How soon after delivery can I start exercising?
The American College of Obstetricins and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it’s okay to gradually resume exercising as soon as you feel up to it. But your doctor or midwife may want you to wait until your six-week postpartum checkup to see how you’re doing first.
Generally, if you exercised throughout your pregnancy and had a normal vaginal delivery, you can safely do light exercise – walking, modified push-ups, and stretching – within days of giving birth.
Start slowly with a low-impact aerobic activity such as walking. As you regain strength, you can increase the length or number of walks.
If you had a c-section, check with your doctor first and expect to wait until you recover from your operation before beginning an exercise program. An incision from a c-section takes at least several weeks to heal, and it may be some time after that before you feel like working out. However, walking at an easy pace is encouraged because it promotes healing and helps prevent blood clots and other complications.
If you weren’t active during your pregnancy, or tapered off your fitness routine as the weeks went on, check with your doctor or midwife before you begin exercising.
In any case, remember that your joints and ligaments will still be loose for about three to five months, so watch your step to avoid falling.
If you want to take an exercise class, try to find one taught by a postpartum exercise specialist. Many YMCAs, recreation centers, gyms, and yoga studios offer exercise classes for new moms. Or you could always go for a low-impact class that focuses on toning and stretching.
Exercise is good for you, but don’t overdo it for the first few months after giving birth. Your body needs time to heal, and you need time to adjust to your new role – and bond with your baby.
Do I need to be careful of my abdominal muscles?
Some women develop a gap in their abdominal muscles as their belly expands during pregnancy and labor, a condition called diastasis recti. It takes four to eight weeks after giving birth for this gap to close.
If you start doing abdominal exercises before the gap closes, you risk injuring those muscles, so make sure your belly is ready before you start:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
- Place the fingers of your left hand, palm facing you, just above your belly button. Place your right hand on your upper thigh.
- Inhale, then exhale. As you exhale, lift your head and shoulders off the floor and slide your right hand up your thigh toward your knee. This will make your abdominal muscles tighten, and you should be able to feel the gap where the muscles have separated.
- If you feel a gap, ask your doctor to do a physical exam. If your doctor says it’s safe, you can gently begin to strengthen your abdominal muscles with pelvic tilts, leg slides, and crunches, or sit-ups. Once the gap narrows to only one or two finger widths, you can start doing crunches or sit-ups.
Will exercise affect my ability to breastfeed?
No, it won’t. As long as you drink plenty of extra water, even vigorous exercise won’t significantly affect the amount or composition of your breast milk. But you’ll want to avoid exercises that make your breasts sore or tender.
Wear a supportive sports bra while working out, and try to nurse your baby before you exercise so your breasts won’t feel uncomfortably full.
Are there any physical signs that I might be trying to do too much too soon?
Too much physical activity during the first few weeks after delivery can cause your vaginal discharge, called lochia, to become redder and to flow more heavily. This is one signal to slow down.
Call your doctor or midwife if vaginal bleeding restarts after you thought it had stopped or if you experience any pain when you exercise. And if exercise makes you feel exhausted instead of invigorated, that’s also a sign that you probably need to take it a little easier.
What’s the best way to lose weight after giving birth?
The best way to start dropping those pregnancy pounds is to do some form of aerobic exercise to get your heart rate up. Try walking briskly, running, swimming, or biking.
But wait at least six weeks – and preferably a few months – before actively trying to slim down. And don’t aim to lose more than a pound per week, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Starting a diet too soon after giving birth can affect your mood and energy level as well as your milk supply. If you’re patient and give your body time to do its work, you may be surprised at how much weight you lose naturally.