Running After Pregnancy - Mums NI - A Hub For Parents in Northern Ireland

Running After Pregnancy

Dr Patrick Campbell
Written by Dr Patrick Campbell on Wednesday, 19 September 2018 Posted in: Mums Health

Running After Pregnancy

Exercise after giving birth can have enormous health benefits such as, improved fitness, weight loss and less risk of postnatal depression.

However, celebrities flaunting their postnatal bodies on social media shouldn’t make you feel under pressure to regain your pre-pregnancy figure too soon.  Increasingly women are returning to high impact exercise, such as running, before their bodies have fully recovered from pregnancy.

This could cause more harm than good for your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, potentially increasing your risk of developing problems like urinary incontinence. But we shouldn’t blame new mums… advice on this topic is hard to find and often conflicting, depending on who you ask…

What’s the official NHS advice?

The ‘NHS Your pregnancy and baby guide’ suggests it’s usually a good idea to wait until after your six-week postnatal check before you start any high-impact exercise, such as aerobics or running.

What’s new?

A group of women’s health physiotherapists have launched a UK campaign called ‘Pelvic Roar’ to raise awareness of pelvic health. They disagree with the traditional advice and recommend women wait 6 months before starting high-impact exercise such as running. Pelvic Roar are calling for doctors, nurses and fitness trainers to work together to help advise new mums on how best to exercise after having a baby.

What’s the risk?

During pregnancy, the body produces more of the hormones progesterone and relaxin. This helps the ligaments and tissues of the pelvis relax and stretch to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal during childbirth. This natural weakening of the pelvic floor muscles takes time to recover.

Although you might feel okay 6 weeks after giving birth, your pelvic floor muscles (and lower abdominal muscles if you’ve had a c-section) are still recovering. Going out for a run at this stage will put immense strain (3 times your body weight) on these already weakened muscles.  This could increase your risk of long-term pelvic floor problems such as urinary incontinence (accidental leaks) or prolapse (when your bladder, womb or bowel slip down into your vagina and cause a bulge to appear).

A recent mumsnet survey showed that 42% of women experienced problems with incontinence or their pelvic floor after having a baby. Even if you don’t feel like you have a problem, you still need to give your body time to recover.

How much exercise should I do during pregnancy?

In the UK, pregnant women are advised to carry out 150 minutes of ‘moderate exercise’ such as swimming or brisk walking, every week. The aim is to reduce obesity and the complications it can lead to during pregnancy such as diabetes.  

(Physical Activity for Pregnant Women Infographic)

What exercises are recommended after having a baby?

Mums are often keen to get back to exercise during the ‘4th trimester’, the 3-month period after childbirth.  At the Maypole Pelvic Health Clinic in Holywood, we recommend having a post-natal check by our Physiotherapist, Sinead Boyle, who specialises in Women’s Health.  During this check, Sinead determines your ability to return to exercise and what types of exercise are safe after assessing your

  • posture
  • pelvic floor strength
  • abdominal strength
  • and a check for diastasis rectus (tummy gap/ mummy tummy)

You will be advised on a number of areas including

  • appropriate exercises for pelvic floor & abdominal strengthening
  • posture
  • toileting techniques
  • heavy lifting (think of that carry cot with your growing baby in it!)

Sinead says, ‘returning to exercise after pregnancy is specific to the mum involved, the type of exercise she is wishing to return to and how safely she can do this without any short or long-term effects on her body. For some mums, return to exercise might be after 6 weeks, for others 6 months. Advice is individualised to the patient and their rate and response to recovery. Alternatively, you could ask your GP for a referral to your local NHS Women’s Health Physiotherapist, or some ante-natal pilates / yoga classes offer Physiotherapy-led post-natal exercise classes.’

According to Emma Brockwell, a physiotherapist who specialises in helping women return to postnatal exercise and founder of the UK Pelvic Roar campaign, ‘Many don’t realise the potentially devastating consequences of not letting the body recover after childbirth’.  

Where can I get help and advice?

Look for Physiotherapists with a specialist interest in Women’s Health. Our physiotherapist, Sinead Boyle, at the Maypole Pelvic Health Clinic, has completed the Mummy MOT course which is a bespoke post-natal recovery programme devised especially for you, your lifestyle and fitness goals.

If you'd like more background on the types of services you can avail of at the Maypole Pelvic Health Clinic go to http://www.cosmetech.co.uk/portfolio-item/pelvic-health-clinic/ or if you'd like to make an appointment to come and see one of our Team at Maypole Cosmetech Clinic in Holywood, part of the 3fivetwo Group, call us on 02890423200.

Tagged with: advice forum for mums, busy mum, having a baby, health and fitness for mums, mums health, mums mental health, mums self confidence, pregnancy

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About the author:
Dr Patrick Campbell

Dr Patrick Campbell, is a Consultant Urogynaecologist at The Maypole Pelvic Health Clinic at Cosmetech in Holywood, part of the 3fivetwo Group.

Dr Patrick Campbell
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