I haven’t met many women more eager to get in shape than those that have just given birth. After 9 months thinking about the baby growing inside you, working out safely, carefully and resting for a few weeks after the baby is born.. You want to get moving. Get your ‘own’ or ‘previous’ body back. Move without restrictions. Have an hour to yourself. Workout heavier, harder, deeper, without having to worry about the safety of your baby or being exhausted for the rest of the day.
I get all of this. Trust me, I’ve been there! But I do have to warn you to please not overdo it. Not immediately anyway. When you start working out again, after at least having waited six weeks, you still have to be careful, safe, take it slow and build up slowly.
Let’s talk a bit about working out during your pregnancy and after delivery.
Working out while pregnant
There are a few things that you have to be mindful of when you are working out while pregnant. First and foremost: maintaining a regular exercise routine while you are pregnant is great! Staying active can help decrease common pregnancy related ailments or discomforts, it can help improve your posture and it may even prevent gestational diabetes, relieve stress and build more stamina that will help you during labor and delivery (webmd.com). But you can’t just pick up where you’ve left off before you got pregnant. At about 16 weeks you really should change up your routine. And this is mostly about skipping some of the exercises that were probably a big part of your exercise routine. These are, in my opinion, some of the most important ones:
1. Don’t do exercises belly-down (like planks, push-ups)
If you want to keep doing these, elevate your upper body. At 16 weeks start with the seat of a chair, at week 20 place your hands on the back of a chair. While your belly is growing, keep placing your hands higher. Finally you will end up doing these exercises with your hands placed on a wall. Get as vertically as possible towards the end.
2. Don’t put too much pressure on your belly with heavy weights
If you want to keep working out with weights, that’s fine. Especially when your body is used to it. But don’t go too heavy. If you feel pressure building up over the frontside of your belly (around or above your belly button) you are taking it too far. This can cause diastasis recti, a gap between your left and right abdominal muscles.
3. Don’t do exercises laying flat on your back after the first trimester
4. Stop playing contact sports like hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball
5. Opt out of sports that have a high risk of falling or that are ‘extreme’ in any way like horseback riding, skiing, skating, gymnastics. And
Activities that pose a high risk of falling — such as downhill skiing, in-line skating, gymnastics, and horseback riding, surfing and diving.
6. Be careful with sports where you can get a ball in your stomach,
7. Be careful with sports where you make sudden movements like sprinting or stopping (like with tennis). This can be harmful for your pelvic floor.
I have been working as a pregnancy and postpartum fitness trainer for 5 years and I approve all of the prenatal workouts that I have reviewed on this platform. Nevertheless it is very important to always listen to your body when you are working out during your pregnancy. Ask yourself: does this workout feel right? Or am I doing too much? If that is the case, then please stop. It is always a good idea to talk about working out during your pregnancy and after delivery with your physician. Especially when you don’t work with a trainer 1-1. Be safe!
Working out after having a baby
So, you’ve been safe for 9 months, you have an amazing little baby and you’ve been recovering for a few weeks. When everything goes according to plan, you can start your workouts again after six weeks. But this does not mean that you can continue doing what you did before you got pregnant. You are still recovering, your body is still filled with hormones that can change the way you move and feel. You still have to be careful.
These are a few tips that I want you to keep in mind when you get back into working out after having your baby:
- Wait at least six weeks after delivery before you start working out again
- Keep it low impact for at least six weeks after that. You don’t want to do any running or jumping for at least 12 weeks after delivery. This is to prevent pelvic problems in the future.
- Another reason to keep it low impact is that you might experience some trouble with your joints, due to a special hormone that your body starts producing before delivery. This hormone (relaxine) can still create some problems in the months after you give birth.
- Don’t put any pressure on your belly and start your upper body & core workouts vertically. Do your planks against a wall at first. If this goes well, after a few weeks you can go down to the back of a chair, followed by the seat of a chair and then first do all your planks and push-ups from your knees. If this goes well, you can try some exercises in plank position. But take it slow. You don’t want to overdo this.
- Listen to your body! And start slow. When your physician gives you a green light to start running again for example, don’t start with a 5K.
I have reviewed many videos that are great as postpartum workouts. I would advice to start whit this before getting back into your regular exercise routine. If you play it safe now, the chance that you can get back to ‘normal’ soon is much greater. Going too fast, too soon might create big problems now and in the future (incontinence for example).
Try these walking workouts to start with, 6 weeks after your delivery. This will help you break a sweat like not other, while not hurting your pelvic floor in the process.
Upper body workouts like these are great as well. But please remember not to do the planks on the floor! And if you use weights, please start with lighter ones.
Low impact/no jump workouts are always great: it’s good for your pelvic floor and for your joints. Start with the beginner no jump workouts. When this feels right, work your way up to the low impact intermediate ones. Feeling good? Great! If you don’t experience any problems, you can talk to your physician to get back to your regular workout routine at 4/5 months after giving birth.
Be safe, don’t go too fast and enjoy your workouts!