How Pregnancy Affects Your Postpartum Exercise Routine

Get back in shape safely with these guidelines for 5 common exercises.


Looser ligaments, a shifting center of gravity and other physical changes that occur with pregnancy will change the way your body responds to exercise. Such changes may cause back pain and other issues if you immediately return to your prior workouts.

"Special circumstances such as a C-section, vaginal stitches, hemorrhoids, etc. would prohibit you from most exercises and heavy lifting and require your doctor's clearance," says Codi Wiener, MD, OB/GYN at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women in Houston, TX.

Remember: Always check with your doctor before returning to your exercise routine.

Keep in mind the following tips to get back in shape safely:

1. Running

What changes: Looser ligaments due to hormonal changes and a forward pelvic tilt results in flattening of the feet and an increased lower spine curve, says Jonathan Kirschner, MD, assistant professor of Interventional Spine and Sports Medicine in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mt. Sinai, NY.

How it affects your workout: These changes may lead to lower back pain, says Kirschner. "Give yourself time to heal, usually around six weeks—longer if multiple births or a C-section." Strengthen your core muscles before you return to running, start slow and use a shorter stride.

Related: Regain your core strength with our Ab Rehab workout

2. Yoga

What changes: Hormonal changes make muscles and joints more flexible. Testing their limits can lead to ligament tears and even dislocation, says Kirschner.

How it affects your workout: You may want to hold off on power yoga for a bit. Gentle yoga postpartum is fine, particularly poses that strengthen the hip, buttock and core abdominal muscles, says Kirschner. Avoid extremes of motion or lying on your belly.

Related: We also really love mommy-baby yoga

3. Zumba

What changes: A weak pelvic floor may make incontinence issues more apparent when performing high-impact moves such as Zumba, says Gia Fruscione, DPT, doctor of physical therapy in Hamilton, NJ.

Most doctors recommend avoiding strenuous exercise for six weeks postpartum to allow the abdominal and pelvic muscles to heal. Plus, Zumba's side-to-side and pelvic motion moves make it especially strenuous on the very joints that are stretched and affected by pregnancy.

How it affects your workout: Stick with lower-impact workouts for the first six weeks postpartum. In the meantime practice core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises, says Fruscione. "Performing exercises that reactivate and strengthen your pelvic floor can help with incontinence (i.e. Kegels)."

Related: Brazilian Butt Workout for new moms

4. Weight training

What changes: Lifting heavy weights should be avoided for six weeks, as this increases pressure within the abdomen, says Kirschner. "This increases the risk of pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence."

How it affects your workout: In some cases abdominal exercises may be contraindicated. "Unless you've had a C-section, abdominal exercises are usually fine, but keep in mind your abs will fatigue very quickly since they've been on hiatus for at least six months," says Dr. Wiener.

Planks and other core exercises are best as they target the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis (the main core stabilizing muscle).

Related: We love this New Mom Circuit-Style Workout

5. Cycling

What changes: Almost every woman will be somewhat swollen in the genital area for a couple of weeks after delivery, says Wiener. "It may be quite uncomfortable to cycle until about one month after delivery. If you received stitches at your delivery, you will need to avoid riding a bike until your obstetrician clears you for it at your six- week postpartum visit."

How it affects your workout: After your doctor gives you the go-ahead, consider a wider bike seat or one with extra cushion or padding. Seat with a hole or slit cut out of the also relieves pressure on tender areas.

Keep Reading: 8 Steps for Easing Back Into a Fitness Routine

Remember: Always check with your doctor before starting any postnatal fitness program; you'll need to wait at least six weeks after having a Cesarean section.