Your journey to feeling strong, energized, and healthy in your new-mom skin starts here.
Hilaria Baldwin raised eyebrows when she began running just one week after giving birth, and Peta Murgatroyd confessed she was back at the gym just 17 days after delivery. While most women aren’t quite ready for such a rigorous fitness regimen so soon after childbirth, for others, staying away from the gym in the postnatal period can be an incredibly tough ask—especially if they’ve been working out all through their pregnancy.
But even the fittest moms need to proceed with caution—so before you embark on your first new mama workout, try these tips to help you stay healthy.
First things first
“The biggest thing about working out after birth is you had to have exercised before and during your pregnancy. If you exercised before and during pregnancy, you’re going to be on a much different playing field,” Chicago-based trainer Sari Weis says. But no matter how fit you were before delivery, the act of giving birth shouldn’t be taken lightly. Weis’s advice for fit mamas? Get your OB/GYN's approval first, and start off slow: Take brisk walks and make sure you’re doing Kegel exercises so you can regain the strength in your pelvic floor. Rigorous workouts, high impact activity, and ab exercises can wait.
The first few weeks
Jumping back into your workout regimen so soon after birth is probably not a great idea, even for ultra-fit mamas. “[I] would recommend that new moms not try to exert themselves before two weeks,” says OB/GYN Kameelah Phillips, MD. “If you are recovering from a C-section, I would defer a routine until after your first post-operative check. Confirm with your doctor that the skin is properly closed, and that you are cleared for a walking routine. I usually recommend you take an ibuprofen prior to any return to activity because the uterus is still healing and can cause discomfort. Give your body a little time to heal and enjoy a leisurely walk."
4-6 weeks postpartum
"I would recommend putting on your heart rate monitor and taking small walks around the neighborhood with your baby," says Taylor. "This is a great, low-impact activity that gets your body back into the motion of moving again and also gives you the chance to bond with your baby." Your hips and joints are still resetting themselves back into place, so walking will help strengthen the joints and expedite the process. Start with 20 minutes and work your way up as the weeks progress. There's a huge shift in hormones during this time, so if you're experiencing some postpartum depression this can definitely help stimulate your endorphins and cortisol levels. Plus, fresh air always does a body good!
6-8 weeks postpartum
If you had a natural vaginal delivery, this is typically when you'll get your doctor's approval to start beginning an exercise regimen. "My first recommendation is to always check if you have a diastasis recti, a split in the linea alba area of the abdomen that's caused by internal force or pressure on the abdominal wall," says Taylor. With multiple pregnancies, this condition can exacerbate, causing the split to stretch even further and leaving the organs unprotected. Depending on the severity of the split and depth, the diastasis can usually be healed through proper exercise—according to Dr. Phillips, your fitness level might be in your favor where remedying this issue is concerned, and ab exercises might have some serious benefits at this point.
“Some women are able to minimize the distasis with a committed focus to core abdominal work,” Dr. Phillips says. “This is really the optimal time to get active again. The uterus has returned to the lower pelvis and abdominal exercise is more comfortable. Most vaginal lacerations are well healed and C-section incisions are completely closed.”
But don’t beat yourself up if your cardio capacity still isn’t quite where it used to be—it'll happen! “Cardiovascular changes are returning to normal but you may still notice some initial breathlessness as you start working out due to deconditioning and pregnancy related cardiovascular changes,” Dr. Phillips says.
3-5 months postpartum
Do your best to create a feasible exercise schedule that you can commit to, but remember that Rome wasn't built in a day—this is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line. It's going to take time to rebuild your strength, stamina and muscular endurance. "Set small, attainable goals that you can conquer and maintain," suggests Taylor.
“Women who were active before pregnancy can return to their normal activities including running, weight lifting, swimming, etc.,” Dr. Phillips says. “At any of these stages, I recommend that women not aim for rapid weight loss as this can affect breastmilk production.”