Updated: May 13
I know you want to get back to your “old self.”
It makes sense… you spent 9 months creating and growing a human in your body. Your ribs and hips widened. Your belly muscles stretched, and as they stretched, you felt your belly muscles weaken. Your posture changed. And as that little human grew, running became harder. You had to lighten your weights. Poses that used to feel so easy started to feel really challenging.
And now that you’re postpartum, your body looks different. Places are squishier than they’ve been before, and you’re feeling disconnected from your body. You can’t wait to go on your 10 mile run again, lift your heavy barbells, or move through 30 Sun Salutations.
But here’s the thing… there’s no reason for you to be doing extreme movements after giving birth.
And you might be doing your body harm.
You might not want to hear this, but you shouldn’t do these things for at least 6-12 months after giving birth:
Extreme hip openers, like a full, unsupported Frog pose or anything where you try to get your leg behind your head.
Exercises like bicycle & leg lifts
Group yoga & pilates classes (unless they’re specifically for postpartum folks)
Running (for at least 6 months)
High impact workouts like HIIT, Crossfit, etc.
Extreme backbends like Wheel Pose, or King Pigeon
Pregnant and postpartum bodies are hypermobile.
In other words, pregnant and postpartum folks have more laxity in their ligaments, which gives the joint more range of motion. This might sound like a good thing, but it can put you at risk of overstretching, especially because hypermobility can mess with your body awareness. You might not be able to feel you are pushing past your end range.
Because your tissues are still lax (particularly the ligaments of the pelvis), postpartum is not the time to work on the splits or try to get your leg behind your head. Instead, focus on strengthening your glutes and inner thighs!
Your pelvic floor is still trying to heal (even if you had a C-Section)
Pregnancy and birth impact your pelvic floor, and the muscles of your pelvic floor need time to heal after birth. High impact activities like HIIT and running put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor. If you return to those activities before your pelvic floor has time to heal, you could end up exacerbating an existing pelvic floor issue (prolapse, leaking, etc) or start seeing symptoms that weren’t there to begin with.
In fact, there was a great meta study published in 2019 that suggested the best time to return to running was around 3-6 months postpartum at the earliest, after a few months of low impact exercise, like yoga and Pilates combined with a pelvic floor assessment by a pelvic floor physical therapist (Groom et. al 2019)
Heavy weight lifting is similar, especially if you use techniques like valsalva or tools like a weight belt. Weight belts and valsalva can put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor. It’s not a problem all the time, but not so great when your pelvic floor is still trying to heal, and best trained (or retrained) under guidance. I suggest working with a pelvic floor physical therapist who has an understanding of lifting and/or Crossfit.
Your abs are still healing
During your pregnancy, the tissue that connects the two sides of your abdominal muscles together (your linea alba) thinned and stretched to accommodate your bump. 100% of pregnant people will have this at their due date (Mota et al. 2015). It’s supposed to happen!
But, this means you need to be mindful of certain movements postpartum, because the wrong kinds of exercises (or the wrong strategies for your exercises) can make this thinning (Diastasis Recti) worse. Loaded flexion exercises, like crunches, sit-ups, and bicycles pull that tissue wider, as can deep backbending, like Wheel Pose or King Pigeon in yoga.
I have talked to so many moms who found their postpartum symptoms (leaking, incision pain, abdominal separation) worsened because they jumped back into extreme movements too quickly and without proper guidance.
So what SHOULD you be doing in the first 6-12 months postpartum?
Pelvic floor PT
Postpartum-specific yoga & pilates
Lifting weights (moderate intensity)
Gentle backbends like glute bridge, Locust pose, Cobra, Sphinx
Exercises that strengthen your deep core (think Heel Slides, Dead Bug progressions, lean backs, Bird Dogs and Side Planks)
If you’re looking for guidance on how to safely return to movement after pregnancy, I have a free, 60-minute postpartum yoga class just for you. This class is appropriate for anyone who has given birth within the last 5 years. In the class, you’ll safely strengthen your abdominal muscles, glutes and pelvic floor, as well as stretch your shoulders and your neck. You’ll leave feeling completely relaxed and refreshed.
Click here to get the class delivered directly to your inbox.