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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.