Did you know that once you’ve had a baby, you’re always considered postpartum? What about the fact that the first 12 weeks postpartum are the critical healing period? Yet, for some reason, we’re cleared by our doctors 6 weeks postpartum to resume workouts, have sex and go about our lives with little to no information on how to care for our bodies. Postpartum is a sacred time which is why I’m dispelling 8 different postpartum fitness myths to help moms care for their bodies.
Our bodies do some pretty amazing things during pregnancy and postpartum, but moms aren’t given the necessary tools to care for themselves as we step out into our new normal. Many of these postpartum fitness myths are told from mom to mom, and we take their word as gold. The truth is, these statements are not truths. We need to set the record straight and do better for moms everywhere.
MYTH 1: You’re ready to jump back into fitness after your 6-week visit.
FACT: Your healing on the inside and out, so your body may not be ready. Give yourself grace and start slow.
Your doctor may have said at your 6-week appointment that you’re now able to start working out again, but that doesn’t mean you have to or want to. The first 12 weeks postpartum are actually considered the critical healing period.
6 weeks postpartum is still an incredibly vulnerable time, and your body is still going through the healing process. Your vagina may have healed superficially, but there are other parts of your body that still need to recover. Did you know, that when your placenta detaches from the uterine wall, it leaves a wound the size of a dinner plate?
Aside from healing wounds, your body is also weaker in many areas after pregnancy and childbirth. Your core and pelvic floor need to heal and slowly strengthen before jumping back into any fitness routine. Consider taking a postpartum recovery class like 4th Trimester Fitness Method. Heal and strengthen your body before getting back into more intense fitness.
MYTH 2: Kegels are the only way to strengthen your pelvic floor.
FACT: Engaging and activating the pelvic floor (via Kegels) and abdominals properly while performing other body strengthening movements helps to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
You probably heard all throughout your pregnancy, “Do your Kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor!” While Kegels have their place in pelvic floor rehab, they are not the end all be all. There are other ways to strengthen the pelvic floor including doing Kegels properly.
The key is to learn how to properly do a kegel and then perform it while doing other body strengthening movements. For example, doing a Kegel properly by engaging the pelvic floor and breathing while doing a squat, bridge, or bird dog exercise will help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Here are some additional details on how to properly do a Kegel.
- Identify the right muscles. Think of holding a blueberry or marble in your vagina. Tighten the pelvic floor muscles as though they are surrounding the blueberry and trying to lift it off the ground.
- Maintain your breathing. Holding your breath during a Kegel is a big no no. Remember to continue breathing inhale as you rest your pelvic floor, exhale as you engage your pelvic floor performing Kegel.
- Practice while performing other exercises. Just doing Kegels while you’re driving isn’t going to cut it. You need to remember to practice doing them while performing other exercises and tasks to truly strengthen the pelvic floor.
MYTH 3: Breastfeeding will help you lose weight.
FACT: Some women hold onto extra fat while breastfeeding to meet the baby’s needs. Don’t let it discourage you!
It is a very common myth that breastfeeding helps you lose the baby weight. I have heard so many times “The weight will fall right off while you’re breastfeeding!” It’s true that breastfeeding burns up to 500 extra calories a day, which can help a mother lose weight, but it’s not a standard for all women.
For some women, the weight will fall right off. Others will lose the weight when they’re done breastfeeding, and some struggle to lose weight all together.
Postpartum weight loss is different for all mothers. Our bodies enter pregnancy in different ways. We carry our babies in different ways. And we’ll all lose weight in different ways.
MYTH 4: You’ll lose your milk supply once you start working out.
FACT: Working out doesn’t affect your milk supply.
Research shows that moderate exercise doesn’t affect milk supply, milk composition, or baby’s growth. Moms who exercise at a higher intensity will naturally need to increase their calorie intake to maintain their milk supply to adjust for the calorie deficit. While some moms do notice a decrease in milk supply once they start working out, there are things you can do to ensure yours doesn’t drop.
