Returning to high impact activity after giving birth can be a very exciting but also a nerve-wracking time for a lot of women. We know our body undergoes many changes during pregnancy such as abdominal separation and pelvic floor changes. These changes can affect our ability to absorb loads post-partum. Many women are told they can exercise after their 6-week check-up, but it can be difficult to navigate returning to running or higher impact sport.
Whilst running or performing high impact exercise, ground reaction forces have been measured to be around 1.6-2.5 times your body weight which means activating and strengthening your pelvic floor and abdominal musculature to absorb this increased force is key for safe return to running.
What things should I consider before returning to running?
The general recommendation for safe return to running is 3-6 months post-partum. This timeframe will vary depending on factors such as:
- Urinary incontinence (such as with a cough, laugh, sneeze or on the way to the toilet)
- Presence of abdominal or lower back pain/discomfort or a sensation of weakness
- Symptoms of a lump/bulge or heaviness around the vagina
- Wound healing
- Large abdominal muscle separation
- Type of high impact exercise desired to perform i.e., running, netball, cross-fit etc.
How can a physiotherapist with a special interest in women’s health assess your suitability to return to running?
A physiotherapist who works in women’s health can perform various objective examinations such as:
- Internal or visual vaginal exam to assess pelvic floor function
- Rectus abdominus diastasis and assessment of intra-abdominal pressure management
- Ultrasound assessment of the abdomen and pelvic floor musculature
- Visual inspection and/or palpation of scar tissue
- Strength, balance, and landing assessments
- Running biomechanics assessment
Based on your assessment, they can prescribe a graded, symptom-limited exercise program focusing on pelvic floor and core co-ordination and strength with the aim of helping you to return to high impact activity.
What does a return to running program involve?
- Commence activation of pelvic floor and core muscles
- Low impact activity to build fitness such as walking, cycling, or swimming
- Light resistance-based exercises with co-contraction of pelvic floor and core musculature
- Light jogging and body weight exercises focusing on strength, co-ordination, and load management
- Gradual return to running
At each phase of your recovery your physiotherapist can guide you on specific exercises to perform and how to progress those exercises. We have physiotherapists with a special interest in Women’s Health available to assess, guide and assist you from the journey of pregnancy to motherhood and beyond.