It’s the conundrum every new mother has faced: when’s the right time to get back into exercise after giving birth?
On this week’s episode of The Bump: The Pointy End, Bec Judd and Monique Bowley ask resident baby expert Dr Joe Sgroi to weigh in.
“It is important to exercise… and you probably start off with some gentle walking initially, in order to just get the body mobilising,” Dr Joe says.
“That can happen pretty much soon after birth, and I encourage all my patients to do that quite quickly, because it’s not only good in terms of physical wellbeing, it’s also really good in terms of mental wellbeing to get out in the sun and get a bit of fresh air.”
Listen: Dr Joe is clear, it’s all about listening to your body. (Post continues.)
Dr Joe notes, though, that it generally takes at least four to six weeks for the body to “knit” itself back together after pregnancy and birth, so you certainly shouldn’t be expecting to bounce back to your old routine in just a few weeks. The most important thing, as with any type of exercise, is to “listen to your body”.
Of course, how much exercise a new mother can or should do following birth will depend on how much she was doing before birth, too.
“Depending on what your exercise was like during pregnancy, it would be important to slowly get back to that,” Dr Joe says.
“You’re not going to go from running a marathon before you’re pregnant to running a marathon six weeks after you’re pregnant, but certainly over a progression of time, allowing yourself to build up slowly, you’ll be able to get back to the same level that you were before.”
As for the type of exercise, women should focus on just after birth?
Aside from gentle walking to begin with, Dr Joe says “the only exercise I’d recommend anyone go really hard on is pelvic floor exercises.”
The Melbourne-based obstetrician adds most new mums will get a six-week check from their gynaecologist, which is an important step on the path back to fitness (both of the body and of the mind). While the doctor can’t give you “complete-sign off” with regards to when to get back on the treadmill, the six-week check is generally a “recognition that you’re right to start commencing some more vigorous exercise”.
In addition, new mums should feel free to look to other health professionals, like physiotherapists, to help them create a post-baby exercise routine that’s gentle, effective and unlikely to cause injury.
And as for having sex?
“It’s a very difficult question to answer. The most sensible thing to say is, when you both feel it’s right. I’d hate to think that people would have sex the day the baby was born – that wouldn’t be appropriate – but two weeks, six weeks, there onwards, if everything feels normal, then that’s fine,” Dr Joe says.
It’s different again, he adds, for women who had C-sections compared to vaginal births.
But in general? Things down there are probably healing more quickly than you think.
“Most of the time, it’s surprising how well things heal and how quickly women return to normal sexual function.
“That said, if there are any concerns that either partner has in terms of sexual intercourse, then they should speak to their doctor. That might be a physical discomfort… or a mental obstacle to actually having sex.”
You can listen to the full episode of Hello Bump: The Pointy End here or download from your favourite podcast app.