How to Exercise After Childbirth

Three Parts:Preparing for Exercise After ChildbirthExercising After a C-SectionTrying Low Impact Exercises

For some women, exercise is the last thing they are thinking about after childbirth. Other women are anxious to begin exercising so they can get their pre-pregnancy bodies back. Exercising after childbirth can help you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, restore your muscle tone, increase your energy level, fight depression and anxiety, and relieve the stress that comes with having a new baby. But, it’s still important to take certain precautions and do things safely.

Part 1
Preparing for Exercise After Childbirth

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    Wait until you feel ready. Many healthcare providers have advocated for waiting at least 6 weeks before exercising after giving birth. Recently, though, it’s been found that you don’t need to wait, as long as you had a normal vaginal delivery without any problems. If your delivery had complications, or you had tearing, you will want to wait until you’re healed to exercise. Otherwise, you can resume exercise as soon as you feel ready to do so.[1]
    • You know your own body. You’ll know if and when you feel up to getting back into your exercise routine, but trust your instincts. If you don’t feel quite ready, take some more time.
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    Talk to your doctor. If you have any concerns about getting back into exercising after childbirth, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to advise you on whether or not they think it’s safe for you to resume working out. Alternatively, if you start working out again and something doesn’t feel right, talk to your doctor.[2]
    • If you notice any excess bleeding or pain after or during exercise, see your doctor immediately.
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    Wear a supportive bra. Since your breasts will be larger and more tender after giving birth and while breastfeeding, you will want some stronger support for them when exercising. You may also want to get some nursing pads to put in your bra, in case of any leakage.[3]
    • If may help to breastfeed or pump prior to exercising, just for your own comfort.
    • Intense exercise can sometimes create a buildup of lactic acid which can come through your breastmilk. Some babies may not want to drink this milk as it might have a salty or sour taste. If you engaged in intense exercise while breastfeeding, consider pumping and dumping, or feeding prior to exercising.[4]

Part 2
Exercising After a C-Section

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    Be patient. Many doctors will tell you that a six week waiting period following a C-section is adequate before returning to exercise, but you may want to wait longer. Don’t push your body before it’s ready. You are healing from more than just a vaginal birth, and will need to make sure your body is fully healed before getting back into your exercise routine.[5]
    • Remember that a C-section is major abdominal surgery! Your doctor had to cut through many layers of your body to reach the baby, meaning you have multiple layers of sutures and scar tissue that is forming as you heal. Treat recovery from a C-section as seriously as you would any other major surgery.
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    Stick to low impact exercises. When recovering from a C-section, you won’t want to jump right back into high impact or intense exercises. Start small with low impact exercises. Don’t overdo it with running or weight training. Take your time easing back into your normal physical activity level.
    • Since you will be healing from a major surgery, you will want to refrain from all exercise until your doctor gives you the green light. You have healing sutures that are at risk for breaking, which can halt or slow your healing process. Minor, low impact exercises are a good alternative to full blown workouts.
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    Take care of your body post-surgery. If you want to get back to your normal self at a good pace, you’ll need to look after your body after having a C-section. For example, don’t push yourself even doing minor things like lifting or sitting up. When moving from lying down to sitting up, roll onto your side first, then push yourself up. This will help keep your abdominal muscles relaxed and avoid pulling on your sutures.[6]
    • By letting your body take the time it needs to heal, you might be back on the road to normal exercise sooner.

Part 3
Trying Low Impact Exercises

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    Do a few sets of Kegels every day. Kegels are exercises that involve tensing and flexing the muscles of your pelvic floor. Since your pelvic floor can become weaker during pregnancy, strengthening it again after birth is important. Think of these muscles as the muscles you might use to stop yourself from urinating. To do a Kegel, tighten those muscles and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat this 8-10 times to complete one set. Try to do about three sets throughout the day.[7]
    • These are great exercises that you can start doing right away after you come home from the hospital, or a few days after giving birth. You don’t have to move around, and you can do them from the comfort of a seated position, making them a really good low impact and easy exercise.
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    Try some pelvic lifts. Since you won’t want to put too much tension on your abdominal muscles as you heal by doing moves like crunches, you can try pelvic lifts as an alternative. Lie on the floor on your back and bend your knees, planting your feet on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Then, gently lift your hips off the floor until your back is in a straight slope up through your knees. Hold this position for a few seconds, then gently lower back down. Repeat this for about 3 sets of 10 repetitions each, or less if you aren’t feeling up to that many.[8]
    • You can also start off smaller and only lift your hips a few inches off the floor rather than going into the full pelvic bridge. Do whatever you are comfortable with, and whatever your body is ready for.
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    Take slow walks. Walking is a great way to ease back into physical activity. Not only is it a way to get outside and get some fresh air, you can also bring baby in a stroller and enjoy some time together. Go for a stroll around the block once a day, and work up to going twice. If you start to feel any discomfort or fatigue, you can always head back home and relax.[9]
    • Don’t push it to a fast walk or even a slow jog until you are completely healed and recuperated.
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    Swim. Swimming is a great low-impact exercise to try out after giving birth. Spend 30 minutes to an hour in the pool, swimming slowly and gently. Even swimming there is still the potential to overdo it, so many sure you’re listening to your body and taking it easy. Swimming is a great way to get a little low-impact cardio while relaxing.[10]
    • Avoid swimming as an exercise option until all of your postpartum bleeding has ceased.
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    Wait a few months to resume full intensity exercises. It’s best to stick to low-impact exercises for the first 2-3 months following childbirth. Instead of sprinting, take a brisk walk. Instead of lifting heavy weights or doing intense cardio, opt for a few sets of modified push ups or yoga. Even if you exercised during your pregnancy, you’ll want to take it easy and slowly ease back into more intense exercises.[11]
    • Remember that your joints will still be a little loose for at least three months after birth, so be careful while doing even low-impact exercises. Make sure you don’t trip and fall while walking.


  • Remember to exercise during your pregnancy. If you stay physically active while you are pregnant, you will have an easier time exercising after you give birth.


  • Be careful not to overdo it. See your doctor if you have any concerns.

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Categories: Women’s Health