How to Exercise Postpartum Before 6 Weeks (Safely & Effectively)

Are you wondering if you could work out before 6 weeks postpartum?

Well, I have some good news for you.

After reading this post, you are going to learn:

  • how to tell if you can exercise before the 6-week mark,
  • safe exercises you can do in the immediate postpartum period, and
  • warning signs to look out for.

Let’s get started.

how-to-exercise-before-6-weeks cover image

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. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. 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.



How long do you have to wait to work out after pregnancy?

The general recommendation is to wait at least 4-6 weeks postpartum before doing any type of moderate-intensity workouts.

However, everyone is different.

You might be ready sooner, or you might need more time.

The most important thing is to speak with your health care provider first before starting any formal exercise postpartum.

You may have a medical contraindication that could prevent you from working out right away.

Why do you have to wait six weeks after giving birth to exercise?

The reason you have to wait 6 weeks before working out is that your body needs time to heal. This is especially true if you had a c-section.

Just think about it.

After delivering your baby:

  • Your uterus needs to shrink from the size of a watermelon to the size of a deck of cards.
  • Your abdominal muscles are stretched and weakened.
  • You may have had a vaginal laceration that required stitches at the time of delivery.
  • You may have had a cesarean section that needed multiple layers of tissue to be cut and sutured back together.

6 weeks is a conservative estimate to allow your body to bounce back from a postpartum state.

What happens if you don’t wait Six weeks To Exercise after having a baby?

If you begin exercising too soon after having a baby, you increase your risk of certain conditions such as:

However, if you take your time and do it right, you will probably be okay.

I go over some safe ways to do so below.

But as always, check-in with your doctor first.

risks of exercising too soon postpartum: Delayed wound healing, bleeding, infection, muscle injury, back pain

So How Can I work out before 6 weeks postpartum?

While the official recommendation is to wait until you are 6 weeks postpartum before exercising, you might be ready sooner, especially if you:

  1. Were very active pre-pregnancy
  2. Maintained some activity level during pregnancy
  3. You had an uncomplicated delivery
  4. You have received clearance from your medical doctor

If your doctor has cleared you to work out before 6 weeks, the very first thing you must do is listen to your body.

You know your body better than anybody else, and you must assess how you feel.

If you feel ready to work out, go for it!

Just make sure to start nice and slow. Do one thing at a time, and see how you respond. If it feels good, keep going.

If you don’t feel ready, that is completely fine. Wait until you feel ready.

What About Sooner? Can I exercise 3 weeks postpartum?

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), it is safe to engage in low-intensity workouts as early as a few days after delivery (provided you had an uncomplicated delivery).

As always, the most important thing is you listen to your body.

Start light and go slow. If anything causes pain or discomfort, stop and let yourself recover.

Here is a list of 3 week postpartum exercises you can do.

Walking

Walking is the most underrated exercise you could perform immediately postpartum.

There are so many benefits of walking, including:

  • redistributing the fluid in your legs,
  • strengthening the muscles and joints in your legs,
  • improving your circulation, and
  • burning calories
walking is the best exercise to perform immediately postpartum

If appropriate, I even encourage my patients to begin walking the same day of giving birth.

Always carry a water bottle with you, and make sure to wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing.

Aim to walk at least 10 minutes per day and work your way up.

Kegel Exercises

Kegels are another underrated exercise that most women forget to do.

This exercise is CRITICAL to do postpartum.

Why?

It’s the best way to rebuild your pelvic floor, which decreases your risk of pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.

You are at risk of these conditions regardless of the type of delivery, as these muscles become very weak throughout the pregnancy.

Here’s how it looks:

brittany pointing to her pelvis doing. a kegel contractions
  • A kegel contraction can be down while standing, sitting, or lying down.
  • To perform the kegel, inhale to expand your belly and slowly begin exhaling. As you exhale, squeeze the muscles of your pelvis as if you are trying to prevent yourself from pooping.
  • This not-so-pleasant thought is the best way to activate all the pelvic floor muscles at once.
  • Hold the contraction for 3-5 seconds, and then release it.
  • Repeat for 6-8 repetitions before taking a break.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

This gentle and straightforward exercise teaches you the correct way to breathe by engaging your core muscles. As a result, you strengthen the deep, transverse abdominal muscles. 

