The 6 Week Return To Exercise Myth
For as long as I can recall the guidance has been women can return to exercise at 6 weeks postpartum wether you have had a c section or vaginal birth. Until I gave birth, I held issue only with post c section return to activity based on the fact that I could abdominal surgery whether c-section or anything else is never addressed from a rehabilitation perspective. Our core is our center of movement, breath and life force. How can it not need a proper reboot after surgery? Once I had my daughter, I realized that post partum recovery and return to sports is an individual process and NO blog, website or exercise guru give a guideline that is applicable to all.
The Guidelines Provided By the Return to Running Guideline
The Guideline suggests that running begin no earlier than 3 months postpartum when there are no symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction (see Return to Running Part 1). It also recommends a pelvic floor assessment for all postpartum women to complete more formal testing of the abdominal wall and pelvic floor and functional movement. From a functional perspective it is recommended that women can walk a brisk 30 minutes without symptoms prior to running. It recommends grading the return to run with 1-2 minutes of running followed by walking for a few minutes prior to running again for 1-2 minutes, etc. This is slower than many moms want to go, but, I have to say, there is nothing better you can do for yourself than protect your recovery to prevent long term health issues. The guideline also takes into consideration breastfeeding. Evidence suggests that a woman's hormone profile leaves them more at risk of injury when still nursing. If you are a woman who considered yourself "hypermobile" prior to pregnancy, you may want to take it slowly and better yet, see a PT for evaluation prior to running.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, mommas, this manual does not give a global prescription to provide you with regards to a solid guideline for return to running or any high impact sport. This is the same answer I give at every talk or postpartum check up I perform. Everyone's body is different and their pregnancy and delivery is different. How your body responds to a return to exercise may be different than your best friend. The easy items to check off your list would be to make sure you are optimizing sleep, wearing supportive clothing including good sneakers, and good nutrition. The take home message is to take the pressure off of yourself to do it all the minute you are cleared to exercise and to seek out specialists to make sure you are covering all of your bases to protect your long term health!
Is a mom of two, life long exercise & nutrition enthusiast, women's health specialist & physical therapist.