I got my 6 week postpartum clearance – now what


Your healthcare provider has cleared you for exercise. That’s great news! But now comes the big question…what exactly does that mean?

Should you go out and run a marathon? That wouldn’t be advisable.
How about an easy 5km? Probably not yet.
Should you sign up for a high impact group fitness class and get in as many jump squats as possible? That’s probably not the wisest thing you could do for your body right now.
Where does that leave you? What are some wise choices you should make now to get your body moving safely?

We have a few simple things you can do, once you’ve gotten the go ahead to exercise from your health care provider, that will ensure you are moving safely during this important time in your life.

1) Perform a thorough postpartum self-check

Read through the list of scenarios below and ask yourself if any apply to you.
Do you:
           • have scarring from C-section, tearing, or episiotomy?
           • leak urine, gas or stool when you cough, sneeze, or exercise?
           • have trouble making it to the bathroom in time?
           • have problems emptying your bladder or bowel completely?
           • urinate frequently?
           • experience pain with intercourse?
           • feel pressure, heaviness, or building in your vagina or rectum?
           • have ongoing pain in your vagina, rectum, pelvis, pubic bone, abdomen or lower back?
           • see bulging or tenting of your abdomen during any exercise?

If you are experiencing, or have experienced any of the above, it’s important that you see a pelvic           
health physiotherapist before beginning, resuming or carrying on with exercise. 

When it comes to your body, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you are unsure if you need    physiotherapy for your core or pelvic floor make an appointment and get it checked out. 

If you are in the Edmonton area, here are some great pelvic health physiotherapists we recommend:

2) Reconnect with your deep core muscles

As Kellie wrote about here, it’s time to start reconnecting with your deep core muscles if you haven’t already done so. Take some time each day to do some belly breathing and pelvic floor engagement. Connect breath with moving through your transverse abdominus and your pelvic floor. Begin to build back up those important muscles that did so much during your pregnancy and birth.

3) Buy a new sports bra 

It is extremely important that you have a proper fitting sports bra that provides you with the support you need through all of your physical activities. Throughout pregnancy and milk production, your breasts have gone through a lot of change. Try to choose a bra that has lots of areas you can adjust because over the next few months your breasts will continue to change. There are places you can go for a sports bra fitting by a certified bra fitter. The Running Room is one place where you can get measured in Edmonton. If you want more information on sports bras, check out this post.

4) Get a new workout outfit

While you’re shopping for that bra, buy yourself a new workout outfit that fits your body now. As much as you will be tempted, do not buy an outfit in a size you wish to fit into. Your confidence will skyrocket and you will be 10 times more motivated to move when you find something that looks and feels amazing right now! This does not have to be your most expensive workout outfit. In fact, brands like Joe Fresh and Old Navy make it quite easy to find activewear tops and bottoms for under $30! Perfect for those in-between size months!

5) Take it easy and slowly introduce exercises and increase intensity

This is easier said than done. We have been there too. But trust me; your body will thank you. Focus on what you need during this time and try not to compare your journey with others’.

Celebrate each small victory. Everything will be new.

Celebrate that you made it out the door. Celebrate that you made it to class on time. Celebrate that you had an outing without a blowout (or that you remembered a change of clothes when there is a blow out!). Celebrate that you listened to your body. Celebrate that you talked to someone new in your fitness class. Whatever it is for you, take pride in the small challenges that you overcome as you slowly and safely introduce exercise back into your routine. As strength builds and your body heals, you will be able to increase the intensity of your workouts and those victories should also be celebrated!

As we grew a tiny human and our body changed during pregnancy we slowly made modifications to lessen the impact and intensity of exercises. Initial postpartum exercise selection (i.e. impact, intensity, etc.) should appear very similar to that of the end of your pregnancy. This will be different for each woman, as the introduction of modifications and the elimination of certain exercises would have happened at different times during your pregnancy.

A few tips for allowing your body to slowly build strength and stamina on your schedule:
  • Begin with the low impact versions of exercises (i.e. walking jacks instead of jumping jacks 
  • Prenatal core options (i.e. controlled heel slides instead of v-sit crunches) 
  • Move slowly and mindfully, take rest when needed, or even do less reps.

6) Listen to your body.

This may be the last point on the list, but it is by no means the least important. We say this all the time in our classes and I can’t stress enough just how important it is. Your body doesn’t lie. Listening to your body means knowing the difference between muscle fatigue (which is a good thing) and pain (which is not). Stay in tune with what feels good for you at that moment, on that day, and during that exercise. It will tell you if you’ve pushed too hard or if you aren’t ready for a certain level or type of activity. Keep a close eye out for bleeding, pain, discomfort, or feeling overtired. Pay attention to any leaking of urine or any heaviness or pressure in your vagina or rectum. If you feel any of these during or after a workout please stop, add a modification, take some rest, or try again another day. Talk to your instructor and let them know if something isn’t working for your body. There are no medals for pushing through pain and there is no shame in listening to your body and asking for modifications.

Take everything one step at a time. 
Your body took 10 months to grow your new baby/babies and it will take longer than 6 weeks to recover from birth and pregnancy. 
Enjoy this new milestone in your life.  Find a support system that will celebrate the small victories with you and help you to do what’s right for you.  Take each day and moment one step at a time and allow yourself the time and grace to recover appropriately.  Remember, everyone is different and has had different experiences.  Choose what’s best for you, your body, and your new family.

I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes by Jim Rohn –

“Take care of your body.  It’s the only place you have to live.”

Happy moving and safe recovering!