Postnatal Exercise Guidelines

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.

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