After delivering over 500 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?”
Yes, you can squat after giving birth. The squat is a fundamental movement pattern you often do, whether you realize it or not. Each time you sit and stand, you are performing a squat.
With that said, you may need to adjust the exercise to honor the changes your body has gone through.
Keep reading to learn the safest way to perform a squat after giving birth.
How Soon Can You Do Squats After Giving Birth?
If you feel ready for it, it is safe to begin squatting seven to ten days after a normal vaginal delivery.
The more active you were before and during your pregnancy, the sooner you can start.
If you have never exercised before giving birth, it is best to take your time and start only when you feel ready.
What if I had a C-section?
If you had a cesarean delivery, you must wait until your doctor clears you to exercise.
Everyone heals at their own pace, and some women may need several weeks before attempting a squat.
It is best to wait for your 6-week postpartum visit to discuss this with your doctor.
As with most fitness-related things, listen to your body and take your time.
Related Post: A Simple Post-C-section Workout For Busy Moms
How To Work Up To Your First Postpartum Squat (Best Modifications)
Okay, so how should you work up to your first postpartum squat?
First, the most crucial part of doing any exercise is safety.
Start by focusing on the basics and mastering the form while using support.
The Assisted Squat
First, you want to ensure you have something to hold on to for support. You never know what that first squat will feel like.
I recommend holding on to the back of a chair. That way, you can use your arms to support and help you get back up.
As you start to squat, don’t go all the way down right away. Your muscles and ligaments are still loose from the pregnancy.
Also, feel free to use a wide stance for more stability.
Take your time, and don’t rush this process.
Do these for three to five days, starting with five repetitions.
The Box Squat
After you have mastered the assisted squat, you can progress to the box squat.
This variation will help you build strength and confidence before trying deep squats.
Start with a chair or bench that is about knee height.
From there, squat down onto the chair until you completely sit down. Stand back up without moving your feet.
Feel free to use something to hold on to for support if need be.
Do these for three to five days, starting with five repetitions.
Squatting Postpartum: How To Do It Right
Okay, now that you have tried supported squats, and box squats, it’s time to move on to full squats.
Most people need to learn how to squat the right way. Here’s how to do it right and avoid injury.
- 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. Do not let them cave inward.
- Come back up and squeeze your butt muscles to finish the repetition.
If you cannot maintain this position, only go as low as you can while maintaining good form.
You don’t have to do a lot of squats to see benefits.
Start by doing five to ten repetitions every day for a week. You can then build up from there.
Things To Look Out For When Squatting Postpartum
Now let’s talk about some warning signs to look out for when squatting postpartum.
Pain is usually not a good sign. If anything begins to hurt while performing the squat, STOP. That means pain anywhere: your hips, thigh muscles, or lower back.
Vigorous exercise too soon after delivery can increase the risk of heavy bleeding. Generally, you can expect to bleed for up to six weeks post-delivery.
The bleeding should get lighter and lighter as the weeks go by.
STOP if you notice bright red blood or a hefty flow after squatting.
Unfortunately, a lot of women experience urinary incontinence after they deliver. This is when you cannot control your urine.
Often laughing, coughing, or sneezing can worsen the incontinence.
Sometimes, resistance training too soon after delivery can worsen these symptoms. The good news is it improves with time, especially by performing kegel exercises.
Stop and speak to your doctor if you think your symptoms are excessive.
When Can I Do A Barbell Squat?
After three to six weeks of bodyweight squatting, you can begin to add weight. Start with light dumbbells, and work your way up over time.
Don’t rush the process.
The heavy weight of a barbell can place too much pressure on your weakened abdominal muscles.
So always listen to your body.
Stop if something doesn’t feel right.
If you had a C-section, do not lift weights until you have clearance from your doctor.
Is It Safe To Do Heavy Squats After A C-section?
Squats are safe after a cesarean section, but it will take time before you can do them with heavy weight.
A cesarean section is a major abdominal surgery.
As such, you should wait at least 6 to 8 weeks post-c-section before attempting any squats with weights.
Why Do You Need To Wait To Lift Heavy After Giving Birth?
Lifting heavy weights soon after childbirth can delay your recovery and cause complications.
For example, increased abdominal pressure can affect the healing of a C-section incision.
