The answer to that question is always, “check with your doctor first”. With a normal labor and delivery, most women can return to light exercise within a few days after childbirth. If you had a C-section, then it is recommended to wait at least 6 weeks to include lifting and weights. Walking is the go-to exercise for women post-partum and you may start with a light walk around the block that can progress to hills, pushing the stroller and longer distances. If you exercised prior to or during pregnancy then it is generally safe to gradually return to that prior level of exercise.
When adding weights or resistance training, it is always best to start with lighter weight but use higher repetitions. The muscles should feel tired but no strain or pain. Focus on good posture, slow controlled motions to avoid strain or compensations. Begin with low impact exercises (like walking) and gradually progress into jogging, jumps, higher impact challenges. Interval training can be helpful to ease back into higher level activities as well.
We are fortunate to have many resources in our region including exercise classes geared for new moms, run by instructors who are trained in pre and post-natal fitness. Eastside Fit4Mom, is one of those resources with a variety of classes, levels, times and locations that include taking classes with your baby. There is always a way to modify an exercise, and tailor your work out to be appropriate for any physical limitations as well feel comfortable with the progressions.
Women are often worried that exercise will negatively affect their breast milk supply but that is a myth. Exercise can be beneficial for your health and will not diminish milk production. But be sure to stay hydrated during exercise and have a supportive bra with proper fit to avoid strain!
Signs that you may be overdoing it can include heavy vaginal discharge or bleeding, excessive fatigue instead of invigoration after exercise, any pain or prolonged muscle soreness (> 2-3 days). Talk to your Doctor if symptoms develop and always stop an exercise if you note pain or strain anywhere in the body. Physical Therapists can assist in developing an appropriate home exercise routine and progression, with education on use of proper body mechanics that include the changes that naturally occur post-partum. It is always best to ease back into exercise and should be a fun, healthy time spent with your child! If you have any questions or need guidance for your exercises, contact us at PhysioCare Physical Therapy!