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Written By: Chelsea Tetreault PT, DPT, PCES on March 24, 2023
A trendy topic in the fitness world is pelvic health; more specifically - returning to exercise after giving birth.
For those beginning their postpartum journey, using social media to access information can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it allows people to connect with the community and disseminate information. However, on the other hand, it can breed false perceptions and inaccuracies of “normal” expectations.
One research area in which there are significant gaps is the “normal” timeframe and process to return to physical activity postpartum. The current guidelines are based on the best available evidence, combined with clinical opinions.
Returning to an active lifestyle during the postpartum period should be encouraged because of the significant benefits for cardiovascular health, psychological health, and weight management.
The types and frequency of physical activity can be different for individuals based on lifestyle factors and preferences. Everyone's personal comfort with self-initiating a return to physical activity varies.
It is recommended that patients speak with their medical provider for clearance and to discuss any absolute or relative contraindications/precautions when returning to physical activity.
2. Determine a base-level:
Begin to figure out where your recovery is on the spectrum. There are many changes that occur during pregnancy that involve the musculoskeletal system affecting strength, flexibility, balance, muscle coordination, neuromuscular control, endurance, and tolerance to high-impact forces.
3. Know what to look for and when to seek additional help:
If any of the following signs/symptoms are experienced prior to, or after attempting to return to running, then a referral to a pelvic health PT would be beneficial.
According to the publication “Return to running postnatal-guideline for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population,” there are key signs/symptoms of pelvic floor and/or abdominal wall dysfunction that people should be looking for1:
4. Start walking and strengthening exercises:
It is recommended by both publications, “Returning to running postnatal-guideline for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population”1 and the Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy2 that someone should be able to progress up to a 30-minute walk without symptom exacerbation, before running is considered.
The Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy publication listed key areas to focus strengthening on to help minimize symptoms that may arise2:
5. Re-evaluate symptoms and progress often:
Do not give up! If confusion arises or progress is not trending in the right direction, seek professional guidance.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis. If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.
1. Goom, Tom & Donnelly, Grainne & Brockwell, Emma. Returning to running postnatal – guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population. March 2019 .DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.35256.90880/2.
2. Christopher, Shefali Mathur PT, DPT, PhD1,2; Gallagher, Sandra PT, DPT3; Olson, Amanda PT, DPT4; Cichowski, Sara MD, FACOG5; Deering, Rita E. PT, DPT, PhD6. Rehabilitation of the Postpartum Runner: A 4-Phase Approach. Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy 46(2):p 73-86, April/June 2022. | DOI: 10.1097/JWH.0000000000000230
3. Hagen S, Stark D, Glazener C, Dickson S, Barry S, Elders A, Frawley H, Galea MP, Logan J, McDonald A, McPherson G, Moore KH, Norrie J, Walker A, Wilson D; POPPY Trial Collaborators. Individualised pelvic floor muscle training in women with pelvic organ prolapse (POPPY): a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2014 Mar 1;383(9919):796-806. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61977-7.
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