Returning to Exercise After Childbirth: A Safe and Effective Approach for Pelvic Floor Recovery

The joy of welcoming a new baby is undeniable, but childbirth takes a toll on your body, especially your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support your bladder, uterus, and rectum, and pregnancy and delivery can weaken them. According to a pelvic floor specialist and female surgeon, this can lead to pelvic floor problems like urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and pain during sex.

The good news? Exercise can be a powerful tool for pelvic floor recovery after childbirth. However, it’s crucial to return to activity safely and gradually to avoid further stressing these already strained muscles. This article will guide you through a safe and effective approach to exercise after childbirth, focusing on pelvic floor health.

Listen to Your Body: The First 6 Weeks

The first six weeks postpartum are a time for rest and healing. While exercise isn’t entirely off-limits, according to a leading pelvic floor specialist, it should be gentle and focused on promoting recovery. Here are some safe activities during this period:

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels): You can start Kegels as early as one to two days after birth. Simply tighten the muscles you would use to stop urination for a few seconds, then relax. Aim for three sets of ten repetitions daily.
  • Gentle Walking: Walking is a fantastic low-impact exercise that promotes circulation and aids healing. Start with short walks and gradually increase the duration as you feel comfortable.
  • Postural Exercises: Maintaining good posture is essential for pelvic floor health and reducing risks of pelvic floor problems. Simple exercises like pelvic tilts and bridges can help strengthen your core and improve alignment.

Focus on Fundamentals: Weeks 6-12

Once you’ve passed the initial healing phase, you can gradually increase the intensity and variety of your workouts. Here are exercises recommended by a pelvic floor specialist to prioritise during this stage:

  • Postnatal Pilates or Yoga: These exercise styles emphasise core engagement, flexibility, and breath control, all of which are crucial for pelvic floor health. Look for classes specifically designed for postpartum recovery.
  • Low-Impact Cardio: Activities like swimming, stationary cycling, and brisk walking are excellent ways to elevate your heart rate without putting undue stress on your pelvic floor.
  • Light Strength Training: Start with bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and planks. You can gradually incorporate light weights once you regain core strength.


  • Listen to your body: Pain is a sign to stop or modify the exercise.
  • Focus on proper form: Incorrect technique can worsen pelvic floor issues.
  • Maintain a good posture: Keep your core engaged and avoid arching your back during exercises.
  • Breathe properly: Breathe deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth.
  • Hydrate: Proper hydration is essential for overall health, including pelvic floor recovery.
  • Clearance from your doctor: Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program after childbirth, especially if you had a complicated delivery.

Beyond Weeks 12: Gradual Progression and Individualisation

By the 3-6 month mark, most women can safely increase the intensity of their workouts. This might involve:

  • Progressing core work and Pilates exercises
  • Gradually increasing the duration and intensity of cardio
  • Introducing light jogging

However, it’s important to remember that recovery is not a one-size-fits-all process. Factors like your pre-pregnancy fitness level, delivery type, and any existing pelvic floor issues can all influence your timeline. Be patient with yourself, and adjust your program as needed.

Advanced Considerations:

  • High-Impact Activities: Activities like running, jumping, and heavy lifting can put stress on your pelvic floor. It’s best to reintroduce them gradually and only after confirming sufficient pelvic floor strength with a healthcare professional.
  • Diastasis Recti: Diastasis recti is the separation of abdominal muscles that can occur during pregnancy. If you suspect you have diastasis recti, consult a physical therapist who can guide you on safe exercises to address it.

Seeking Professional Help: A Pelvic Floor Specialist Can Be Your Ally

If you experience any concerns like urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, or prolapse symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek help from a pelvic floor specialist. These specialists can assess your pelvic floor strength, create a personalised exercise program, and teach you techniques to manage symptoms.

Returning to exercise after childbirth is not just about getting back into shape; it’s about prioritising your pelvic floor health and overall well-being. By following these tips and listening to your body, you can safely resume exercise and enjoy the benefits of physical activity while promoting optimal pelvic floor recovery. Remember, consistency and proper technique are key to success. Celebrate your progress!

Worried About Pelvic Floor Problems? Speak to a Leading Female Surgeon & Pelvic Floor Specialist in Melbourne

Don’t be afraid to seek professional guidance from a pelvic floor specialist like Dr Naseem if you suspect you have any pelvic floor problems. As a female surgeon, prolapse and pelvic specialist, and a mum, you’ll have the right professional on your team. With dedication and the right approach, you can regain your strength and confidence after childbirth.