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Getting Back to Fitness After Childbirth

Pregnancy and childbirth cause a lot of physical and emotional changes for women. You may have been able to maintain or improve your fitness during pregnancy or it may have been more difficult for you. You may have had a straightforward delivery and recover quickly, or it may have been more complicated and take longer.

After your baby is born it will take some time for your body to recover. It is important not to put pressure on yourself. Whatever your birth experience getting to know your new baby and resting when you can is the most important thing.

When you feel ready, beginning very gentle exercise at your own pace is good for physical and mental health. There are some exercises that you can begin pretty much straight after your baby is born.

Most women can gradually increase their exercise and build up their fitness over time, getting stronger and helping to prevent health problems in the future.  

  • You are at a higher risk of injury in the months after you give birth. Some of the bodily changes can have longer term affects if care is not taken. This is because;

    • During pregnancy your ligaments will have softened to allow for the stretching and movement needed in pregnancy and labour. This makes you more at risk of injury.
    • Your stomach muscles will have separated; sometimes this recovers quickly, for others this takes longer. This affects your core strength.
    • Pregnancy and labour put strain on your pelvic floor (the ‘basket’ of muscles that support your bladder, bowel and womb) when working well they help prevent leakage of wee or poo.
    • Being tired places a strain on your body and can increase the risk of injury if you push yourself too hard.
  • When you return to pre-birth levels of activity and exercise will be different for everyone. Some people will be able to begin ‘low impact’ exercise like walking very soon, gradually increasing speed and distance. It is important that the exercise you take is safe for you;

    • Take it easy and listen to your body. If you feel pain or notice an increase in post natal bleeding you should stop.
    • You will have a post-natal check up with your GP about six to eight weeks after your baby is born. This is a good time to discuss any ongoing symptoms or concerns you have about your body after birth. You may be referred onward for additional support for things like pelvic floor related symptoms.
    • It is advisable and recommended to wait for 12 weeks before returning to high impact exercise such as running or HIIT style jumping exercises to allow your body time to heal and strengthen again after pregnancy and birth.
    • If you are experiencing pelvic floor related symptoms it is recommended to seek support from a specialist pelvic health physio before considering taking up high impact exercise.
    • If you go to gyms or any organised exercise groups it is important to let them know you have recently had a baby.
    • You are at higher risk of strains and injuries so take care to warm up and cool down. Lift and move with care. *Click here* to read more. 
    • Wear supportive sportswear like trainers and sports bras.

    Eat regular meals and include a good variety of foods in your diet to help your body recover and give you energy. *Click here* to look at our eat better pages.

    If you have any concerns then it is wise to get advice. Speak to your GP who may refer you to a physiotherapist for more support.

    It is important to get a balance between rest and activity, Having a new baby is a big life change as well as the physical affects it brings – take your time.

After Birth Recovery Videos:

  • Whether your caesarean was planned or an emergency it takes time to recover. It is a major operation and you will need to take extra care. Watch the video for advice on how to look after yourself in the early days.

  • Watch this video for early days advice on how to begin work on strengthening your stomach muscles safely. It also shows how to check if your stomach muscles are still separated, how to work on this and when to seek advice.

  • Back pain can be a problem for many women during pregnancy and beyond. Stomach muscles play a part in protecting your back from harm. These are weaker during and after pregnancy so  it is especially important to take care of your back. Caring for a small baby can put your spine under extra strain and this video can help you manage this.

    This video explains low impact exercise that you can begin as soon as you feel ready after the birth like walking, as well as high impact exercise that you need to be more careful about – like running.

  • The pelvic floor has an important role in protecting the bladder, bowel and womb. During pregnancy and childbirth these muscles comes under pressure. This can have a short and / or long term affect on bladder and bowel continence and the strength of your pelvis.

    Exercise to help your pelvic floor recover and avoid future problems can begin almost immediately after birth. This video gives more information on this as well as when you should get more advice.

  • If you have had a baby within the last year and watched one or more of these videos, we would be very grateful of your time to complete our online survey. This will help us to further shape the support after birth https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RSZF6LT.

Who can Help?

For a referral to physiotherapy services please follow the routes below:

James Paget Hospital - referral via your GP, Midwife or Consultant.

Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital - self-referral via 24 hour answer phone on 01603 287 130. Please leave your name, hospital number, contact number and a brief description of the problem. You will receive a call back to speak about the problem. This service is for women who are planning to have their baby at NNUH, during pregnancy or up to three months after birth.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital - referral via your GP, Midwife or Consultant.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.

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