Here’s how it should look:

brittany doing diaphragmatic-breathing
  • Assume a seated position with your knees bent and crossed, as shown above.
  • Make sure your shoulders are relaxed, and you are not shrugging. 
  • Now, place your hands over your belly button and take a deep breath by expanding your belly to its fullest capacity. You should feel your hands moving. Your shoulders should not move at all. 
  • Hold the inhale for 1 second, and then slowly begin to exhale.
  • While exhaling slowly, you will feel your hands moving towards your body.
  • Contract your ab muscles at the end of the exhale and aim to exhale over 5 seconds.
  • Repeat.

Box Squats

The following exercise involves squatting, one of my favorite exercises.

Box squats are the safest variation and one that you should be able to perform soon after delivery.

Check out How Soon Can I Squat After Giving Birth for more details.

Here’s how it looks:

brittany squatting down to a high chair and standing back up
  • Find a chair or box that is at the level of your mid-thigh.
  • It should be high enough so that your knees aren’t bent to 90 degrees when you sit on it.Assume a shoulder-width stance with your feet slightly in front of the chair or box.
  • Squat down by bending at the hips and knees simultaneously while keeping your core muscles engaged and your back flat.
  • Graze the chair with your bottom, and stand back up by squeezing and leg and glute muscles.

Aim for 6-8 reps.

As you get stronger, you can lower the height of the chair/box.


High Wall Sits

Wall sits are another favorite of mine as they really activate and develop almost all of the muscles in your thighs.

Make sure you take this exercise slowly, as it could be challenging to get out of if you slide down too low.

Here’s how it looks:

brittany performing a wall sit
  • Find a wall, and stand approximately 12 inches in front of it.
  • Lean against the wall and slide down the wall until you are slightly higher than a seated position.
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds and then slide back up the wall to the starting position.

Wall Pushups

Wall pushups are the easiest and most convenient way to strengthen and tone your upper body in the postpartum period.

This variation is very safe and will help you focus on your form.

Here’s how it looks:

brittany doing a wall push up
  • Find a wall and stand about 12 inches away from it.
  • Place your hands on the wall, shoulder-width apart.
  • Brace your core muscles, squeeze your glutes, and bend your elbows.
  • Make sure to keep your elbows tucked and close to your body.
  • When your forehead touches the wall, press back out to return to the starting position.
  • Do your best to keep your core engaged throughout the movement, and do not let your spinal alignment change.

Aim for 6-8 reps.


Posterior Tilts

Posterior tilts are another great gentle exercise you can do before 6 weeks postpartum that teaches you how to activate your core and restore normal posture.

Pregnancy tends to cause anterior pelvic tilt, a postural condition leading to low back pain and other spinal issues.

Here’s how the exercise looks:

brittany on her back performing a posterior-pelvic-tilt by flattening her lower back on the ground
  • Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Your low back does not make contact with the floor, as there is a natural curve in your low back.
  • Now, focus on sucking in your belly to flatten the curve so that your back makes contact with the floor.
  • At the same time, allow your tail bone to rotate up towards the sky.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds.

Aim for 5 rounds.


Standing Hip Extensions

The last safe exercise to perform before 6 weeks postpartum is the standing hip extension. It is fantastic for strengthening your booty (which becomes weak and deactivated during pregnancy- check out How To Get My Bum Back Postpartum to learn more.)

You can do this exercise with one of the postpartum trainer resistance bands for increased difficulty.

This exercise can be performed with one of the postpartum trainer resistance bands for increased difficulty.

Here’s how it looks:

brittnany performing a band kick back with a resistance band around her shins
  • Stand against a wall with your feet and hands shoulder-width apart.
  • While holding onto the wall, brace your core, squeeze your glutes, and kick one leg out straight behind you without bending your knee.
  • Do your best to perform the entire movement using only your glutes. Try not to let your spinal alignment change.
  • As you can see, the range of motion is relatively short.
  • Try adding the red postpartum trainer resistance band around your lower legs if this is easy for you.

