Diagram of position for Postpartum exercise on Swiss ball

Working out postpartum is one of the best things you can do for yourself according to The Mayo Clinic. If you just had a baby, you might be wondering when it is safe to start postpartum exercise, or what postpartum workouts to start with. It’s important to ease into exercise after having a baby. Your body has undergone a lot of changes over the last nine months, so be patient and know that it may take some time to work back up to your pre-pregnancy fitness abilities.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed exercise specialist or personal trainer. This article is for informational purposes only. This material is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before undertaking a new exercise regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of the information given here.

Benefits of Postpartum Exercise

Exercising regularly after pregnancy can:

  • Increase energy
  • Improve heart health
  • Relieve stress
  • Help prevent postpartum depression
  • Help promote quality sleep

When to Start Working out Postpartum

Consult your healthcare provider to receive medical clearance before you start exercising. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a few days after a normal vaginal delivery, women can usually safely begin light exercises like walking if they feel up to it. The six-week postpartum checkup is a common time for a woman to receive a medical clearance from her doctor for normal pre-pregnancy activities like exercise. After you are cleared to exercise, start slow and listen to your body. If anything causes pain or bleeding, stop and consult your doctor.

Postpartum Exercise

It’s best to begin low impact, like with short daily walks. With your doctor’s approval, you can also try some of these exercises (ordered in ascending rigor):

Diaphragmatic (Belly) Breathing

Lie on your back with one hand just above your belly button and the other on your chest. Breathe in through your nose slowly, filling your stomach with air. The hand on your stomach should rise, but the one on your chest shouldn’t. Use your stomach muscles to push the air back out through your mouth, pulling your belly button down toward the ground.

Kegels (Pelvic Floor)

Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles like you are trying to stop urinating midstream. (Try not to contract your glutes.) Hold for 10 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat 10 times.

Yoga Pose: Happy Baby

Start on your back and pull your knees toward your chest with your legs bent. Grab the outside of each foot with your hands. Gently bend your arms to pull your feet (and knees) apart and toward the floor. Try to hold for one minute while relaxing your pelvic muscles.

Lying Pelvic Tilt

Lie on your back with your arms by your side and your knees bent upward. Your feet should be flat on the floor about hip width apart. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and slightly rotate your pelvis up to flatten your back against the floor. 

Cat-Cow

Start on your hands and knees on the floor. Knees should be under hips, and wrists should be under shoulders. Breathing out, round your back while drawing your head downwards and tucking your chin towards your chest.  Hold for one to two seconds, if desired, to feel the stretch in your spine.  Exhaling, reverse the motion by simultaneously arching your back downwards, tilting your head and gaze upwards, and extending/lifting your tailbone.  Hold for one to two seconds, if desired, to feel the stretch in the chest, abdomen, and spine.  Repeat as you breathe slowly for one minute.

Bridge

Start in the same position as the lying pelvic tilt. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips until your thighs and upper body form a straight line. Hold for a few seconds, then lower down slowly, and repeat.

Bridge with Swiss Ball

When the bridge becomes comfortable, you can add a Swiss ball under your feet and repeat the move to create more of a challenge.

Alternating Superman

Lie on your stomach on top of a Swiss ball so your torso is directly over the ball. Your hands and the balls of your feet should be touching the ground on either side of the ball. Slowly lift your right arm and your left leg level with your torso, keeping both your knee and your elbow straight. Lower back down, and alternate to lift the left arm and right leg, then lower and repeat.

Postpartum exercises can have many health benefits including increased energy, improved heart health, and stress relief. Be sure to get medical clearance first, and listen to your body while exercising. Your future self will thank you!

Comfortable with these exercises? Check back soon for the upcoming article on weight training.

Reviewed and edited by Benjamin Wong, DPT, CPT, Certified Yoga Instructor, and Fitness Instructor on December 29, 2021.