Congratulations! You’ve had your baby! You’ve been given your medical clearance and now you want to get back in shape. But how do you transition to this safely? When is a good time to start things like running or other high impact sports?
Every patient, pregnancy and birth story and is different, which is why it’s important to have a pelvic floor physiotherapist assess your pelvic floor strength, endurance, function and coordination after your baby is born. Fun fact: even those of you who had c-sections need to see a pelvic floor physio. The weight of your baby, fluid, placenta and uterus will affect your pelvic floor function, no matter how you birthed your baby.
Once you’ve been assessed, here are some general healing processes that give us a timeline for earliest recovery and return to sport.
Cesarean Section Birth
No matter what you’ve been led to believe, a cesarean section is a major abdominal surgery. Your surgeon will have cut through many layers of skin, fat, muscle, connective tissues and the uterus.
At the time of your 6 week follow up, the tensile strength (how well it will hold up under tension) of this tissue is only 51-59% of its original strength. By 6-7 months it is 73-93% of its original tensile strength.
Because of this, the earliest return to impact activity recommended without taking other considerations into account should be 3-6 months after having your baby.
With a vaginal birth, the muscles of the pelvic floor will stretch many times beyond their usual length. These muscles and all of the connective tissue around them can take 4-6 months to heal.
As with a cesarean section, the earliest return to impact activity recommended after a vaginal birth without taking other considerations into account should also be 3-6 months after having your baby.
Prior to this time low impact exercises should be commenced to prep the body to get back to impact activities. This can include walking, light weights, post natal yoga or pilates.
Self-Assessment: How do you know you are ready?
Any of the following symptoms mean that your pelvic floor is not yet ready – you should book a pelvic floor physio appointment asap if you are feeling any of the following:
- Heaviness/ dragging in pelvis
- Leaking urine
- Pelvic or low back pain
- Any unusual bulges around the vagina/vulva area
You may be ready to run if you can do the following:
– Walk 30 minutes without pain, leaking, or other symptoms
– Stand on 1 leg for 10seconds without feeling unsteady
– Jog one the spot for 1 minute WITHOUT leaking or pain
– Hop in place 10x/leg without leaking urine or getting any pain
– 10 lunges/leg with no pain
For more specifics on how to work your way up to running and for a full assessment of your pelvic floor, book in with a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can tailor a program to your needs.
The Plan: How do you start a return to running plan?
Start slowly. We recommend starting with a run-walk program: jog for 1-2 mins followed by some walking. Take care of your body — alternate your running days with rest, stretching, massage and proper nutrition.
Running with a stroller is a good option, but wait until your baby is 6-9 months to ensure they have proper head control.
Please keep in mind that factors such as your current weight, any diastasis recti, presence of scar tissue, whether or not you are breastfeeding, your sleeping patterns and your current nutrition and hydration levels will all impact your recovery and exercise ability.
These are all general guidelines, of course! As always, proceed with caution, and most of all, have fun. But remember that in order to avoid injury and have your best chance of success, we advise all new mamas to be professionally evaluated before return to exercise.
Oona offers a comprehensive range of pelvic floor physiotherapy services. Our fully licensed and qualified pelvic floor physiotherapists will ask you exactly what issues are concerning you, and will then put together a custom plan to help improve your quality of life. Contact us today and book a consultation with one of our pelvic floor physios.