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Returning to Exercise Postpartum

Feeling a bit frustrated about returning to exercise postpartum?  Are you hearing from medical providers, friends or family that you can’t return to the activities that you love?  Let’s clear up some myths about returning safely to activities after baby.

For starters, your body was designed to heal. Remember that!  Most issues that arise after delivery can be rehabilitated and you can return to the activities you love. The important thing is to give your body the time and attention it needs to become stronger. 

Never Say Never

Recently a patient came to see me who had a mild prolapse (very common after delivery) at 7 weeks postpartum.  Her midwife told her she would never run again.  Grrrr.  First of all, we should stop using the word “never” when it comes to physical ability.  People run marathons with prosthetic limbs for pete’s sake, you can rehab and return to the exercise you like after a baby.

This patient was so distressed that she had really fallen into some depression surrounding the idea she could not get back to running as exercise.  We discussed that yes, she had mild prolapse (click here for more info on prolapse) and yes, this takes some time and effort to rehabilitate.  She came to understand that she would need to work toward improved function of the pelvic girdle and take it slow as she retuned to run, but that she would be able to do it.  Her entire outlook changed. 

This client found motivation to exercise, knowing that she was working toward her ultimate goal of running. She was willing to begin with a walk program, as she strengthened and lengthened her muscular system to provide optimal function and support to her pelvic organs. We worked on addressing the incontinence she was also experiencing, as well as pain with intercourse that had been an issue due to a perineal tear during delivery.

Just Breathe

Beginning with some focused breathing to aid in the reflexive function of the pelvic floor and coordinating it alongside the abdominal wall and deep spinal muscles, this patient progressed through a 6-week program.  At the end of her 6 weeks, she no longer had any symptoms of prolapse, and she was beginning to do some interval running as she worked toward a goal of 2-mile run.

Having babies does not need to be a sentence to reduce the level of activity you want to work toward.  You can absolutely return to a high level of exercise and recreational activity.  You do need to realize it takes effort and work. You should have the help of a pelvic health specialist to guide you and to ensure that you return safely when your body is ready.

Everyone Heals Differently

Many of us take 6 weeks, some take 12, others take 20 or more.  Every delivery is different, with different injuries and outcomes.  We must consider giving birth to be an injury, just like an ankle or knee injury.  If we change the way we look at childbirth we can see how imperative it is to enlist the help of a professional to help us reach our exercise goals.  Whether you are 6 weeks or 6 years postpartum, you can affect great change in the musculoskeletal system for the better! The body is truly an amazing thing. It wants to heal, it just needs some help sometimes!

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