You could even wind up with an incisional hernia (when your fascia doesn’t heal all the way).
Also, the pressure on the abdominal wall can worsen diastasis recti. This is a condition in which your abdominal muscles split in the midline.
I 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 two weeks.
Your doctor will give you more specific guidance based on your particular situation.
Related post: When and How to Start Weightlifting Postpartum.
The Benefits Of Squatting Postpartum
Squatting is one of the best exercises you can do. Especially postpartum.
- The squat will help strengthen almost all the muscles in your lower body.
- The squat is one of the best pelvic floor exercises.
- The squat will help maintain the mobility of your hips, knees, and ankles.
- The squat will teach you how to improve core stability.
- The squat (and any postnatal exercise) can improve your mental health (source)
Also, squats can help you to burn calories and lose weight. The best way to return to your pre-pregnancy weight involves two things. A regular exercise routine and a balanced diet designed for postpartum women!
What If I’m Not Ready To Squat?
If you are not yet ready to squat after giving birth, that’s okay!
You had a baby!
Everyone heals at their own pace.
The best thing you can do is start with other gentle exercises to get back into the groove.
Below is a short list of other exercises you can do. You can do these low-impact exercises even while you’re still in the hospital.
Gentle Walking (The Most Safe Exercise)
Walking is the easiest way to exercise, especially after giving birth.
It is safe to begin walking the very next day after your delivery!
You will be sore, especially if you have a C-section. But studies show that the more you move, the quicker you recover! (source)
As always, 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.
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.
Because pregnancy increases your risk of blood clot formation. As does laying in bed all day.
Clots usually form in your calves and can travel up to your lungs. This is a “PE” or a pulmonary embolus. If this happens, it can become a real emergency.
This is why we put those compression devices on your calves while sleeping at the hospital.
It’s not to give you a massage, as most patients think :).
I discuss the benefits of walking postpartum in my post Getting Fit After Pregnancy.
Another important exercise you can do postpartum is deep diaphragmatic breathing.
How is breathing an exercise?
You breathe by using a collection of muscles in your chest and abdomen. The most important breathing muscle is the diaphragm. The diaphragm sits 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.
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 usually can. This compression contributes to your shortness of breath while pregnant.
That’s why breathing exercises postpartum are essential. They are a great way to retrain your diaphragm muscle.
Here’s how to do this gentle exercise:
- Lay on your back or sit down and place one hand flat on your belly.
– Pay close attention so that you don’t shrug your shoulders.
That’s all there is to it.
You can also use the incentive spirometers that we give you in the hospital.
That’s the breathing device that the nurse always reminds you to use every hour.
You see, there’s a method to our madness :).
You can pick one up at Amazon for cheap if you don’t have one.
For the next exercise, you can do the famous kegel exercises.
If you have not heard of them, now’s the time to learn about them. They are the best way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
A strong pelvic floor can reduce the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. These include urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
What Other Exercises Are Safe After Giving Birth?
Okay, so you’ve added squats back to your postpartum routine. Now you want to add other exercises as well.
What else should you do? It all starts with rebuilding core strength.
Check out my post on the best exercises for new moms to include in your exercise programs.
The squat is one of the most fundamental exercises in the postpartum. Add it to your routine as soon as you have the energy levels and clearance from your healthcare provider.
Go at your own pace, and start with the bodyweight squat.
As you get stronger, you can add weight within a few weeks.
Next up, you can check out my other posts on postpartum exercise below!
Other Posts On Strengthening Your Legs & Core
Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!
Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. She holds a Master 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.
Sharing is Caring – Send This To A Mom In Need!
- 1. Kołomańska-Bogucka D, Mazur-Bialy AI. Physical Activity and the Occurrence of Postnatal Depression-A Systematic Review. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Sep 2;55(9):560. doi: 10.3390/medicina55090560. PMID: 31480778; PMCID: PMC6780177.
- Sharpe EE, Booth JL, Houle TT, Pan PH, Harris LC, Aschenbrenner CA, Eisenach JC. Recovery of physical activity after cesarean delivery and its relationship with pain. Pain. 2019 Oct;160(10):2350-2357. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001628. PMID: 31145215; PMCID: PMC6768712.