“When can I return to running?”
This is a question we hear a lot from our postnatal women. The bad news is there is not a magic number of weeks or a date that we can give you. Every woman will be ready at a different point post-birth and there are many things that weigh into our decision including (but not limited to): previous running history, training undertaken during pregnancy, how the baby was delivered, pelvic floor strength and coordination, urinary or faecal symptoms, pelvic pain, abdominal separation, co-existing musculoskeletal pain, pelvic organ prolapse/laxity, whether you are still breastfeeding and how much sleep you are getting.
The good news is that there are many things we can test and assess to ensure you are on track to safely return to running. As a starting point, we do not recommend any woman begins running before the 3-month mark as pregnancy and delivery (vaginal or c-section) put the body under significant stress (especially the abdominals and pelvic floor) and adequate recovery is paramount to the successful reintroduction of running.
Due to the significant impact loading that occurs when we run, it is something we need to slowly build up to. An appropriate low impact strengthening program should be performed before attempting to run. Some examples of these exercises include; squats, lunges, bridges, calf raises, functional pelvic floor exercises and abdominal activation exercises.
Achieving optimal postnatal recovery should be the key goal when considering return to exercise post baby, as well as preventing other “common” but not “normal” women’s health issues including incontinence (faecal and urinary), pelvic organ prolapse and other preventable musculoskeletal aches and pains.
Symptoms indicating that you need to stop running immediately and seek help:
- Heaviness or a sensation of dragging in the pelvic area
- Leaking urine
- Inability to control bowel movements or wind
- Abnormal abdominal bloating/swelling or a palpable separation of the abdominal muscles
- Pelvic or lower back pain
- Ongoing or increased vaginal bleeding beyond 8 weeks postnatal that is not linked to your monthly cycle
What we recommend for every postnatal woman (even if you do not wish to return to running)?
A 6 week postnatal assessment with a women’s health physio to discuss and plan your safe return to exercise, set realistic and achievable goals and to get you started on an individualised postnatal rehab program.
Sophie Edstein is one of MGS’s Pelvic Health experts. She would be more than happy to help get you back on the track.