Gentle Postpartum Exercises: Nurturing Your Body Before the 6-Week CheckupFeb 09, 2024
We have all heard it a million times - you can’t exercise until at least 6 weeks post partum - but it doesn’t actually mean you are forbidden from moving, there are lots of gentle things you can do before the magical 6 week mark.
Whilst your body deserves and actually needs a lot of rest during the first month or two to do a lot of natural rehabilitation post birth, there are some things that you can start doing when you feel ready to, that can help the recovery. We still stand by that it is crucial to wait for at least 6 weeks (and I say at least because you may not feel ready until much later and that is ok) before diving into more intense workouts, here are some things you can start incorporating into your day that are gentle and effective for the post partum recovery process.
Deep Breathing and Pelvic Floor Engagements:
Begin your postpartum fitness journey by reconnecting with your breath and engaging your pelvic floor muscles. Deep diaphragmatic breathing combined with gentle pelvic floor contractions helps to activate and strengthen the core without putting undue stress on your body but don’t be surprised if it takes a while for you to feel anything, its normal for the muscles to feel disconnected to your brain so it’ll take some practice.
How to do it:
- Find a comfortable seated position, if sitting isn't comfortable then being on all fours can work too.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your diaphragm.
- As you exhale, engage your pelvic floor muscles by gently lifting them upward.
- Repeat for 5-10 breaths.
Kegels are excellent for engaging the pelvic floor muscles, which may have been strained during pregnancy and childbirth. These subtle contractions aid in bladder control and support the recovery of your pelvic region.
How to do it:
- Lift your pelvic floor muscles, it may feel as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then release.
- Repeat 10-15 times, or however many you feel you can manage at this time.
This low-impact exercise helps engage your abdominal muscles and improves circulation, all while seated comfortably.
How to do it:
- Sit on a stable surface with your back straight.
- Exhale, and lift one knee toward your chest and then lower it.
- Alternate legs and repeat for 2-3 sets of 10-15 marches on each leg.
This does not mean setting your apple watch and marching around your local park, it just means getting yourself outside with or without the buggy and enjoying some fresh air whilst slowly building up your distance. It’s great for getting the blood flowing around the body, but also does wonders for you mood which is much needed in those early weeks of no sleep.
How to do it:
- Begin with 5-10 minutes of slow-paced walking around your home or in a nearby park.
- Gradually increase the duration as you feel more comfortable.
Pelvic tilts are effective in strengthening your lower back and core muscles without putting strain on your abdominal area.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back with bent knees and feet flat on the floor.
- Inhale, then exhale as you tilt your pelvis upward, pressing your lower back into the floor.
- Hold for a few seconds before releasing.
- Repeat for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
And exercises to avoid when you are 0 - 6 weeks postpartum:
- Avoid excessive physical movement:
Steer clear of anything that involves jumping, running, or other high-impact activities that could strain your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. These movements may increase the risk of injury or disrupt the healing process.
- Say No to Heavy Lifting:
Refrain from lifting anything heavy including heavy baby equipmen if you can help itt. Your body is still recovering from childbirth, and lifting something heavy can put undue stress on your pelvic area and abdominal muscles. Of course if you have a toddler at home, some of the heavy lifting is unavoidable but try where you can to encourage your partner or someone else to do the lifting in the early weeks.
- Skip Abdominal Crunches:
I know it feels strange for your bump to now feel soft and squishy and nothing at all like your tummy pre pregnancy but doing any sort of sit ups or crunches right now is not the answer, in fact it may just serve to weaken your core muscles are they are trying to heal. The reason you stomach is still inflated is because there is a lot of recovery and organs moving around going on in there.
- Limit Raising Your Heart Rate
If there was a time for being kind to your body then this is it. You want to provide your body the environment it needs to get on with a huge amount of recovery and overstimulating your nervous system is not what it needs now. You don’t need to be measuring your heart rate by any means but just try to keep a sense of calm about your body in this period.
- Don’t ignore discomfort or pain
Pay attention to your body, and if you experience any pain, discomfort, or unusual symptoms, refrain from pushing through it. Ignoring signs of strain or discomfort can lead to further complications or delayed healing. Always consult with your healthcare provider if you have concerns or experience any issues.
- Listen to your body and proceed at your own pace.
- Stay hydrated and well-nourished to support your body's recovery.
- If you experience pain, discomfort, or unusual symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider before continuing.
The exercises mentioned above are designed to gently reintroduce movement and promote postpartum healing. However, it's crucial to prioritize rest and self-care during this period. As always, consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine to ensure it aligns with your individual recovery journey. Celebrate the small victories, no matter how small, you're on the path to reclaiming strength and well-being after bringing a beautiful life into the world - but there is no rush.
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