Pregnancy and baby

Your post pregnancy body

What exercise should I do after birth?

Media last reviewed: 15/05/2012

Next review due: 15/05/2014

Having a baby changes your body. You may not like the changes, or you may enjoy feeling different and feeling like a mother. If you're happy the way you are, that's great.

If you feel uncomfortable with your body, though, you might want to make some changes. Some things will never be quite the same again. For example, your stretch marks will fade, but they will never go away completely.

But other changes don't need to be permanent. You can tighten a saggy tummy with exercise, and any weight you've gained will gradually drop off if you eat sensibly and exercise. It won't happen overnight. It took nine months to make a baby and it could take at least that long to get back into shape again.

In the meantime, give your body some little treats to cheer you up. It could be something as simple as painting your toenails. If it makes you feel good, taking the time out to do it might be more important to you than getting 20 minutes of extra sleep.

The postnatal check

You'll be very busy looking after your baby, but remember to go for your postnatal check with your GP at around six to eight weeks after the birth.

It's a time to talk to your GP about any health problems you've had since the birth, such as perinatal pain or pain after episiotomy, backache, piles or incontinence.

It's also a chance to talk about how you're feeling and to discuss family planning. You can get pregnant again within three weeks of giving birth, so it's important to sort out your contraception before you start having sex again. See Sex and contraception for more information.

Physical problems after pregnancy

A lot of women experience physical problems as a result of labour and birth or because of the kind of work involved in caring for young children. Problems such as recurring infections, back pain, a leaky bladder and painful intercourse are more common than people may think.

For some problems, you can do a lot to help yourself. For example, if you're suffering from a leaky bladder or getting that "falling out" feeling, you may need to strengthen the muscles around your bladder, vagina and back passage (perineum). Pelvic floor exercises can help. A bad back can also be helped by exercise and learning to use your back carefully.

If something's really bothering you, don't be afraid to ask for help. Your GP may be able to suggest treatment or refer you to a specialist or an obstetric physiotherapist, who can help with back and bladder problems and painful stitches.

Pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises strengthen these muscles, which can help stop incontinence and make sex better, too. You can do this exercise either sitting or standing. It can be done anywhere and at any time  even while you're watching TV.

  • Squeeze and draw in your back passage at the same time.
  • Close up and draw your vagina (front passage) upwards.
  • Do it quickly, tightening and releasing the muscles immediately.
  • Then do it slowly, holding the contractions for as long as you can (but not more than 10 seconds) before you relax.
  • Repeat each exercise 10 times, four to six times a day.

You may find it helps to imagine you're stopping a bowel movement, holding in a tampon or stopping yourself passing water. In fact, the best way to find the muscles is to try stopping and starting (or slowing down) the flow of urine while you're on the toilet.

Deep stomach exercises

Following these instructions may help you firm your stomach muscles:

  • Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent.
  • Let your tummy sag and breathe in gently.
  • As you breathe out, gently draw in the lower part of your stomach like a corset, narrowing your waistline.
  • Squeeze your pelvic floor at the same time.
  • Hold for a count of 10, then gently release.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Ways of easing back pain

The following tips will help relieve an aching back:

  • While feeding, always sit with your back well supported and straight. Place a pillow or cushion behind your waist.
  • Kneel or squat to do low-level jobs, such as bathing your baby or picking things up off the floor. Avoid bending your back.
  • Make your knees work instead. Change nappies on a waist-level surface or while kneeling on the floor.
  • To lift heavy objects, such as a carrycot or an older child, bend your knees, keep your back straight and hold the object close to your body. Make your thigh muscles work as you lift.
  • Keep a straight back when you push a pram or buggy. Alternatively, carry your baby in a sling.

Avoiding deep vein thrombosis after pregnancy

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition where clots develop in the deep veins of the legs. It can be fatal if the clot travels from the legs to the lungs.

Flights that last more than five hours, where you sit still for a long time, may increase your risk of DVT. Pregnant women and women who have recently had a baby are among those who are more at risk, so if you intend to travel by air, it's important to consult your GP or health visitor before the trip. They can give you advice on in-seat exercises to keep your circulation moving.

If you develop swollen, painful legs or have breathing difficulties after a trip, see a GP urgently or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency department.

See more on your wellbeing after birth

Exercising for new mums

In this video, mothers discuss fitting exercise around a newborn baby and experts explain what's safe to do after you've given birth.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015

Page last reviewed: 13/01/2014

Next review due: 13/01/2016

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 21 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Natalie YF said on 25 September 2013

In response to Hannah's post on 9/5/2013 - I'm currently 7 weeks after emergency C-section delivery of my first baby. I'm fortunate to have recovered fairly quickly, which I've put down to remaining fit and active throughout my pregnancy.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Hannah Parker said on 09 May 2013

It's now nearly 9 months since I had my first baby and apart from a bit of extra skin around my middle, I am pretty much back to normal, and in fact it probably took about 2 months to get back to normal (if a bit chubbier!) - if you've just had a baby recently, you might be interested to see how my body changed in the weeks after giving birth.
I'd love to hear what your plans are for getting your body back and how you're getting on!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Video workout: postnatal yoga

Postnatal yoga

Start getting your body back in shape after pregnancy with this postnatal yoga home workout video from the NHS Fitness Studio

Stretch marks

Why women get them, and information about the available treatments

Vagina changes after childbirth

Find out how your vagina may change after going through childbirth, and how to help its recovery

Image alt text

Get pregnancy and baby emails

Sign up for week-by-week emails about your pregnancy and baby, with advice from experts, mums and dads

Services near you

Get help with all aspects of your parenting from the NHS in your area

10-minute workouts

Choose from six 10-minute home workouts to improve your general fitness and tone your abs, legs, buttocks and triceps

Improve your strength and flexibility

Strength and flexibility exercises are great for muscle strength, healthy bones and joint pain