When Can I Return to Exercise After Having A Baby?

A question from postpartum moms we hear in the clinic commonly is “When can I return to exercise after having a baby?” Giving birth is a big event. There are many remarkable changes your body must go through during pregnancy, birth, and after pregnancy. Honoring these changes is important when considering a return to exercise.

After having a baby, you are given instructions by your doctor or midwife to heal and care for your baby. This time is usually six weeks for a vaginal delivery (both with or without episiotomy) and eight weeks for a c-section. Once you are cleared to initiate exercise, here are some self-checks to help aid your decision. You should be free of the following before resuming/continuing postpartum exercise.

What you may experience when you aren’t ready to return quite yet

  1. You are actively bleeding more during or following exercise. Some light bleeding after your have been cleared by your doctor may still occur, but you should not have increased bleeding once you introduce exercise. 
  2. You have pelvic or abdominal pain. Soreness in the vaginal or abdominal area is expected (especially with vaginal tearing, episiotomy, or c-section), but you should not be experiencing pain in those areas that worsen or persist with exercise. 
  3. You notice a doming or bulging around your belly button when you sit up from laying down, pick up heavier items (baby, grocery bags, laundry), or with forceful activities (cough, sneeze). 
  4. You have neck, mid-back, or low back pain. Again, stiffness or soreness can be expected as you resume exercise, but you want to be wary of any new-onset pain in the spine (pain you didn’t have before pregnancy), or worsening pain either with exercise or any activity.

Additional warning signs your body may not be ready to return to exercise

5. You leak urine when you jump, run, cough, sneeze, laugh. Leaking urine should never be considered normal and something you have to live with now that you have given birth. Your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles may need some help to regain strength after the accommodations they made during pregnancy and birth. 
6. You are unable to control a squat down into a chair. You should be able to control your descent into a seat without plopping down and hoping for the best! 
7. When you go downstairs, you are unable to keep your hips and pelvis level.  It shouldn’t be difficult to stand on one leg and lower yourself to the stair below while keeping your pelvis level.
8. You feel worse and not better after exercise. 


Physical therapy aims to address the scenarios above and restore normal movement and function. There is no rush or race to be back at your pre-pregnancy exercise level. The best way to know if you are ready to return to exercise is to speak with your OB-GYN or Women’s Health Physical Therapist. A visit or two with your Physical Therapist postpartum can get you ready to return to exercise safely. The therapists can ensure that muscles are functioning properly. This will make your return to exercise as smooth and easy as possible.
Schedule your appointment with our Women’s Health Specialists today to get you back to what you enjoy doing faster.
Penelope works with a wide array of patient populations. Her extensive background allows her to successfully improve the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic pain conditions. She also has strong experience in neurological rehab, sports medicine, orthopedic care, and women's health.