After 20 years as a women’s health physiotherapist, helping thousands of women recover after having a baby, I know no two mums are alike, and everyone recovers from childbirth differently. So, although movement is beneficial as soon as you feel up to it, don’t feel pressure to start exercising straight away.
Listen to your body, don’t push yourself, and only do what feels right.
Even if you have exercised throughout your pregnancy and you’re fit and healthy, your recovery after childbirth can be unpredictable. There are many factors which influence your rate of recovery, so if you have any concerns at all, please check in with your pelvic floor physio, doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse.
When can you go for walks after giving birth?
Mother nature and time have a big part to play in the speed of your recovery, and it varies a little for everyone, but often you’ll feel ready to head out about 5 or so days post-delivery. However, it may be longer, depending on whether you had a straightforward vaginal delivery or not.
Walking is an ideal exercise to enjoy after giving birth. It’s low impact, you don’t need any special equipment, and you can do it anywhere! Just pop your bub in the pram, load up everything you need and head out the door.
My tips on how to start walking after having a baby:
- When you feel ready to head out for a little walk, aim for 5-10 minutes or so, to see how your body responds.
- Set yourself a small goal, like heading up to the local café.
- Enjoy being outside, amongst nature and getting out and about in your community again.
- If your body feels good during and after your first walks, you should aim to gradually build up your walking distance over time.
- You can pick up the pace or add in some hills if you feel like getting your heart pumping a little more.
Let go of your expectations (don’t worry, I get it, this was very difficult for me too), and do what feels right for you. You just grew a human in your belly, so it is no wonder it takes some time for your body to heal!
When going on your first walks after delivery, you shouldn’t feel any pain, or any “heaviness” in your vagina / perineal region. If you do, it’s best to wait a little longer and allow some more time to recover.
Although walking is low impact, if your pelvic floor muscles still feel like they need a little more recovery time, or if you feel a dragging feeling or heaviness in your vagina when you walk, just drop back on the distance or give yourself another week or so of rest. If this happens, just focus on doing gentle pelvic floor and deep tummy work before trying again.
I know promised tips on exercising directly after having a baby, but it’s important to be aware that, sometimes, your body may need you to prioritise rest in this critical first 6 week period. If your body needs more time to heal and repair, listen to your body, and wait a little longer before you start.
There is no rush to getting back into exercise after having a baby. Every body is different, and everyone’s rate of recovery is a little different.
What exercises can I do immediately after birth?
Here are my top 3 exercises that, once you feel up to it, are safe to get you off to a great start with your postnatal recovery.
Stage 1: Start with gentle pelvic floor squeezes
Before you start thinking “is she for real?” understand that gentle contraction of the pelvic floor muscles is great to get going with early after delivery, because even if it feels like nothing is happening, the ‘thinking about squeezing’ will help to wake up the pathways from your brain to these muscles.
Ideally, you have been doing your pelvic floor exercises throughout your pregnancy, as it will give you a much better idea of how a normal pelvic floor squeeze feels. And if you haven’t, there’s no time like the present!
You can usually safely start gentle squeezes 24 hours after a vaginal delivery, or 48 hours after caesarean delivery. Of course, if you have any concerns or pain, check with your doctor or midwife first.
All squeezes should be pain-free, and if you can’t feel anything, don’t worry. Your sensation starts improving rapidly in the days after delivery, once the initial swelling begins to resolve. It’s often easiest to feel something happening if you start practising while you are lying on your side, so there’s less gravity for the muscles to work against.
Pelvic floor exercises can help to promote faster recovery because the muscles act as a pump to help reduce swelling in the perineal area. Gentle squeezes start restoring the function of these important muscles, which may have been stretched and strained during pregnancy and delivery.
Stage 2: Gentle tummy muscle exercises
You can start gentle stomach muscle exercises in the first few days after delivery. I am not talking about sit-ups or crunches, I am talking about the gentle drawing in of the lower tummy muscles, to activate the deeper layers of the abdominal muscles which have an important role in supporting your spine and pelvic joints.
The abdominal muscles have been progressively stretched during pregnancy, and it takes time for them to gradually strengthen and tone up after giving birth.
Often there is some separation of the superficial abdominal muscles “the 6-pack” or rectus abdominis, and this will slowly start to recover with time.
Gentle deep tummy exercises will help, as will avoiding too much strain on your healing muscles.
Think of gently drawing in the area below your belly button towards your spine. This should happen smoothly and slowly, and as your pelvic floor muscle exercises get easier you may find that the pelvic floor lift and deep tummy drawing in happens together.
So you can practice slowly drawing in your lower tummy while gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles, hold for a few seconds and then slowly release. There should be no discomfort, and it should feel like minimal effort.
