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Exercise plans 0 to 12 weeks after pregnancy

Having a baby changes your body. This can affect how soon you can be active. Start getting active gradually and follow an exercise plan.

When to start physical activity

You can do gentle physical activity straight away or as soon as you feel ready after birth.

This includes:

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP before you start getting active if you had:

  • any complication after giving birth that may have slowed down your recovery, such as an infection

Activities to avoid at first

Avoid high effort activity for the first 12 weeks after giving birth.

High effort activity includes:

  • running and jogging
  • circuit training
  • team sports

Doing fast and intense activity before you are ready may lead to injury.

How to get active after pregnancy

Start with gentle physical activity after the birth. You can gradually do other activities between 6 and 12 weeks.

Week 1 to 6 after birth

Things you can do include:

Stay well hydrated, especially if you are breastfeeding.

Gentle strengthening exercises

Postnatal floor exercises help strengthen the muscles that support your posture.

Cat cow exercise

This exercise will help strengthen your tummy muscles. This can support your back and ease back pain.

  1. Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders - your spine should be in a 'box' position.
  2. Curve your back towards the floor.
  3. Push your back up towards the ceiling - you should feel a stretch along your spine.
  4. Breath comfortably and hold this position for 20 seconds.
  5. Return your back to the position in step 1.
  6. Repeat 5 times.
A woman is looking down while she is on all fours on the ground. Her knees are under her hips, her hands are under her shoulders, and her back is neutral.
A woman is looking down while she is on all fours on the ground. Her knees are under her hips, her hands are under her shoulders, and her back is rounded.
Clam exercise

This exercise can help strengthen the bum muscles that support your pelvis. Stop doing the exercise if you feel pain at any time.

  1. Lie on your left side with your knees bent and your back and feet flat against the wall.
  2. Pull your lower tummy back towards your spine.
  3. Open and close your right knee.
  4. Repeat this 20 times or until your bum muscle begins to feel too tired to lift the knee. You should feel your bum muscles working.
  5. Rest for 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat 2 more sets.
  7. Change position and repeat the exercise lying on your right side.
An illustration of a pregnant woman lying on her side. One hand is holding her head up, another hand is on the floor in front of her tummy, and her knees are spread apart while her feet are together.
Pelvic tilt

This exercise will help to stretch your lower back and pelvis, especially if you get a lot of lower back pain or stiffness.

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

From week 6 to 12 after birth

You can do:

  • body-strengthening exercises, such as small squats, lunges, arm exercises and low intensity tummy crunches such as a chin tuck
  • aerobic exercises, such as cycling on a level surface, walking faster and farther

Do not do difficult tummy exercises such as sit ups until 12 weeks after giving birth.

Be careful if you have stitches from a caesarean birth.

Wait until at least 12 weeks after birth before doing activities such as tummy crunches.

Activity where there is a lot of stretching can put too much strain on your stitches.

Exercise after a caesarean

Low impact exercise

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

Low impact exercises include:

  • swimming - only if your vaginal discharge has stopped for at least 7 days and all your stitches and wounds are fully healed
  • cycling on a level surface
  • gentle aerobics
  • light weights

If you had a caesarean birth, wait until at least 12 weeks after the birth before doing activities such as swimming.

From week 12 after birth

You will need to wait 3 to 4 months after your baby is born to increase the effort of your exercise.

Exercises you can do include:

  • running and jogging - start very easy, slowly and build up your distance over time
  • swimming longer distances
  • cycling - you can introduce cycling on different gradients such as up hills
  • exercise classes - tell your instructor that it has been 12 weeks since you gave birth

Exercise 12 weeks after pregnancy

Page last reviewed: 29 August 2023
Next review due: 29 August 2026

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