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Is it okay to return to running after my baby is born?

Are you eager to return to running? Most runners I know are ready to get back to running the day after their baby is born. However, there are a few considerations for returning to running after having a baby you should consider. These considerations and guidelines will help you make a safe return to running without risk of injury to your body in the long run.

The current recommendation based on research for return to running is 3 months after the birth of your baby. This guideline is a general rule of thumb. If you are experiencing any pelvic floor, spine, joint, or abdominal dysfunction you may have to delay a little longer until these concerns are resolved.

The reasoning behind waiting 3 months minimum is because of the amount of change a woman's body experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum and the amount of time it takes to recover. Running is a high impact activity which places a considerable load on your abdominals, joints, and pelvic floor. If your body is not able to tolerate this load you can cause injury to your body.

Your pelvic floor needs to be able to contract quickly and with a strong contraction to be able to withstand the ground forces which occur during running. Without adequate support, you may begin to experience pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, or pelvic pain.

Research has shown the body may require almost a year to fully recover from pregnancy and delivery. Your pelvic floor muscles may require 5-6 months to return to their normal position. If you have had a c-section, c-section scars are close to their full strength in the 6-7 month period postpartum. This doesn’t mean you have to wait a year to get started, but you will want to start slow and make sure your body can handle greater loads and stresses.

If you do plan to return to running, you will want to initiate a low-impact exercise regimen in the 3 months after having your baby. Low impact exercises include activities such as static cycling, swimming, and power walking. With successful completion of low impact activities, you can transition to graded return to running.

Success in return to running is dependent on your musculoskeletal function postpartum and the prevention of new symptoms after initiation of low-impact exercise or high-impact exercise.

It is recommended you see a pelvic health physical therapist 6 weeks postpartum to assess the function of your pelvic floor and abdominals to determine if your body is even ready to begin an exercise regimen.

Key signs/symptoms of pelvic floor or abdominal dysfunction you can watch for include:

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence

  • Heaviness or pelvic pressure, bulging in the pelvic area

  • Painful intercourse

  • Difficulty having a bowel movement

  • Weak abdominal walls, separated abdominal muscles

  • Low back and pelvic pain

Any of these signs and symptoms are a clear indication your body is not ready to begin exercising postpartum. You should see a pelvic health physical therapist to address these concerns. Keep in mind, you can have a weak pelvic floor, but have not developed any signs or symptoms yet. This is why a thorough examination postpartum is important.

Even if you have reached 3 month postpartum without any of the above mentioned signs or symptoms there are a few more considerations. You want to be in optimal health to return to exercise. If you are not sleeping well or not coping well psychologically during the postpartum period you may also want to consider holding off on exercise. You may want to see a healthcare provider to address any postpartum depression, anxiety, or compulsive behaviors. Also, wait until you are getting better rest and nutrition before you expose yourself to the demands of any exercise. Simply going outside for a walk may be the best exercise for you during this time.

Joint laxity is also important to consider. If you have any conditions which cause your joints to be lax or if you are still breastfeeding which can cause increased joint laxity you may be more at risk of developing an injury. During breastfeeding, women have different hormone levels in their body which make their joints more lax, or loose.

Don’t forget about adequate nutrition. When you have a new baby at home, it is easy to forget to eat. Also, if you are breastfeeding, you will need extra calories to replenish your body. If you do not have adequate nutrition, you will be lacking in the energy sources needed to complete a high impact activity. This will increase your risk of injury as well.

Once you are cleared to begin low impact exercise, consider use of supportive clothing to help provide your body the support it needs. Properly fitting bras, compression underwear, and supportive footwear can further help make your transition to running successful.

A pelvic health physical therapist can help you during this journey. Pelvic health therapists can examine you during the postpartum period and work alongside you to provide any rehabilitation and/or return to exercise coaching.

Are you ready to get started on this journey?

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