Wondering how you can speed up your postpartum recovery, when is it right to start exercising and how to cope with postnatal depression? We have created a 6 month checklist for you.

Image source: International Sports Science Association

The transition from pregnancy to postpartum greatly changes the female body and most new mothers are left unsure about what to do to restore their health and fitness. This may cause a new mom to fall into postpartum depression as she tries to handle the challenges that motherhood brings into her life. 

Strengthening your body will allow you to recover well and keep fit and healthy as well as elevate your mood to take care of your new baby. Here is what you need to know about postpartum recovery. 

The first week

The first week after labour can be challenging with a new little person in your life needing your constant attention. “Baby blues” are very normal in the first few days after having a baby. However, having the support of your partner, family and friends as well as knowing that you have a postpartum recovery plan in place can be extremely helpful.

Most new mothers should be fine to start practising their Kegel exercises and engaging their deep core and pelvic floor muscles during this initial period, unless otherwise advised by their GP. Kegel exercises are an easy self-care tool because you can perform them while in bed and it only takes a couple of minutes to get through them two to three times each day. If you have practised Pilates during your pregnancy, apply Pilates principles to achieve neutral spine during these exercises. These exercises help to restore the functionality of these muscles and help to prevent complications later in your pelvic floor and back.

4-6 week postpartum

During your first 4 to 6 weeks postpartum, only perform gentle and non-strenuous exercise as instructed by your doctor. Walking is generally the most frequently prescribed activity as it is a low impact workout and helps improve aerobic fitness. Start with just a short 10 minute walk and progress slowly. You can also perform some gentle stretching to release low back, neck, shoulders and hips tightness, as prescribed by your exercise physiologist. Take care to always check with a health professional about what you are doing, do not rely on what you read on the internet or watch on Youtube!

At the end of this period, make sure you have booked in to have a check up with your doctor to receive clearance to exercise under the supervision of an exercise physiologist or personal trainer.

After 6 weeks

After receiving clearance from your doctor, the best thing to do is to exercise under professional supervision to ensure you are doing exercises the right way. Find an exercise physiologist via www.essa.org.au and they can advise you on what the right intensity and type of exercise to do.

Generally, one of the best things you can do is to sign up for a Clinical Pilates class whereby you will be taught correct muscle engagement techniques and the practitioner can help you progress from supine exercises to partially weight-bearing exercises. Pilates exercises have been known to be gentle on the body and suitable for individuals of all fitness levels. They are easy on the joints and will feel be gentler on your postpartum body. Keep your exercise intensity light, avoid sit-ups and any other exercises that places a lot of stress on your abdominal area.

After 3 months

You should be starting to feel stronger at this point if you have carefully followed the steps above. You can increase the length of your walks or do some light cycling and swimming. Your exercise physiologist should also be prescribing more body weight exercises like squats to teach you safe lifting techniques. A Pilates circle can also be very useful at this stage in helping you to strengthen your pelvic floor further.

The key to postpartum recovery is to progress under the guidance of your GP and your exercise physiologist. Check with them about any of the steps above and ask questions if you are unsure if the progression is right for you. If you would like to read further about postpartum exercise, read Sports Medicine Australia’s position statement on this topic.

Wynter Chan

Exercise Physiologist

Melbourne Yoga and Pilates

About us

Melbourne Yoga and Pilates (MYP) was created with the vision to have a central space in the Melbourne CBD that people can come to have their injuries looked after but also to get fit, healthy and strong. With our small-sized classes, our team focuses on providing safe, alignment-based classes with close personal attention from our highly trained instructors.

Not only do we stay up-to-date with the latest fitness trends, we base our techniques and services on research-based evidence. The team is led by Exercise Scientists and Exercise Physiologists who have undergone a tertiary education and are the leaders in the exercise field in what is best for your body. Whether recovering from an injury or striving for specific fitness goals, our team is here to help make them a reality. So why not contact us today at Melbourne Yoga and Pilates and let us guide you on your fitness journey?

About the author

Wynter Chan is our accredited exercise physiologist and also teaches yoga and Pilates at Melbourne Yoga and Pilates. She lectured in Exercise Science and Rehabilitation at Victoria University as well as worked with the Australian badminton team in strength and conditioning and rehabilitation. Currently, she is actively participating in the National University Course Accreditation Program for Exercise and Sport Science Australia, assessing the curriculum of exercise science and physiology courses around the country. Helping clients manage their injuries is her passion and believes her method helps them live a pain-free life without inhibitions.