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Fit Moms! Fitness for the Postnatal Period

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Chantilly Chiropractic Center

It takes 9 months for a woman to develop a new life (or two!). During that time, the body goes through many complex and amazing things!

Many women can be in a hurry to return to exercise after delivery without considering some important factors that can help dictate on the appropriate training methods specific for their new post-baby body. Some of these factors include pre-existing fitness levels, breastfeeding, number of weeks postnatal, labor and delivery complications, C-sections, sleep patterns, existing pelvic joint or back pain, rectus diastasis, fatigue, surgical procedures during labor, nutrition levels, and the postnatal health of herself and the baby.

It is important to remember that too much, too soon can cause long-term effects. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advocates resuming pre-pregnancy exercise regimens as soon as it is medically and physically safe. It is important to note that the amount of time until it is considered “safe” varies. Some women may be able to resume exercise within days of delivery, others up to 6 months post-delivery.

Studies have shown, having chiropractic care throughout pregnancy as well as postnatal periods greatly enhances pelvic stability, decreases low back pain, as well as helps mom’s postnatal recover quickly and naturally.

In the first few weeks following your baby’s birth, make sure to consult with your chiropractor to assess your pelvic and spinal stability before starting an exercise routine. Once assessed, talk with your Chiropractor to see which exercises are best for you.

Zero to Six Weeks Postnatal
During the first weeks after giving birth, your body begins to heal and recover from being pregnant. Over the next few days and weeks, you may have some bleeding and afterpains as your uterus shrinks. Also, due to the relaxin, a natural hormone produced during pregnancy, joint stability, especially in the spine and pelvis, can continue even up to six months postpartum.

For a non-high-risk pregnancy, your chiropractor may recommend exercises such as:

• Light Walking
• Possible Postnatal abdominal muscle bracing
• Pelvic floor exercises (immediately after delivery in a non-complicated birth)
• Postural awareness and strengthening
• Gentle stretching (especially of neck, lower back, and shoulders)
• Abdominal breathing
• Balance exercises
• Posterior and anterior pelvic tilts
• Upper back movements with body weight (with therapy exercise ball or sitting/standing with correct spinal alignment):

• Shoulder presses
• Bicep curls
• Deltoid raises
• Shoulder stretch
• Chest expansion
• Upright rows

Six to Twelve Weeks Postnatal
Around 6-12 weeks postnatal, your joints and ligaments may still be unstable. So, avoid any high-impact exercises or sports that require rapid direction changes. Keep in mind, no exercise should cause pain or joint discomfort. If you are having any joint discomfort during this time, speak with your chiropractor about modifications for certain exercises.

Example of exercises:

• Brisk walking
• Elliptical
• Low-intensity water aerobics (once bleeding has stopped)
• Yoga
• Light Pilates
• Low-impact aerobic workouts or postnatal classes
• Lightweight training (maintain proper posture and form)
• Cycling (less than 30 minutes)
• Introduction of light weight training (proper biomechanics is important)

Note: Check with your chiropractor to get an assessment for any increased or abnormal abdominal muscle separation within the mid-line of the abdomen.

Twelve to Sixteen Weeks Postnatal
During this time, most of the body’s vital organs have returned to pre-baby state (for a non-complicated birth). Abdominal and pelvic floor muscle testing prior to returning to higher impact exercise, running, sports, and commencing regular abdominal exercise programs is important. During these weeks, before you increase your workout, make sure that your baby is on a good sleep cycle (sleep for the mother is important when increasing workout times/weights/etc.), you are keeping good nutrition and hydration, as well as you are talking with your chiropractor to ensure joint and muscle stability.

Example of exercises:

• Increase in weight training
• Swimming
• Core circuit training
• Running (up to 30 minutes)
• Baby/Mommy Yoga
• Introducing short HITT training exercises

Sixteen to Twenty+ Weeks Postnatal
Core strength should be back (or close) to normal if appropriate postnatal core, abdominal and pelvic floor exercises, and chiropractic adjustment schedule has been performed regularly. Further cardio and resistance training intensities and weight load can begin during this stage in non-complicated births. Returning to previous activity levels (pre-baby) can still take some time, but during this stage, your body should be free of any major ongoing pre or postnatal complications. If complications still exist, slow down or reduce intensity level and speak to your chiropractor about ways on how you can modify your workout plan.

