Exercise can help your body to support itself again after pregnancy. It can also help improve your posture and general health and wellbeing.
Having a baby changes your body.
- tummy muscles have stretched
- posture is different - your posture is the position you hold your body in when sitting or standing
- pelvic floor muscles may be injured during the birth
- body tissue is more stretchy and less supportive
You also may have a caesarean scar that needs time to heal.
Other benefits of exercise after pregnancy (postnatal exercise) include:
- improved cardiovascular fitness
- weight management
- improved mood
- reduced anxiety and depression
- increased energy levels
Talk to your GP before starting exercise
Talk to your GP before starting exercising if you had:
- a caesarean section
- a delay in your stitches healing
- problems with your wound
- infections in your womb or your wound
- postpartum haemorrhage - a rare complication during birth
Read about exercise after having a caesarean
How to begin exercising after pregnancy
Returning to exercise after having a baby should be a gradual process. It's important to ease yourself back into exercise. Take your time.
You should follow an exercise plan and first focus on:
- pelvic floor muscle exercises
- your posture
Read about what exercises you can do in the first 12 weeks.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises
Pelvic floor muscle exercises can help to strengthen the muscles that support your bowel, bladder and uterus.
This can help you if you have a:
- leaky bladder (incontinence)
- heavy feeling between your vagina and anus
Do your pelvic floor exercises daily:
- Slow pelvic floor muscle exercise
- Quick holds
Read step-by-step guides on how to do each pelvic floor exercise.
Until your pelvic floor muscles have strengthened through exercise, avoid:
- lifting heavy weights
If you do high-intensity exercise with a weak pelvic floor, you could cause damage you cannot reverse.
Read about pelvic floor muscle exercises and how to do them
Exercises for your posture can help:
- improve your physical strength after pregnancy
- manage backpain
How to correct your posture after pregnancy
The correct posture to hold your body in is to:
- soften your knees - make sure they are not locked.
- straighten your pelvis underneath your rib cage.
- straighten your back - do not allow your chest lean backwards
To correctly adjust your tummy muscles to support your posture:
- Imagine a short ribbon attached to your pubic bone and your breast bone.
- Try and connect these imaginary ribbons so they meet in the middle of your tummy.
- Tuck your chin in slightly, making the back of your neck feel long.
- Pull your shoulders back and down your back - avoid tilting your upper trunk or chest backwards.
Watch how to correct your posture
Correct posture during pregnancy
Your sitting posture is also important.
A good sitting posture helps to:
- support your shoulders when you're feeding your baby
- support your back
To have a good sitting posture, make sure you:
- sit on your sitz bones, not your bum - your sitz bones are two round bones at the bottom of your pelvis
- support your lower back with a cushion to help you sit upright
Watch how to sit when holding your baby
DRAM (diastasis of the rectus abdomens muscle after pregnancy)
When to stop exercising
Get advice from a women's health physiotherapist if you experience any of the following:
- pelvic girdle pain
- incontinence (leaking pee)
- difficulty going to the toilet
- an urgent need to go to the toilet often
- pelvic or muscle pain
- pressure in your pelvis
- a large gap in your tummy muscles – this is called diastasis of the rectus abdominus muscle (DRAM)
Women's health physiotherapists are specially trained to help with these symptoms. Talk to your GP to get a referral.