How to Exercise Postpartum Before 6 Weeks [Safely & Effectively]

Are you wondering if you could workout 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.

I can’t wait to tell you all about them.

Let’s get started.

how-to-exercise-before-6-weeks

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.

How long do you have to wait to workout after pregnancy?

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

As you could imagine, every case is different.

You might be ready sooner. Or you might not be.

The most important thing is to speak with your health care provider first before doing anything.

You might have some 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 because 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 contract down 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 at the time of delivery that required stitches.
  • you may have had a cesarean section, that required 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 before 6 weeks postpartum and do so in a way in which your body was not prepared to do, you could be at risk for:

  • Bleeding,
  • Infection,
  • Muscle injury,
  • Joint injury, and
  • Back pain.
postpartum-bleeding

Just to name a few.

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.

So How Can I workout before 6 weeks postpartum?

While the official recommendation is to wait until you are 6 weeks postpartum before exercising, you might be able to workout before then.

This depends on a few things:

  1. Your pre-pregnancy activity level
  2. Any complications you had during or after delivery
  3. Medical problems you currently have
  4. Your activity level during pregnancy
  5. If you have received clearance from your medical doctor

If your doctor has cleared you to work out prior to 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 out 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?

So you made it to 3 weeks postpartum, you were cleared by your health care provider, and you are feeling ready to workout.

This is great news!

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) it is completely fine to engage in low-intensity workouts at this time. As I have mentioned before the most important thing you must do is listen to your body. If anything causes pain or discomfort, you must stop.

As with all things, when starting out, make sure to start light and go slow.

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
how-to-walk-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?

Because it’s the best and easiest way to rebuild your pelvic floor and prevent organ prolapse, especially since these muscles become very weak during pregnancy and vaginal delivery.

Here’s how it looks:

Kegel-pregnancy-exercise
  • Assume a side-lying position as shown above. (You could also lie on your back)
  • To perform the kegel, try to pretend you are trying to prevent yourself from pooping.
  • This not-so-pleasant thought is actually the best way to strengthen 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 simple and gentle 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:

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, put your hands over your belly button and take a deep breath in 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 inwards towards your body. Aim to exhale over 5 seconds.
  • Repeat.

Box Squats

The next 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

high-box-squats-3rd-trimester
  • Find a chair or box that is at the level of your mid-thigh.
  • It should be high enough so that when you sit on it, your knees aren’t bent to 90 degrees.
  • 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 slow as it could be difficult to get out of if you slide down to low.

Here’s how it looks:

postpartum-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:

Wall-push-ups
  • 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 begin bending 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 that can lead to low back pain and other spinal issues.

Here’s how the exercise looks:

posterior-pelvic-tilt
  • Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • You will notice 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 in an effort to flatten out 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 exercise that is safe to perform before 6 weeks postpartum is the standing hip extension. It is amazing for strengthening your booty, (which becomes weak and deactivated during pregnancy- check out How To Get My Bum Back Postpartum to learn more.)

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

Here’s how it looks:

Banded-Kick-Backs
  • 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 actually quite short.
  • If this is easy for you, try adding the red postpartum trainer resistance band around your lower legs.

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?

Yes, you should exercise in the first few weeks postpartum. The first postpartum exercises you should do include:

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 letting you know if you are exercising too much postpartum.

You may start to feel pain from normal everyday activities. (It is important you know the difference between pain and soreness as you may feel sore after the first time working out.)

You may start to feel more tired than usual.

Certain 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 to not workout. 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 key postpartum as water is essential for almost every process to occur in your body. Additionally, if you are breastfeeding, water is especially important for your breast milk supply.

Other Related Questions

Can I do yoga 3 weeks postpartum?

If you were very active and practicing yoga before and during pregnancy you may 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 suffered from diastasis recti postpartum you may want to focus on rebuilding your core prior to doing advanced yoga poses.

Generally, you should 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 if any pose causes you pain or discomfort, you should stop.

Can you run 6 weeks postpartum?

It depends on the type of delivery you had.

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

With that said, 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 may need to wait longer- possibly 12 weeks as there are many tissue layers that need to heal to avoid any sort of postoperative complications.

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

Is there a postpartum exercise plan I can follow?

Want a simple to follow exercise program?

Look no further. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to get you back to a regular workout routine.

Postpartum Exercise Routine & Weightlifting [A Step By Step Guide]

In the future, I will be writing a post discussing how to do a postpartum workout safely with a baby.

Final Words On Exercising Before 6 Weeks Postpartum

So there you have it.

If you want to workout before 6 weeks, just 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 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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