Exercise plans 0 to 12 weeks after pregnancy

Talk to your GP before starting exercising if you had:

  • caesarean section
  • a delay in your stitches healing
  • problems with your wound
  • infections in your womb or your wound
  • postpartum haemorrhage

If you feel pain or develop symptoms before, during or after exercising, talk to your GP.

When to start exercise

If you had a straightforward pregnancy and birth, you can do gentle exercise straight away.

This includes:

Read more about exercises you can do to improve your posture.

Exercises to avoid at first

Avoid fast and intense exercise for the first 12 weeks after giving birth.

Fats and intense exercise includes:

  • running
  • circuit training
  • team sports

Doing fast and intense exercise before you are ready may cause damage to your body.


Pace yourself - there's no pressure to be exceptionally fit. It’s challenging to balance a baby, sleep, a healthy diet and lifestyle

Week 1 to 6:

Things you can do include:

From week 6

Things you can do include:

  • exercises to regain strength in your body - squats, lunges, arm strengthening exercises
  • exercises that increase your heart and breathing rate - exercise bike, walking faster and farther, swimming

Only swim if vaginal discharge has stopped for at least 7 days and all stitches and wounds are fully healed.

From week 12

Exercises you can do include:

  • jogging - start very easy, slowly and build up your distance over time
  • swimming, cycling

Postnatal floor exercises

Postnatal floor-based exercises help strengthen the muscles that play an important role in supporting your posture.

Cat/cow exercise

The following exercise will help strengthen the abdominal (stomach) muscles that can support your back and ease back pain.

  1. On all fours, make sure your knees are under your hips and your hands are under your shoulders. Your spine should be straight and in a neutral 'box' position.

Hollow your back as shown in the image above.

  1. Then follow this with a rounded spine as shown in the image below.



Feel a sensation of stretch along all parts of your spine as you push your back up towards the ceiling.

  1. Breath comfortably and hold this position for 20 seconds.
  2. Return your back to the neutral position in step 1.
  3. Repeat 5 times

Clam exercise


This exercise should feel comfortable and pain free to perform.

  1. Lie on your left side with your back flat against the wall. Bend your knees and place your feet flat against the wall. Draw your lower tummy close to you, hugging your stomach close to your spine
  2. Now open and close your right knee.
  3. Repeat 20 times or until your bum muscle begins to feel too tired to lift the knee.
  4. Rest for 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 2 more sets.
  6. Now change positions and repeat the exercise lying on your right side.

Pelvic tilt


  1. Lie on your back on a firm surface with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Pull your belly button back towards your spine while flattening your lower back against the floor
  3. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
  4. Let go slowly.
  5. Repeat 10 times (or as able).

2 weeks after the birth

Try to walk regularly. Aim for 30 minutes of walking, 5 days per week.

Listen to your body and your energy levels. You may need to start with just a few minutes of walking before building up to half an hour.

Stay well hydrated, especially if you are breastfeeding.

Start doing pelvic floor exercises.

4 to 8 weeks after the birth

Continue to:

  • walk regularly
  • do your pelvic floor exercises

By week 6, slowly increase the duration and pace of your walk.

Body-strengthening exercises

If you felt comfortable in the first few weeks, you can do more exercises. Begin with gentle body-strengthening exercises.

This could include:

  • small squats
  • seated bike
  • bridging exercises on the floor


Start exercising gradually - do not begin any high intensity exercise too soon

If any of these exercises are uncomfortable on your wound site, stop.

8 to 12 weeks after the birth

At 8 to 12 weeks you begin doing higher intensity exercises that are low impact.

Aim for 30 minutes of fast walking, 5 days per week.

Low impact exercise

Low impact exercises include:

  • swimming - only if vaginal discharge has stopped for at least 7 days and all stitches and wounds are fully healed
  • cycling
  • spinning
  • gentle aerobics - but no weights

Be careful if you have stitches from a caesarean birth. Sports where there is a lot of stretching can put too much pressure and strain on your stitches.

Low impact exercise is good because it:

  • increases your breathing and heart fitness (cardiovascular fitness)
  • builds strength
  • does not overload your joints and muscles

Page last reviewed: 4 June 2020
Next review due: 4 June 2023

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.