Can I Do Squats After Giving Birth? [What To Expect]

After delivering over 400 babies, I have seen a big range of what women can and can’t do postpartum.

One common question I get is:

“Can I do squats after giving birth?”

Thankfully, the answer is yes. You can squat after giving birth, just as long as your body is ready for it.

After reading this post you’ll learn when and how you should squat after delivery, and a few other exercises you may find helpful.

Keep reading.

Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.

Is It Safe To Do Squats After Giving Birth?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to do squats after giving birth. The squat is a fundamental exercise that everyone needs to do.

You may find that you’ll need to modify the exercise immediately postpartum.

You won’t be as strong as you used to be. You also might not be as mobile as you used to be. This is why it’s always important to start slow.

It should also go without saying that you shouldn’t add any weight to your squats at this time.

squats-after-giving-birth

How Soon Can You Do Squats After Giving Birth?

How soon you can do squats after giving birth is highly individualized. Most women should be able to squat anywhere from 3-10 days after a vaginal delivery.

The more active you were before and during your pregnancy, the sooner you will be able to squat.

If you never exercised before giving birth, then you need to take your time.

What if I had a C-section?

If you delivered via cesarean section, then you will need to wait longer.

Everyone heals differently, and some women may need several weeks before attempting a squat.

To be conservative, it is best to wait for your 6-week postpartum visit to discuss this with your doctor.

As with most things fitness related, listen to your body and take your time.

When Can I Do A Barbell Squat?

If you squatted using heavy weight before your delivery, you might be shocked to learn that you won’t be able to get back to it so quickly.

You will likely feel sore, fatigued, and weak in the weeks following postpartum. You might also be a little sleep deprived.

But even if you’re not, you should still take your time. As with all things, everyone is different.

If you had a vaginal delivery, you can probably start to slowly introduce weights after 3 weeks. It is best to start with just your bodyweight at first and work your way up slowly.

If you had a C-section, then you shouldn’t even think about lifting weights until you have clearance from your doctor.

postpartum-weightlifting

So I Can’t Squat With Weights After A C-Section?

Yes, you can. You just have to wait longer than a woman who had a vaginal delivery. Especially if you are planning on squatting with a barbell.

Like I said before, everyone is different. You probably won’t be able to use weights for at least 6 weeks.

Here’s why.

Why Can’t I Lift Heavy Weight After Giving Birth?

You cannot lift heavy weight after having a c-section because weight lifting increases your intra-abdominal pressure significantly.

This increased pressure can interfere with the healing of your incisions. In other words, your incisions can break open.

In the worst-case scenario, you can wind up with an incisional hernia which is when your fascia doesn’t heal all the way.

If you had a vaginal delivery, the increased pressure can lead to more bleeding and muscle/joint injury.

We talk about all the risks of exercising too soon in this article.

That is why we recommend no heavy lifting of anything greater than 15-20 lbs for at least 2 weeks.

Your doctor will be able to give you more specific guidance based on your particular situation.

Ok so next let’s talk about working your way up to the squat.

How To Work Up To Your First Postpartum Squat

Okay, so you delivered your baby 5 days ago, you actually slept more than 3 hours last night, and you’re feeling good.

postpartum-squats

You feel that you’re ready to start squatting.

How should you work up to it?

First, you want to make sure that you have something to hold on to for support. You just never know what that first squat will feel like.

Otherwise, just make sure you have someone else close by.

As you start to squat, don’t go all the way down, right away. Your muscles and ligaments are still loose from the pregnancy, and you don’t want to injure something needlessly.

Another great way to reintroduce the squat is to simply sit down on a chair and stand back up. (Using something to hold on to for support, if need be).

These are called box squats.

How To Squat Properly

Okay, now that you have tried supported squats, and chair-box squats, its time to move on to full squats.

In this next part, I want to go over a few important points on technique.

Most people don’t know how to squat properly. Here’s what to look out for.

Keep your feet at least shoulder-width apart or wider.
Point your toes outward anywhere from 15-30 degrees.
Begin squatting by bending at the hips and the knees at the same time.
Keep your spine tall and your chest proud
Keep your feet flat on the ground. Don’t let your heels come off the floor.
Let your knees track in the same direction that your toes are pointing
Come back up and squeeze your butt muscles to finish the repetition.

squat

If you cannot maintain this position while squatting, only go as low as you can while maintaining the proper form.

You don’t have to do a lot of squats to see benefits. Start by doing 10 repetitions every day for a week. Slowly build up from there.

Why You Should Squat Postpartum

Squatting is one of the best exercises you can do. Especially postpartum.

Here’s why.

  • The squat will help strengthen almost all of the muscles in your legs
  • The squat will help maintain the mobility of your hips

Pregnancy can weaken all four of these areas. By including squats in your postpartum routine, you can begin to reverse these effects!

P.S. Here are a few other leg exercises you can do postpartum.