- Drink tons of water
- Don’t restrict your calorie intake
- Be careful not to overdo it
Not drinking enough water and eating a calorie restricted diet while breastfeeding are two contributing factors to the drop in supply. Not the physical activity itself!
Read more in the Breastfeeding Moms Guide to Postpartum Fitness.
MYTH 5: Working out is impossible because you’re so sleep deprived.
FACT: Exercise gives you the energy that you need to keep going.
It doesn’t have to be a crazy intense workout, you just need to get your body moving. Starting small with daily walks is a great way to reintroduce fitness into your life. You don’t need to jump into a high-intensity workout. Instead, find small ways to get up and get your body moving.
Some great examples are:
- Low impact, low intensity strength workouts
If you worked out regularly before childbirth, it’s important to make adjusted, reasonable goals. You may not be able to make it to the 5:30am HIIT class when you’re waking up multiple times a night with your baby. Instead think of smaller, less intense ways to incorporate fitness back into your life.
MYTH 6: Separated ab muscles (Diastasis Recti) always heal on their own.
FACT: There are exercises designed to strengthen these muscles and some women may need to see a physical therapist.
Diastasis Recti is the separation of your rectus abdominis during pregnancy. These are your “six-pack abs”, and they separate in order to allow for the expansion of your uterus during pregnancy. Diastasis is very common and many women can heal the gap on their own. However, it does take work in strengthening the transverse abdominis, or deep core muscles, to slowly and gradually bring the rectus muscles back together postpartum.
That being said, there are some more extreme cases of Diastasis that require medical attention. Usually, physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles and close the gap. Very rarely is surgery required. If you have concerns about your ab separation postpartum, be sure to talk to your doctor. A physical therapy evaluation may help a lot!
MYTH 7: It’s normal to pee your pants when you jump, run, sneeze.
FACT: This indicates pelvic floor weakness and doesn’t have to be this way!
Peeing your pants postpartum is avoidable! Let’s stop normalizing peeing our pants and strengthen our pelvic floors instead.
Many women deal with urinary incontinence postpartum. The first six weeks can be rough if you sneeze or cough, especially if you experienced any bladder or urethra trauma during labor. However, just because many people experience this doesn’t mean it’s okay or normal. We can take steps to strengthen our bodies so that we don’t pee our pants on our next run.
Focusing on pelvic floor and deep core strength is key. Remember those kegels we talked about in Myth 2? Performing kegels properly while doing other body toning exercises will definitely help. It’s also important to stay hydrated and void the bladder prior to exercises.
If you feel like your bladder leakage is happening too often, be sure to talk to your OBGYN or other health care provider!
MYTH 8: You’ll never get your pre-baby body back.
FACT: You can be even fitter and stronger post-baby when your body is ready for it!
Part of this postpartum fitness myth is true. Your pre-baby body won’t necessarily come back. But neither with your high school body. You know what I mean? Your body changes with each phase of life, so yes, your body will forever be different once you’ve grown, carried, and birthed a child. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get back into the shape you were pre-baby.
The picture above is me at 18 months postpartum with my second baby. That body grew two humans from scratch, birthed them, slowly recovered and eventually came to the place I was in this picture.
It took time. 18 months in fact.
I rested in the early days, didn’t try to jump back into things too soon, and eventually found my rhythm with fitness and training again. You can do it too!
Postpartum Fitness Myths – Debunked
These 8 postpartum fitness myths are just a few of many circulating around mom groups these days. If you ever hear something that makes you question its truth, there’s probably a reason behind it. Don’t let others tell you what is or is not normal about your postpartum body. You know your body best, so if you think something isn’t right, bring it up to your doctor.
Postpartum is a confusing time no matter how many times you’ve given birth! Getting back into fitness once you’ve had a baby is not easy. Just remember:
- You’re not alone.
- Take things slowly.
- Find someone you can talk to.
- Don’t assume what others tell you is right.
- Enroll in a postpartum fitness class.
- Still not sure? Talk to your doctor.