Dr. Sarah and our special guest this week - Robyn Rayner, Registered Massage Therapist, Crossfit Level 2 coach, and Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism coach - both realized while they were pregnant that there wasn't a lot of guidance easily available with regards to what type of exercise is okay to do when pregnant. Is it good for you? What kind of exercise should I do? Can I keep doing what I was doing before pregnancy? What about after birth?
Physical activity is recommended for pregnant people just as it is for everyone, and evidence suggests that it can help in labor. It can reduce the length of labor and also prepare your body for the physical demands of giving birth. Like Dr. Sarah always says, labour is like a marathon and childbirth is like having to do a high intensity crossfit workout at the end! Keeping in shape helps! People that continue exercising during pregnancy have also reported decreased lower back or hip pain, and even lower pubic symphysis (the anterior side of the pelvis and the anterior boundary of the perineum) dysfunction overall.
Generally speaking, Robyn advises pregnant people to continue with the type of exercise you were doing before, with modifications as needed. If you weren’t too active before pregnancy, find what you enjoy doing most and do that! Swimming, running, spinning, walking around the block - all of these are valid and good forms of exercise, especially if they bring you joy!
We usually talk about “getting cleared” at six weeks postpartum as the green light to get back to all of the things you were doing before pregnancy. But we recommend considering it as more of a cautionary yellow. While at six weeks your body should be well on it’s way to healing - your uterus has returned to its pre-pregnant size, bleeding should have stopped and tears healed - it is important to take in this process gradually. Start with the basics, rehabilitating your muscles and body, and add one thing at a time as you regain your strength. Another concern for many people postpartum may be diastasis, which at six to eight weeks should be healed, but even so ensure that a return to high intensity abdominal exercises is gradual. Consider it a slow, progressive approach as opposed to a sudden “return to normal”.
A great early form of exercise is taking your baby out for a walk in a stroller, beginning on flat surfaces and adding some hills or carrying baby in a carrier for an added challenge once you’re ready. There are also great exercise classes geared toward new parents that will adapt exercises so you can perform them while holding your baby (instead of using weights or other instruments)!
Healing isn’t linear. For a lot of people, this means they may feel good one day and regress another. In the early stages, it is more important to prioritize sleep and rest than exercise - intention now, intensity later.
Robin offers both in-person and virtual pregnancy and postpartum exercise programs, and she has offered our listeners 25% off! Simply send her a message on Instagram and say you heard about the offer on the She Found Motherhood Podcast!
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