Breast Feeding & Exercise
Mothers who find their baby does not feed as well right after exercising may consider feeding the baby right before exercising, postponing feeding until 1 hour after exercising or expressing milk prior to exercising to be used after exercise. It is important to remember moderate exercise during lactation does not affect the quantity or composition of breast milk or impact infant growth.

Practical Tips When Beginning a Postnatal Workout Routine

• Get assessed as soon as possible by your chiropractor to ensure proper healing of pelvic and spinal ligaments
• Start gradually, too much too soon can negatively affect healing
• Warm up before any exercise routine
• Drink plenty of water (especially those mothers who are breastfeeding)
• Start with low impact exercise
• Wear comfortable and appropriate footwear
• Get adequate sleep
• Wear a supportive bra (no underwires or overly tight-fitting bras)
• Exercise after breastfeeding or pumping
• Include pelvic floor exercises immediately after birth
• Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day
• Choose high protein/high dense foods, limit processed foods
• Have a workout partner to ensure proper biomechanics while working out

Exercise has numerous health benefits, all of which apply equally to the postpartum woman as at any other stage of life. Remember, go slowly with your exercise routine to build a safe foundation because each delivery, post-baby body, and postnatal exercise plans are unique. Talk with your chiropractor and OBGYN before and after delivery to determine the best exercise plan for you.

For questions, additional information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Christina Wellner at Chantilly Chiropractic Center, please call (703) 378-2698 or email her at [email protected].

Dr. Wellner, Chantilly Chiropractic CenterDr. Wellner, a Chiropractor at Chantilly Chiropractic Center, received her Doctorate of Chiropractic Degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic and is the recipient of the James Buerkle Memorial Award for leadership, service, and commitment to Palmer College and the chiropractic profession. As a physician, she strongly believes in patient education and empowering patients and their families to improve the quality of their lives through a multidisciplinary approach. Dr. Wellner works with local OBGYN offices, general practitioners, orthopedic doctors, neurologists, personal trainers, and other healthcare professionals to administer optimal care to her patients.

For her pediatric patients, Dr. Wellner believes in allowing a child’s natural healing abilities to shine through by using a combination of gentle spinal adjustments and nutritional/lifestyle recommendations. In her quest to educate others about the role of chiropractic in children’s health care, Dr. Wellner hosts classes and lectures in Northern Virginia about the importance of a healthy lifestyle for expectant mothers, babies, and families. Dr. Wellner is also a member of the Unified Virginia Chiropractic Association, American Chiropractic Association, Dulles Chamber of Commerce and an active member of the Dulles Chamber Health and Wellness Committee as well as the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Christina Wellner, please call (703) 378-2698 or email her at [email protected]. Chantilly Chiropractic Center is located at 3910 Centreville Rd., Ste. 202, Chantilly, VA 20151. Connect: Online | Facebook | (703) 378-2698.


Henry, Lucian. “Chiropractic Management of Postpartum Pubic Symphysis Diastasis: A Case Report.” The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, Canadian Chiropractic Association, Mar. 2015
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). “Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period”. ACOG Committee Opinion 267. Obstet Gynecol. 2002
Davies GA, Wolfe LA, Mottola MF, et al. Joint SOGC/CSEP “Clinical practice guideline: exercise in pregnancy and the postpartum period”. Can J Appl Physiol. 2003; 28:330Y41.
Pivarnik, James, and Lanay Mudd. “Oh Baby! Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.” ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, vol. 13, 2009.
“Women’s Health Care Physicians.” Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period – ACOG.
Romano, Mattea et al. “Postpartum Period: Three Distinct but Continuous Phases.” Journal of Prenatal Medicine 4.2 (2010): 22–25. Print.
“Exercise and Well Being After Pregnancy.” Sport Medicine Australia: Fact Sheet, 2017.
DiFiore, Judy. The Complete Guide to Postnatal Fitness. A. & C. Black, 2010
Fit Facts: Postpartum Health. American Council on Exercise, 2013.

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