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When should I Return to Exercise Postnatally?

Throughout my pregnancy I’ve been seeing Madison Cutmore, a physiotherapist in Women’s Health. She’s given me so much advice during my pregnancy, but as I get closer to the end I’m starting to ask the question – when should I return to exercise when the baby’s here? Madison gave me some great advice on why it’s super important to see a Women’s Health Physio (WHP) who will ultimately help you back on your journey post-pregnancy.

I asked her to explain the benefits and what exactly a WHP can do to help. Here’s what she had to say.

“Women often feel pressure to ‘get back into it’ postnatally and push themselves too hard too quick. Whilst exercise is oh so important for new mums, both physically and mentally, doing too much too soon can have long term impacts on your body and your pelvic floor (up to 50% of women have some degree of pelvic organ prolapse ​APA​).

In October 2019 the Australian Physiotherapy Association released a statement calling for ‘Women’s Health Physiotherapists to be included in the care teams for all pregnant women in Australia to reduce the risk of complications and to improve outcomes for women and their babies’​. Thus, we urge all women to consult a women’s health physio (WHP) in conjunction with their six-week GP check.

A WHP will:

  • Assess abdominal separation. Diastisis Rectus Abdominis (DRAM) occurs during pregnancy when a woman’s Rectus Abdominis (big abdominal muscles) separate slightly to allow room for a growing baby. This separation is a completely normal part of pregnancy and childbirth but ongoing separation and associated weakness postpartum can make it difficult to create tension through the rectus abdominis. Your WHP will assess this separation and your functional capacity and then create a tailored exercise program for you.
  • Conduct a thorough pelvic floor exam to check the integrity of pelvic walls and organs, as well as the strength and endurance of pelvic floor muscles. From here they can generate a personalised pelvic floor training program to guide rehabilitation of the pelvic floor and monitor symptoms of incontinence and prolapse as you return to exercise. And yes, it actually works! Pelvic floor muscle training has been shown across many studies to cure stress urinary incontinence (SUI) in 50% of women and improve symptoms of leaking in 75% of women.

So, when can you actually return to exercise? This is very specific to you, your body and your pregnancy journey. As a general rule, gentle exercise including walking and targeted pelvic floor/core work is prescribed in the first 6 weeks post-delivery. From there a WHP will tailor a specific program that will have you back to more impact and high intensity exercise by 12 weeks postnatal and beyond.”

Madison has been a great guide for me during my pregnancy and I hope this blog helps you understand when you should return to exercise postnatally.

If you’re reading this blog, you’ll be the first to know that I’m launching something new, FHIT-natal, a place for all mummas-to-be and new mums to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle. Just like this blog, FHIT-natal will have a range of pregnancy advice, workout videos and you’ll also get an insight into my pregnancy journey. Use the button below to sign up to our exclusive early access list!

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