Your return to exercise postpartum should commence once have been cleared to exercise and you have the above foundation set as it helps ensure you set yourself up with a stable foundation for safe and effective movement.
Starting an exercise program that has a strong focus on connecting to the pelvic floor and core and restoring function to your body in a safe and effective way is key to ensuring the best recovery both short term and long term [start here] Even if you had an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery its important to allow time for your pelvic floor and core to heal and return to exercise in a way that doesn’t increase the load and stress on your body too soon.
To ensure a safe return to exercise postpartum the exercise program should aim to increase your strength, function and movement patterns. It’s best to work with your women’s health physiotherapist or a pre and postnatal coach for your exercise programming. This way you are not hindering or increasing your risk of pelvic floor dysfunction by exercising incorrectly.
To begin with, the exercises should be gentle, low impact and of short duration with the aim of gently challenging your core and pelvic floor to help regain connection and function. If you experience any pelvic floor symptoms (incontinence, pain, pressure or dragging sensation in the vagina) during and after your exercise then it’s important to respect and listen to these sensations and see a women’s health physiotherapist. If you experience no symptoms during or after your workout your next workout you can try increasing the intensity and the length slightly (by around 10%).
It’s important to remember that healing, recovery and rehabilitation isn’t always a linear process. At times you make one step forward and two steps back and that’s ok! Please be mindful that other factors will impact your return to exercise and your performance.
Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol from lack of sleep can cause changes to performance, energy and impact your results. If you have gained excess weight and are now considered overweight this can cause an increased risk to the pelvic floor as the load and the demand has increased. Your breathing may be impaired particularly if you have not yet regained connection the pelvic floor and core with connection breathing and scar tissue from both c section and perineal trauma may cause discomfort and restrict muscle function around the scar tissue sites (your women’s health physiotherapist can help you with scar mobilisation to help reduce adhesion, inflammation, fibrosis and improve remodelling) if this is the case.
Often the journey is slow, and it may take time until you truly feel like yourself but the slow path is the fast path in birth recovery. If you take the time, listen to your body and do all that you can to rest, recover, rehabilitate and retrain your body for your return to exercise you set yourself up with the best chance long term.