Postnatal exercise predominately
targets the structures affected by pregnancy, delivery and those attributes required for caring for the baby.
Key characteristics of a postnatal exercise programme include postural alignment, core stability, functional muscular strength and endurance and cardiovascular fitness. All activities must be steadily progressed at a rate that is appropriate to the needs and abilities of young mum.
Women in the postnatal period need to understand that regaining their pre-pregnancy body shape and fitness is a gradual process which, if rushed, can result in further setbacks.
General Postnatal Exercise Guidelines
Women returning to exercise post-birth should:
- Not exercise when feeling overtired or unwell
- Ensure the volume and intensity of exercise is both comfortable and achievable
- Focus on maintaining good posture with all exercises
- Listen to their body and increase or decrease the intensity accordingly
- Not exercise if pain or bleeding occurs; if either present, stop exercising and consult a gp/midwife if symptoms persist
- Start slowly and gradually increase the workload
- Avoid any activities that place stress on the unstable pelvic floor or hip joints until joint strength and stability has improved
- Be careful with activities that require sudden changes in direction; avoid these where possible
- Reduce the width of sidestepping movements and minimise single leg activities if recovering from pelvic girdle pain
- Avoid overheating
- Ensure adequate fluid and energy intake
- Dress appropriately for the activities being performed
- Beware of the signs and symptoms of over-exertion, e.g Breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, burning sensation in the muscles, breakdown in performance, decreased co- ordination
- Not exercise to fatigue; muscle soreness and aching should be avoided
- Swap exercise sessions for rest if feeling particularly tired
- Perform functional exercises that will improve posture and assist in the new activities of daily living, e.g. Carrying and caring for the baby
- Start at low intensity and progress gradually
Content of the above post is based on the knowledge from Level 3 Ante and Postnatal Fitness Instructor Manual.