Running after Pregnancy – When is it safe to run after childbirth?
This article follows on from our previous post entitled Running During Pregnancy – The Ultimate Guide (HERE). We are now dealing with the other side of the main event!… this article answers the question: WHEN IS IT SAFE TO RUN FOLLOWING CHILDBIRTH? as well as some other physio-related, post-pregnancy musings.
As per usual, with an article like this, I have to say that the information here, does not constitute individual medical advice and we cannot take any liability for injuries sustained after reading this article.
Moving on…I think it’s important to note that, from a health perspective, any type of exercise is encouraged after pregnancy. I’m sure the time you have to exercise, is certainly going to be compromised following childbirth, but if you plan well and prioritise, it can be done. We know running has so many health benefits, both mental and physical. The obvious physical advantages include improving cardiovascular fitness, increasing strength and helping lose weight, a goal often expressed by many women post pregnancy. But let’s not forget the psychological benefits too, such as feeling less anxious and depressed, generally having more energy and the self esteem that comes through getting your body back!
So now we have those benefits fresh in our mind let’s go straight to the medical guidelines. Similar to the guidelines on running when pregnant, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to running after pregnancy, just plenty of common sense advice. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2006) state that if you’ve had a straight forward vaginal delivery, with no complications, then you should be able to do mild recreational exercise such as walking, stretching and pelvic floor exercises immediately after birth.
Anyone that’s pregnant at the moment, just had a baby or even once ever thought about having a baby, has probably been told about the importance of pelvic floor exercises. The fact of the matter is, the pelvic floor goes through an awful lot of stress during pregnancy and making sure it is functioning normally after birth reduces the risk of things like urinary and faecal incontinence (Bell and Dooley, 2006). This is especially important for runners because your pelvic floor comes under a lot of stress from the abdominal contents above with every foot impact. So making sure you rehab your pelvic floor will be an important goal post partum.
Bottom line is: Do your pelvic floor exercises!! (10 x 10 seconds three times a day followed by 10 fast contractions.)
If you’re unsure how to contract your pelvic floor, then try these imagery cues:
- Imagine you are trying to stop urinating half way through (the muscles you use are your pelvic floor muscles)
- Imagine your are trying to prevent yourself from passing wind…and my personal favourite
- Imagine you are trying to suck spaghetti up your back passage.
And before you ask…no, I didn’t just make those up… yes, they are a bit gross…and yes, they do work! have a go now if you don’t believe me!
When to run after giving birth
As far as returning to running after birth, the advice is to slowly build up to your previous activity levels when you feel able to. The general guideline is about 6 weeks, which usually co-insides with the first post-partum check up, however, the guidelines are very much around when you feel ready to.
If, however, you had a C-section, or other complications, you definitely want to wait until your first postpartum check up (usually 6-8 weeks) and discuss it with your healthcare team.
Here’s a few other post pregnancy bits and pieces
Running after pregnancy does not affect the amount of milk you produce, or its quality, and the baby’s growth will not be affected (Bell and Dooley, 2006)
It may be helpful to breastfeed before going for a run. Apparently, it can be quite sore running with breast full’s of milk!
Buggy fit classes
Whilst doing my research, I came across these classes for new mums. It seems a really cool, social way to get back into exercise. It’s essentially group exercise, but as the name suggests, it involves running and other exercises using your buggy and sometimes even your baby! There are loads of classes in London and they seem to be expanding all over the world (for my non-uk based readers). Check out the website for more info: www.buggyfit.co.uk
A scary sounding description, but it’s actually fairly common in pregnancy. It describes the splitting of the Rectus Abdominis muscle (that’s the 6 pack muscle) as your bump grows. This leads to either a hollowing or herniation in the centre of your abs. The below video shows you how you can check for it.
If you have suffered with Diastasis Recti then getting your abs back to normal is likely going to be a priority for you. The goal is to gently encourage the abs back together using deeper muscles, such as Traversus Abdominis. So that means crunches are out! the increase in pressure during these types of movements can make the condition worse. Below is a nice starter programme for you to try out.
I’ve definitely seen an increase in the use of these around Wimbledon Common over the last year or so. Personally, if you can afford it, I think it’s a great idea.
I’ve done a little research, and the below strollers/prams/buggies consistently come out as the top rated ones. Now, it’s important to know that I have not tried these out personally, so I cannot give my own seal of approval of any one buggy, but thought it would be a good starting place for anyone looking to explore the running stroller idea.
Make sure you follow the manufacturers guidelines. For example, many running buggies require your baby to be able to hold his/her head up, independently, before your take them out in the buggy.
Professional associations for physical activity, Sweden. Physical activity in the prevention and treatment of disease. Swedish National Institute of Public Health. 2010.
Bell and Dooley (2006). Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Exercise in pregnancy. statement no.4.