Sport after childbirth: when is what permitted?

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Some new mothers want to get their figure back, others simply want to finally get fit again. As in all stages of life, practising sport is healthy, also a few weeks after childbirth. Just be sure to follow a few rules.

From when on is sport allowed after childbirth?

Your pregnancy is over and a bit of reserve fat probably still remains. Some mothers want to get rid of this as quickly as possible, others just long to do sport again after the birth. Now that the lodger has moved out, many things feel easier again.

Getting back into sport after pregnancy

But practising sport after childbirth is subject to a few rules – after all, the body has just undergone a tough endurance test. As a particular example, strength training too soon can lead to long-lasting physical conditions such as incontinence, uterine prolapse or diastasis recti.

How long does the break from sport last?

As a general rule, at least the first 6 to 8 weeks after a vaginal delivery are needed for recovery. The body, especially the uterus and pelvic floor, must regenerate and some organs must first find their way back to their place of origin. During this time – called the postpartum period – experts therefore advise against doing sport.

Sport after a caesarean section

A caesarean section or birth injuries can prolong the postpartum period to up to 3 months. After the operation, the muscles as well as fat and tissue must grow back together before sport is advisable. The gynaecologist or a midwife can assess when the body is ready for more intense movement.

Talk to a specialist about when it’s advisable for you to start practising sport again.

What can I do directly after the birth?

Some exercise in the fresh air, such as a daily walk, is harmless and does both body and soul good. Other light activities, such as climbing stairs or stretching, are also permitted.

The right time for pelvic floor training

After the postpartum period, it’s advisable to start with light pelvic floor training. These muscles around the anus, vagina and urethra are put under a lot of strain during childbirth, which can also lead to incontinence after childbirth. It’s important to have a strong pelvic floor before starting other sports.

These sports are best suited for the re-start

Women who want to get back into a regular sporting routine can start with swimming, aquafit, yoga, Pilates, cycling (cycling in Switzerland), inline skating or walking. Exercising on a cross trainer also protects the pelvic floor and is better than jogging, for example.

What sports are risky after giving birth?

Especially mothers who were very athletic before pregnancy want to get back into their usual routine. However, there are sports that are extremely strenuous on the pelvic floor. The abdominal muscles, which have shifted to the side due to the bulging abdomen, are also a sensitive area.

When to start strength training after childbirth

Fitness training is definitely recommended after the postpartum period. However, it makes sense to build up slowly, putting the body under only moderate strain but repeating frequently. Methods of activating the body’s core learned from pelvic floor training can be well integrated into strength training.

Be careful with abdominal muscle training

Abdominal muscle training is only permitted when the gap between the abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) has closed to the standard two centimetres. This usually happens automatically. Training the abdominal muscles too early – especially the straight abdominal muscles – can worsen diastasis recti. If the gap doesn’t close at all, physiotherapy can help.

Jogging after giving birth: at which point intensive sports are allowed

Disciplines where quick reactions are required or where jumps and landings can lead to concussion call for a break of up to six months. Otherwise, there’s a risk of uterine prolapse or that the bladder becomes incontinent (urinary incontinence). These include:

  • high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with jumps
  • athletics
  • trampoline or skipping
  • aerobics
  • volleyball and handball
  • tennis and squash
  • martial arts
  • skiing
  • jogging

Practising sport while still breast­feeding? But of course!

By the way, practising sport doesn't stop you from breastfeeding. The only important thing is to drink enough and make sure the body gets sufficient nutrients.

If your baby suddenly drinks less during a post-sport breastfeed, this may be due to the taste of the milk: during strenuous exertion, lactate forms in the blood, which makes the milk taste slightly sour. It may help to breastfeed before instead of after sport and to pump the milk later. Moderating the intensity of your activity may also help. Do the talking test: if you can still talk while performing the sport, you're on the safe side.

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