What you thought your body would look and feel like post-pregnancy and the reality of it are two completely different things. Words such as “disconnected,” “lost” and “unmotivated” will sum up those first few months postpartum. But don’t lose sight of what is really going on. There’s work to do and the longer you put it off, the harder it is to tackle.

Whether you gave birth vaginally or via C-section, there are a lot of changes that occur and (let’s be honest) “damage done.” Even if you trained throughout your pregnancy, the changes don’t magically disappear after baby is born so you need to refocus and not lose all that you have worked so hard for.

Pregnancy and delivery not only stretch you (in ways you couldn’t imagine), but shift, pull and push, resulting in a loss of function, connection and stability all around. The strain of pregnancy on your physical and physiological systems might leave you feeling hopeless initially, but that doesn’t have to be the end.

A growing uterus with added weight can leave you with incontinence, hip and back pain and pelvic disorders. Add labour and delivery and those conditions could be exacerbated or worse, leave you with a prolapse. Caesarean sections require the muscles, tendons and nerve endings to be cut, so trying to “connect” and retrain those muscles might feel next to impossible.

The sooner you get on top of it, the better. Muscles have a memory. If you trained during your pregnancy, these muscles will recruit and activate a lot quicker and efficiently than if you had not. But don’t let this discourage you. If you sailed through your pregnancy on the promise of good genes and now feel the result of your hard work, later is certainly better than never.

If you had a vaginal delivery, there is no rule that says you can’t start moving around within a few weeks if you feel good. Don’t sign up for the nearest bootcamp or go to the gym and start pushing yourself, but start with a good walk around the neighbourhood and increase with your own comfort level. There is no cookie-cutter approach but any exercise at all (even 5-10 minutes a day) will get the blood moving and working the muscles so the healing and “connecting” can begin.

If you have had a C-section, it’s also recommended to get up and walk around as soon as you are able. Start with around the block and increase 2-3 minutes per week.

As for a structured strength training routine; whether it’s a vaginal or caesarean birth, I recommend waiting for the green light from your doctor/OBGYN and your pelvic floor physiotherapist.

In the end, like anything else, the sooner you send those messages to your muscles, the sooner that neurological system will wake up, recruit and start to heal. So while you are waiting, there’s no reason why you can’t lie in that hospital bed and start working on that pelvic floor. Kegels anyone?

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Samantha Montpetit-Huynh
Samantha Montpetit-Huynh is the mother of two beautiful girls and the co-founder of Bellies Inc., a company that has created an entire system to not only get rid of the dreaded “Mummy Tummy” and pelvic floor dysfunction, but create core confidence during motherhood. Samantha is known extensively in her field and has appeared on Breakfast Television, CTV News, CHCH and Rogers Daytime. She is also the resident fitness expert on the Marilyn Denis Show and helped to create the Today’s Parent Healthy Pregnancy Guide.
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  • sanskrit108

    Hi Samantha! This is a great article. I disagree though that 3 weeks post-partum after a vaginal birth is a smart time to start exercising, even if low impact. What I see in my office is women who return to exercise too soon, and end up with prolapses, adrenal stress or low back pain. Women are under so much pressure to “get their body back” and the anxiety can be so high post-partum that women are driven to get back to exercising. I have found that erring on the side of gentle (conscious breathing) in the short term allows women to heal long term with less complications.

    • samantha Montpetit-Huynh

      Hi there. Thanks for the feedback and I agree with you 100%. However, I
      also don’t want to tell all women (especially fitness enthusiasts like
      myself) that they can’t do anything if they feel good. In all fairness,
      this post was written long before I fully supported pelvic floor
      physiotherapy but (for me) if I had done nothing for the first 6 weeks, I
      would have gone insane. I guess it’s a matter of opinion and depends on
      the individual. For someone like myself, who is used to lifting heavy
      (i.e. bench press 100+lbs), even something as small as 5lbs saved my
      sanity. There certainly is a societal push to get back in your skinny
      jeans as soon as possible and that does not align with my beliefs at all
      but I also need to recognize and appreciate that some women need to
      feel somewhat “alive” again and if getting outside for a good walk and
      doing some squats in the park can do that AND see someone like yourself,
      it’s a win-win for everyone concerned.

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