You can do these exercises while you are lying down, sitting down when feeding, or standing up, like when you are in the shower.
G’day, Sam Wood here.
As a Dad and someone that has worked with thousands of new Mums, including my wonderful Snezana, over my career I understand the balance of taking care of yourself and your bub while your body goes through such an enormous change.
My expert team and I have done all the thinking for you to put together a complete program that contains exercises to help you regain strength and confidence, meals and education to keep you healthy and happy.
Our 28 postnatal workouts are designed to be moderate intensity, low cardio and don’t contain any jumping or crunching movements that could put you at risk while your body is still recovering, but still give you a quality 28-minute workout option every day.
Your meal plan has been carefully designed by our nutrition team to provide you with the energy and nutrients you need as a new mum. Your postnatal meal plan has a significant focus on an abundance of nutrients from vegetables, quality protein and healthy fats for optimal health and help you regain strength.
Stage 3: Walking (when you’re ready to get out of the house)
After my first baby, I wasn’t ready to head out walking until about 3 weeks post delivery. I had imagined I would be out strolling the streets with my fancy new pram on the day I got home from hospital, but my body had other ideas! However, after my second and third babies were born, I felt like I could easily manage walking up to the local café pushing a double pram.
You just never know. Even if you have exercised throughout your pregnancy and you’re fit and healthy, your recovery can be unpredictable, as there are many other factors which influence your rate of recovery.
Walking is the best exercise to start with once you are home from hospital, once you feel ready to get out of the house. Start with short walks, and slowly build up the distance and pick up the pace as you feel stronger.
Although walking is low impact, if you feel a heaviness or dragging feeling in your vagina when you walk, then drop back on the distance or give yourself another week or so of rest, focussing on gentle pelvic floor and deep tummy work before trying again.
Everybody is different, every pregnancy is different, every recovery is different, and that’s totally fine.
Please don’t push yourself. There is no rush! Mother nature and time have a big part to play, so listen to your body and do what feels right. If you have any concerns, check in with your pelvic floor physio, Doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse.
I promised just 3 top tips but, of course, you may need to prioritise rest in this critical first 6 week period, as your body needs time to heal and repair. Let go of your expectations (don’t worry, I get it, this was very difficult for me too), and do what feels right for you. You just grew a human in your belly, no wonder it takes some time for your body to heal!
When to start exercising after a vaginal delivery
You can start gentle pelvic floor and deep tummy exercises soon after delivery, usually after 24 hours. In fact, we recommend getting started with your pelvic floor exercises this early, even if you don’t really feel like it, as it helps with recovery.
Then it’s up to you to listen to your body, and when you feel ready, start with some gentle walking.
If you are pain free, which means no pain in your bottom or perineum, then you can start walking.
For most mums, this is after about day 4 or 5. It could be longer if you had more intervention (such as ventouse or forceps) during your delivery.
Low impact exercise is key. Your pelvic floor and tummy muscles have had a big stretch and need time to gently recover without additional impact. Build up slowly, gradually increasing the time you are out walking.
Once you have had your 6-week check up with your doctor or midwife, and you’ve received the all clear, you can start to add some variety in your exercise routine.
Our 28 by Sam Wood postnatal program ticks all the boxes for building your fitness after having a baby!
When to start exercising after a caesarean delivery
In the first 6 weeks after the c-section, take care to roll out of bed rather than sitting straight up, and avoid heavy lifting. Of course, that’s easier said than done if you already have a toddler!
24 – 48 hours post-caesarean delivery
After a C-section, you can usually start gentle pelvic floor exercises as soon as your catheter is removed, usually 24-48 hours post-delivery.
You will likely be taking some pain killers in the first few days post-caesarean, which is an important part of your recovery.
Once your catheter is removed you can add some tummy muscle exercises, such as gentle lower tummy squeezes, provided you have no pain.
10 days post-cesarean delivery
Once you are home from the hospital, you may like to wait until about 10 days post-delivery to try out a short walk around the block. If you had an emergency C-section then you may need to wait a few extra days before you start walking outdoors.
3 weeks post-cesarean delivery
After you’ve been home from the hospital for 3 weeks or so, you might be walking for up to 15 minutes, gradually building up the time if it feels good. Keep up your daily pelvic floor exercises too.
After you have had your 6-week check-up with your doctor or midwife, and received the all-clear, then you can start to add some more variety in your exercise routine.
After the all-clear from your doctor, start adding more exercise slowly and build up gradually, listening to your body. If you have any pain, back off and wait a few days before trying again.
We’d love you to join our 28 family
Our 28 by Sam Wood fitness & nutrition program is safe and effective for new mums. It’s gentle enough when you’re just getting started, but tough enough to give you great results. The best part is that you can do it all from the comfort of your own home for less than $2 a day.