Ask the Expert: Getting New Moms Moving

April 6, 2021 - Defence Stories

Mother and baby

Enjoy activities that are gentle on your joints.

Q: I’m pregnant and looking forward to having my first child. While it’s been challenging, I have continued to be physically active. I know my new baby will significantly change my life and I would appreciate some advice on how to safely return to being physically active after my delivery.
Future Mom

A: Dear Future Mom: Congratulations on the upcoming addition to your family. Recovering after pregnancy is highly individual. When you are ready, exercising in the postpartum period offers many benefits including enhanced energy, increased cardiovascular fitness, help with weight management, improved body and pelvic floor strength, and reducing the potential risk of anxiety and depression. Here are some suggestions on how to safely resume being physically active.

  1. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada feels that women who had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery can start exercising as soon as they feel comfortable. Women who had pregnancy complications, a caesarian section or a traumatic delivery should talk to their health care provider about when to resume physical activity.
  2. Every woman experiences body changes during pregnancy. It can take several months to reconnect with your new body and resume your fitness program. Start off slowly, listen to your body and increase your physical activity as tolerated.
  3. As soon as possible, begin to engage your core and pelvic floor muscles. Pregnancy and delivery subject your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to great stress and you depend on these muscles to support your abdominal and pelvic organs, as well as to provide a solid base for all body motion. Reconditioning these muscles will reduce your risk of developing bladder leakage in the future.
  4. Start with walking indoors or outdoors – it’s a great form of “gentle” exercise, as it can be done soon after your delivery and it doesn’t overly stress your pelvic floor muscles.
  5. Your body should feel good moving. Stop exercising if it is painful – this is a clear message your body isn’t ready for what you are doing. If the pain persists, see your health care professional.
  6. Avoid heavy lifting and high impact activities such as running and jumping until your pelvic floor muscles are reconditioned.
  7. Enjoy activities that are gentle on your joints. During pregnancy, and for up to 12 months after delivery, women produce a hormone that loosens their connective tissues and joints. These loose tissues and joints can leave your body less stable and increase your risk of injury.
  8. Wear a supportive bra to reduce that amount of motion your breasts experience when you exercise.
  9. Try breastfeeding or expressing your milk before you train – exercising with lighter breasts will be more comfortable. The quality and the amount of breast milk you produce is determined by your calorie and fluid intake, not how much you exercise.

Bottom line: Regular exercise has been shown to offer new moms many physical and mental health benefits. Following the nine tips above will help you safely return to being fit enough to keep up with the new addition to your family. Enjoy! Movement is Medicine!

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Dr. Darrell Menard OMM MD, Dip Sport Med

Dr. Menard is the Surgeon General’s specialist advisor in sports medicine and has worked extensively with athletes from multiple sports. As part of the Strengthening the Forces team he works on injury prevention and promoting active living.

Strengthening the Forces is CAF/DND’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being.

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