Aim for 6-8 reps.


So there you have 8 exercises that are safe for you to do before 6 weeks postpartum.

Do them responsibly and always take things one step at a time.


Do I need to exercise in the first few weeks?

In general, almost all postpartum women should do some type of exercise in the first few weeks postpartum.

These include exercises such as:

How do I know if I’m exercising too much after birth?

Your body is amazing at non-verbal communication.

It will provide you with signs and symptoms that you are exercising too much postpartum.

You may start to feel pain from everyday activities, and you may begin to feel more tired than usual.

Also, specific movements may just feel funny.

Just pay close attention. Your body is always giving you feedback!

Just to be safe, here is a quick summary of guidelines you should follow.

listen-to-your-body-postpartum

Postpartum exercise guidelines

Here are some postnatal exercise tips you should follow when starting to workout:

Speak to your doctor first and make sure you are cleared

  • I cannot stress this enough. Please do not start exercising without speaking to your provider first.

Wait until your pain is gone to start exercising

  • If you are still experiencing pain, it is probably a good idea not to work out. Your body is amazing at communicating with you, so make sure you are listening.

Wait for the bleeding to stop before you workout

  • If you are still experiencing lochia, aka vaginal bleeding after birth, you may want to avoid exercising. Anything more than 1 pad an hour is concerning, and you should speak with a healthcare provider.

Pay attention to any joint pain or discomfort

  • Your body releases a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy which stretches and increases the mobility of your joints and ligaments. Exercising too soon can damage these areas resulting in pain.

Stay hydrated

  • Hydration is vital postpartum as water is essential for almost every process to occur in your body. Additionally, water is necessary for your breast milk supply if you are breastfeeding.

Other Related Questions

When can I start walking on the treadmill after delivery?

You can begin walking on a treadmill as early as you a few days after delivery if you feel ready for it and your provider has given you clearance to do so.

When using the treadmill for the first time, use a slow tempo to get yourself used to it.

Can I do yoga 3 weeks postpartum?

If you were practicing yoga before and during pregnancy, you might be ready to do some basic yoga poses 3 weeks postpartum.

It all depends on how you feel and if your health care provider has cleared you to do so.

If you suffer from diastasis recti postpartum, you might want to focus on rebuilding your core before doing advanced yoga poses.

Generally, it would be best to avoid any pose that puts a lot of tension on your abdominal area, including the boat pose, upward dog, and triangle pose. I go over more details in – When Can I Do Yoga Postpartum?

It should also go without saying that you should stop if any pose causes you pain or discomfort.

Can you run 6 weeks postpartum?

It depends on the type of delivery you had.

If you had a vaginal delivery, you might be ready to start running at 6 weeks.

Some women may find that they are ready sooner, and some may find that they are not ready at all by 6 weeks.

This is completely fine! You should always listen to your body and start when you feel ready.

If you had a cesarean section, you might need to wait longer- possibly 12 weeks as many tissue layers need to heal to avoid postoperative complications.

Click here to learn more about running postpartum and when you can start.

When can I start exercise after normal delivery with stitches?

If you had an extensive vaginal repair with many stitches, it is best to wait ~3-6 weeks before doing any formal exercise to allow your vagina to heal appropriately.

However, if you only have minimal stitching, you might be able to do gentle exercises like walking and diaphragmatic breathing a couple of days after delivery.

Speak with your provider for specific guidance.

My 6 Week Postpartum Workout Plan

If you want a simple postpartum workout plan that you can do ~6 weeks postpartum, download my free PDF!

However, if you would like to go back to lifting weights, check out my post on returning back to weightlifting: Postpartum Weightlifting [A Step By Step Guide]

Final Words On Exercising Before 6 Weeks Postpartum

So there you have it.

If you want to work out before 6 weeks, take your time and speak with your provider first.

If done correctly, you should be able to get active again right away.

Now I want to hear from you.

What have you done to exercise before 6 weeks?
Comment below and let me know!

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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany 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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