It can be challenging to prepare yourself for the first 12 weeks postpartum. So much has changed in your body and your priorities have shifted to looking after your little human.
However, it is important to also take some time to look after yourself and give your body some TLC. With all this change, it can be hard to know where to start especially in the first few weeks after your baby has arrived.
This post aims to give you some insight into what your recovery and exercise regime could look like postpartum. Keeping in mind that everyone is different as is everyone’s birth!
In the first 6 weeks, your body is in recovery mode from the toll that pregnancy and childbirth (by whichever means) has taken on your body.
No matter how good you might feel, it is important to be aware of how to best optimise your recovery – as this early window is a crucial time for connective tissue healing.
The first couple of days the RICE principle applies! You may have heard of this with sporting injuries and they are equally applicable to soft tissue healing after childbirth (e.g. C- section scar, vaginal tearing and episiotomy).
This may consist of icing the perineum which should be continued for a minimum of 72 hours but recommended for as long as you have discomfort.
Pelvic floor exercise:
Aim to start your pelvic floor exercises 1-2 days after giving birth, as long as your bladder is emptying normally. This involves switching your pelvic floor on and off regularly throughout the day.
There is no set dosage is required at this stage, however a good starting point would be to:
- Repeat a couple of gentle holds (perhaps 1-2 sec on and off) every 1-2 hours in either a sitting or lying position as this is the easiest place to start.
- Day by day keep progressing these holds for a couple more seconds at a time.
- Once you can hold a strong contraction for 10 seconds with ease. Continue to build on your hold length and repetitions until you can achieve 10 x 10 second holds upright.
It may then be time to consider a functional assessment with a pelvic floor physio to progress your exercise towards your specific goals.
C-section mum’s do not skip this! It is still important to train your pelvic floor postpartum too.
Some helpful cues to get your pelvic floor activities are to imagine gently stopping the flow of urine as well as activating the muscles that would prevent you passing wind.
Your body has gone through so many changes over the past 9 months.
Remember to give your body enough time to recover in this early period! It isn’t helpful to do too much exercise too soon and jump straight back into your prenatal exercise regime in this early window – as it may hinder the natural recovery.
It’s recommended that you slowly build up your time walking, aiming to to be able to complete a 45min walk by 6 weeks postpartum.
This is the time to begin reintroducing some of your prenatal exercise routines if you are feeling up to it.
The 6 week mark is when we would recommend having an assessment with a women’s health physio.
The purpose of this is to:
- Assess your abdominal separation and strength
- Undergo a pelvic floor assessment
- Address any musculoskeletal aches and pains
- Formulate a plan to return to your desired activities
Like with restarting any exercise regime, being wary of not going too hard too soon also applies during this period.
After this assessment you will be given a specific program and tailored advice to reach whatever goals you have. At this time you will also have a check up with your GP or specialist.
The 6-12 week window is an ideal time to work on building strength and endurance. Your body is still adjusting and it is important to rebuild some strength and capacity before returning to your prenatal exercise routine.
It’s also worth mentioning that high impact exercise (running, jumping etc) is not recommended before 12 weeks.
So there you have it! Your road map to exercise and recovery from 0-12 weeks postpartum.
If you have any questions about this period, we’d love for you to get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the clinic on 8490 0777.