What If I Don’t Feel Ready To Squat?

Maybe its been a few days, or even a week, and you don’t think you can squat.

That’s ok!

You just had a baby. Everyone is different. Some women heal a little slower than others.

The best thing you can do is to start with other exercises.

Here is a short list of other exercises you can do. You can do these exercises even while you’re still in the hospital.

Walking

Walking is the easiest way to exercise, especially after giving birth.

It is perfectly safe to begin walking the very next day after your delivery!

postpartum-walking

Actually, it’s beyond safe. We actually recommend that you walk as early as postpartum day 1.

You will be sore. Especially if you had a C-section. But that’s ok.

Take your time and work your way up.

If you can only walk for 5 minutes before getting uncomfortable, then only do 5 minutes.

Next time try 6 minutes.

Then 7.

Or you can go for another 5-minute walk later in the day.

The key is, you don’t want to lay in bed all day.

Why?

Because pregnancy actually increases your risk of forming blood clots. Laying in bed all day and being immobile also increases your risk of clot formation.

This is what we call a DVT, or a deep venous thrombosis.

Clots usually form in your calves, which can then travel up to your lungs. This is called a PE, or a pulmonary embolus. If this happens, it can become a real emergency.

This is why we put those sequential compression devices on your calves when you are sleeping at the hospital.

It’s not to give you a massage, as most patients think :).

I discuss the benefits of walking in the postpartum period in my post Getting Fit After Pregnancy.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Another important exercise you can do in the postpartum period is deep diaphragmatic breathing.

Huh?

How is breathing an exercise?

Well, did you know that your breathing is mainly controlled by one big muscle? That muscle is known as the diaphragm. The diaphragm sits just below your lungs encased in your rib cage.

Every time you inhale, your diaphragm has to move downwards to let the lungs expand. The opposite happens when you exhale. The diaphragm moves up and pushes air out of the lungs.

When you are in your third trimester of pregnancy, the uterus takes up a lot of real estate in your abdomen.

As a result, your diaphragm can’t expand as much as it normally can. This can cause weakness in the diaphragm muscle and contributes to the shortness of breath you feel while pregnant.

So when you are immediately postpartum, deep diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to retrain your diaphragm muscle.

This is also great for when you are in bed anyway.

Heres how to do it:

  1. Lay on your back and place one hand flat on your belly.
  2. Take a deep breath and focus on pushing your hand off your belly using your abdominal muscles
  3. Pay close attention that you don’t shrug your shoulders

That’s all there is to it.

deep-breathing

We also provide you with Incentive Spirometers at the hospital to help keep your lungs well expanded.

That’s the breathing device that the nurse always reminds you to use every hour.

You see, there’s a method to our madness :).

If you don’t have one, you can pick one up at Amazon for cheap.

deep-diaphragmatic-breathing-postpartum

Kegel Exercises

Lastly, you can do the famous kegel exercises.

If you haven’t heard of them before, then now’s the time to learn. Kegel exercises are one of the most effective ways to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor.

The pelvic floor muscles tend to get weak throughout pregnancy and remain weak even in the postpartum period. This can lead to things like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

We discuss that in further detail in The Best Pelvic Floor Exercises.

Things To Look Out For When Squatting Postpartum

Once you begin squatting after delivery, keep an eye out for some red flags.

Here are the biggest ones.

Pain:

Pain is usually not a good sign. If anything begins to hurt while you are performing the squat- then STOP. This includes pain in your hips, your thigh muscles, or your low back. By the way I have an entire post on back pain postpartum.

This could be something that needs attention. Don’t ignore it.

Bleeding:

Exercising too soon after delivery can increase the risk of bleeding from the uterus. In general, you can expect to bleed for about 2 weeks post-delivery.

The bleeding should get lighter and lighter as the days go by.

If you notice bright red blood or an unusually heavy flow after squatting, then STOP.

Incontinence:

Unfortunately, a lot of women experience urinary incontinence after they deliver. This is when you cannot control your urine. Often times laughing, coughing, or sneezing can worsen the incontinence.

Sometimes, exercising too soon after delivery can worsen these symptoms. The good news is, it does get better with time. Especially by performing kegel exercises as mentioned above.

If you think your symptoms are excessive, stop and speak to your doctor.

What Other Exercises Are Safe After Giving Birth?

Okay, so you’ve safely added squats back to your postpartum routine. Now you want to add other exercises as well.

In this post, I go over 9 leg exercises that you can do while pregnant or postpartum.

Final Thoughts

The squat is a great exercise. You should include it in your routine as soon as you feel ready, and you have clearance from your healthcare provider.

Always start slow, and begin with just your bodyweight.

As you get stronger, you can begin adding weight within a few weeks.

To learn more about exercise in the postpartum period, check out my Guide to Getting Fit after Pregnancy.

Did you squat before delivery?

How long did it take you to start exercising again?

Comment below and let me know!

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Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.

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