When Michelle Bridges hit the news headlines in January 2016 after she made a comment on twitter about being return to running just 3 weeks after having her first child, people were divided.
“Mums have been asking me what I am doing for training. Here’s what I did today. Remember! I am a professional trainer and have been training for 30 years. So! For you please dial this down to 15-20 mins total work. 30 mins of 1 min run 1 min walk. 26 mins 20 sec jog and 10 sec walk. Enjoy….and yes a certain someone was with me. “
The comment received widespread condemnation by women’s groups and health professionals alike, deeming it irresponsible and dangerous to suggest running so early in the postnatal period.
Effects on your body
Pregnancy and childbirth have significant effects on a woman’s body, particularly on the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel.
When the pelvic floor is strong, it supports the pelvic organs to prevent problems such as:
- incontinence (the involuntary loss of urine or faeces)
- prolapse (lack of support) of the bladder, uterus and bowel.
It is well known that during pregnancy the pelvic floor is stretched and can become weakened. So, irrespective of whether you have had a vaginal delivery or a caesarean section, a sensible and gradual return to exercise is essential to prevent long-term problems such as stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ (bladder, bowel, uterus) prolapse.
Pelvic floor and low-intensity core exercises should always be the initial focus of any exercise regime after having a baby, followed by low impact strength exercising. Jogging and heavy lifting place a lot of stress on the pelvic floor, and it is recommended that significant strengthening occurs before any such exercise is commenced.
When is the right time to return to running or sport?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer for this. Every woman is different but some common considerations are:
- How many weeks/months are you postnatal?
- Did you have any abdominal muscle separation (rectus diastasis)?
- Did you have any back or pelvic pain during or after your pregnancy?
- Are you generally hypermobile? (i.e. are you very flexible?)
- Do you have any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction? (i.e. incontinence, pain during intercourse or heaviness/dragging in the perineum)
- Do you know how to activate your pelvic floor muscles and deep abdominal muscles?
- Have you seen a health professional since your birth?
Whilst most women will routinely see their obstetrician or health professional at 6 weeks postnatally, you may require a longer break from exercise. Six weeks is the minimum amount of time you should consider before returning to running or heavy lifting. The 6-week minimum is recommended for all women post-birth, regardless of their level of fitness prior to birth and pregnancy.
If you answered yes to any of the questions above and you are considering returning to exercise/sport, then it is important that you seek professional advice on when and how to get moving again.
The Body Refinery’s experienced women’s health physiotherapists are trained in the assessment and management of the pelvic floor and of the musculoskeletal issues commonly associated with pregnancy and childbirth. They can help you safely return to running, exercising and enjoying the many benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle!
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Book an appointment with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist today on 07 3358 3915 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.