-cow, kneeling hip flexor stretch, air squats, pelvic floor belly breath, modified side plank, and wall push-ups. These exercises are “lower-impact”, they promote mobility and reconnecting with key muscle groups, and many of them are required for day-to-day function (i.e., we do a squat every time we sit down on a chair or a toilet). Of course, you should always check with your PCP prior to starting an exercise program, especially as a new mom.
Sari: I’ve heard people say you should avoid planking and sit-ups after having a baby. What are your thoughts on this?
Jenni: The most current school of thought does not suggest that everyone should avoid planks and sit-ups after having a baby. However, it is important to assess on an individual basis whether these exercises are safe for you. Specifically, planking and sit-ups require a greater amount of tension to be generated through the core, which may not be suitable early on into your postpartum strength program. I recommend starting with gentler exercises to begin, and making sure an appropriate amount of tension can be generated throughout your core prior to progressing to more challenging movements. For example, in The Postnatal Academy, we start with core activation work, such as a pelvic floor connection breath, and each week we progress these movements until participants are able to generate an appropriate amount of strength and tension to return to crunches and planking.
Some Final Thoughts:
Your workouts will look different than they did before baby, and that makes sense because you, too, are now different than you were before baby.
Listen to your body. Do what feels good for you and avoid pushing through bad pain.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow and steady really does win the race here!
For more information about The Postnatal Academy, visit https://www.jennidiamondhealth.com/the-postnatal-academy
You can also visit Jenni on Instagram @jennidiamondhealth.
Note: This post is for educational purposes only and does not replace medical advice or treatment from your health care provider. Always follow the advice of your primary care provider when making decisions about your health and well-being, and prior to participating in an exercise program.