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Safe Return to Exercise Postpartum

Congratulations Mumma!

If you are someone who has recently given birth (or is soon expecting), you might be excited to get back into moving your body again without a beach ball at the front of you. You might want to return to your pre-baby fitness routine and start to work on your postpartum body.


If this is you, here are some tips to get you started…

THERE IS NO PRE-BABY BODY

One of the main reasons new mums want to start getting back into a fitness routine is to return to their “pre-baby” body and to “bounce back”. I am kindly here to tell you, you won’t return to your pre-baby body because you will never be “pre-baby” again. Your body grew that little human that is in front of you right now. It took 9 months of body changes to create a safe home for your baby and it even grew a completely new organ – the placenta. So why as a society do we strive to have a body that never looked like it did all of these incredible things? Now please don’t let this advice upset you because this is actually a great time to rebuild your body from the inside out so you will feel the strongest you have ever felt. I say this to not to dampen your mood but to encourage you to listen to your body, respect it, to move slow and you will come out the other side stronger and more confident than ever before. Remember it took 9 months to grow a human – please don’t expect it to take weeks or only a couple of months to look or feel the way it used to.


Weeks 0 – 4 : Rest & Recover

The best thing you can do for your body in these early few weeks is to rest and be gentle with yourself. You have spent the past 9 – 10 months experiencing different body changes that included organs moving around, extra load on your joints plus muscles and pelvic floor, poor sleep and extra nutrient requirements. Then you completed one of the biggest endurance events of your life –labour – and / or had major abdominal surgery. On top of all of this, you have to learn how to navigate this new world of looking after a new baby all while running on minimal sleep, low energy, depleted nutrients and heightened emotions. So the best thing you can do is to be kind and gentle and take things slowly.

Tips on how to move your body in those early weeks:

- Try to include as much horizontal time (lying down) during your day as possible. This will

take the pressure off your pelvic floor and joints.

- Focus on deep belly breathing. This will help start to rebuild the connection to the pelvic

floor and core plus it is a good way to reduce stress. Try to include a couple sets of 5-10 deep belly breaths throughout your day.

- If you feel up for a walk – keep it to maximum 10 – 15 minutes

- You can start to create pelvic floor awareness by incorporating some pelvic floor

contractions and relaxations throughout the day - ideally while lying down.


Weeks 4 – 8: The 6 Week Check Up Is Not Enough

Around this time, you will have an appointment booked in to see your GP for your 6 week check up. In this check up, if all scars look healed and you feel ok, you will most likely get the all clear to return to exercise. But GP’s do not do a thorough examination of your pelvic floor and abdominals to ensure there is no concerns. Instead, you need to get eyes on the inside and book into see a pelvic health physiotherapist (PHP). PHP can assess you and check for any abdominal separation or pelvic floor dysfunction. If these issues aren’t checked at the start of your fitness journey, they will often get worse and lead to further complications. They will also impact your training and how well you progress. Example: if you have significant abdominal separation and return to completing exercises such as sit ups, crunches, planks or push ups this can lead to worsening of the abdominal wall gap leading to doming /peaking, constant lower back pain and a wider abdominal area. Once you’ve seen a PHP, you will be prescribed a return to exercise schedule that will suit where you are on your postpartum recovery and where you’d like to be. If you have had a Caeseran, you may need to wait until 12 weeks before commencing exercise, depending on how your scar is healing.

Exercise at this stage of your postpartum recovery may look like:

- Gentle walking 20 – 60 minutes

- Pelvic floor and core activations

- Low impact strength training


Weeks 8 – 12: Strengthen from the inside out

This is the part in your postpartum journey where you are nearly at the end of the fourth trimester, you might be feeling more like yourself and starting to get out and about. In this stage, you want to keep listening to your body. Some days you might feel energetic enough to up the intensity and other days you might want to take it easy. You want to tune into your body on how it feels after you have exercised and continue to take things one step at a time. This is the best time to start to focus on exercises that strengthen your body from the inside out. This includes pelvic floor and lower abdominal (TA) exercises. These exercises will give you a strong foundation to ensure you are adequately recovering from pregnancy and birth and help you progress to feeling stronger and more confident in your postpartum body.

Exercise at this stage may look like:

- Continue the exercises assigned from your pelvic health physio

- Increasing your walking to 30 – 60 minutes or more

- Start to add light weights into your low impact strength workouts

- Low impact cardio if been given the all clear to do so.


PELVIC FLOOR /LOWER TA CIRCUIT

Woman doing 3 different exercises. One lying on back with one leg up in table top, the other bent with foot flat on the ground. Second lying on back in bridge position. Third in a 4-point kneel with one arm extended and the opposite leg straight out behind.

- Leg Lifts

- Bridges

- Opposite Arm Leg Lift


Weeks 12 – 16: Keep Listening To Your Body

In this stage, the best thing to do is to tune into your body and use a traffic light system to determine your intensity level.

GREEN LIGHT – good to go: You have received the all clear from your pelvic healthy physio to run, add more impact and return to contact sports. You might start to add heavier weights to your workout and increase the duration and frequency of your exercise sessions. YELLOW LIGHT – proceed with caution: Some days you might not feel energetically there or you might still experience some pelvic floor symptoms after an increase in intensity or you are experiencing some aches and pains. On days you feel like this, it is best to taper back your workouts, reduce the intensity, reduce the load and modify any exercises that you need to. This isn’t taking a step back! The more you listen to your body and work with it, not against it, the more progress you will make and the better you will feel.

RED LIGHT – keep modifying: A ‘red light’ means you need to work on your rehab program at the exclusion of other activities that have been advised by your PHP or professional trained PT. You will not be able to do high impact exercises and moves will need to be modified to suit your abdominal wall and pelvic floor. This might be a frustrating time as you may want to get back to the exercises you used to be able to do but intensifying your workout regime when your body isn’t ready will only set you back.


If you are pregnant or postpartum (remember postpartum is forever) and you are wanting to exercise safely and effectively with guidance from a pre/postnatal qualified instructor, check out Beautiful + Balanced Bodies’ Restore program. These small group PT sessions focus on creating a safe and encouraging environment for mums to exercise with their bubs while strengthening from the inside out.

Every session includes:

- Mobility work to loosen up those tight muscles that occur with #mumlife

- Pelvic floor and core activations to help create strong foundations

- Functional fitness to make everyday tasks feel easier and less painful

- Stretching and relaxation to bring some peace into a busy day


If you would like more information about these sessions, you can contact Toni at

beautifulandbalancedbodies@gmail.com or check out the website at:


Toni is the owner and trainer at Beautiful + Balanced Bodies. She has been a PT for over 10 years, working with solely women and has further training in pre/postnatal fitness and a bachelor degree in nutrition. She is a local mum of two, who developed a prolapse after her first birth so knows what it is like to go back to basics and rebuild your body after birth. Her mission is to help as many women feel strong and confident in their bodies.

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