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postpartum exercise guidelines
Image courtesy of Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock
Postpartum exercise guidelines have been updated by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and while writing an article on the new guidelines for Motherly author Sydni Ellis reached out to me for my insights. Here is a brief synopsis of the article along with a link to the full article below.

Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

How Postpartum Exercise Guidelines are Changing and Why

We're not saying "Don't exercise at all!"

In the article Sydni describes the evolution of standard practice for exercising postpartum - with recommendations increasing from six weeks to twelve weeks before any strenuous activity - but with added emphasis on easing into exercise at the six week mark, all the while building to a full regimen at the twelve week mark. 

She begins:

Many women can’t wait to start exercising again after pregnancy. For others, sweet baby snuggles tend to win out over exercising for the first few weeks. Once you catch up on sleep and start to gain more energy, you may be ready to do Pilates or go for a jog again—but it might not be safe to jump back in with the same intensity level in your postpartum exercise as in your pre-pregnancy routines.

...It turns out, new research backs waiting until 12 weeks postpartum to do high-intensity workouts, and many OBGYNs have adjusted their postpartum exercise recommendations acccordingly.

On easing back into exercise before 12 weeks

LIke I said, it's not that you can't exercise at all. Many women can safely begin light exercise shortly after giving birth and for the first 4 to 6 weeks postpartum, but it depends on several factors including whether you gave birth vaginally or via cesarean section.

Women who’ve had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery should be able to start doing light exercises a few days after giving birth—or when you feel ready—according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and March of Dimes. The organizations both recommend asking your OBGYN before you start exercising, especially if you had a cesarean birth or complications.

When you do start working out, ACOG suggests easing back into it. Aim to stay active for 20 to 30 minutes a day, starting with simple exercises that strengthen abdominal and back muscles, then slowly adding in moderate-intensity exercises and working your way up to higher-intensity workouts.

You can start with core exercises that incorporate your pelvic floor, and gradually increase impact. Start with walking before you jog, and jog before you run. Stop whatever you’re doing and see a pelvic health physical therapist if you experience any leakage, signs of prolapse (pelvic heaviness or pressure), back or joint pain.

Working out is important for your postpartum recovery, and can:

  • Help strengthen abdominal muscles
  • Boost energy
  • Help prevent postpartum depression
  • Promote better sleep
  • Relieve stress
  • Help you lose extra weight you may have gained during pregnancy
  • Additionally, pelvic floor strength is important in new moms.

Having suitable midline and pelvic floor support is essential for daily functional activities, including many of the new ones involving your little bundle of joy. There are lots more great tips on these new postpartum exercise guidelines in the full article at the Motherly website.

Whether you've recently given birth or have a new child on the way, feel free to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed physical therapists during this special time in your life.

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Testimonial by Julie T.

Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has honestly changed my life. Before receiving treatment at Femina, I was going doctor to doctor to try and find the answer to my pelvic pain. It has taken me YEARS to find someone that can help fix this. It wasn't until my gynecologist recommended your clinic that I finally felt relief. My pelvic pain is almost gone, and granted I still have a lot more to work on with Laureen (my PT), my original problem is nearly cured. I am so grateful to her.

What is even better is she gave me practical exercises to do at home that were not tedious and provided instant (and lasting) relief. Although I mainly work with Laureen, my interaction with the owner (Heather) has been great. She is very generous, kind, and committed to her business.

It hurts to know there are women out there suffering who will never know or have the opportunity to work with women like Laureen and Heather because this issue is hardly talked about and this field is so rare. I hope more doctors and physical therapists see the value in this work and can relieve more woman of their pain.

-- Julie T., 12/4/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by A.B.

Before I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat I was living in a nightmare. I had been married to my husband for three years and I was suffering from Vaginismus. That all changed when I visited my OBGYN and she said she knew of someone with a great success rate. To be honest I was hesitant at first because my first doctor had already told me that all I needed to do was order dilators from the internet and I should overcome my problem. She was wrong because I had followed the book on how to use the dilators with absolutely no advancements in my condition. However, that all changed when I went in for my first visit and Heather took the time to explain my condition and how we were going to work together to overcome it.

I remember leaving her office with a glimmer of hope that I could live a normal life. As my sessions continued I began to see immediate results. With only four sessions and a strict dedication to my home programs I was cured of Vaginismus. In the beginning of this process I was made aware that my health insurance company might not cover the costs, which was disappointing but today I can say one hundred percent that it was the best money I ever spent. Now thanks to Heather I am finally enjoying my life to the fullest with my husband. Thank you Heather, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate all that you have done for me. I will never forget it. Those who are suffering from these types of conditions don’t be afraid because she makes you feel so comfortable and the end result is worth it. Good luck to you all and I hope you experience the success I have.
-- A.B.

Testimonial by J.H.

My last appointment with Heather was over 6 years ago but I still think of her every day. I don’t take for granted that I can easily get out of bed, care for my two active and busy young boys, run, play tennis, clean my house, or sit at a desk for several hours at a time. None of these tasks were easy for me before meeting Heather. Eight years ago my car was struck from behind by a tractor trailer that was estimated to have been speeding. I spent 3 years working with different PTs and Drs trying to heal and move on with my life. When I became pregnant and the hormone relaxin that “relaxes” all the joints of the body and the additional weight gain erased all my progress and I was suddenly in a lot of pain again. My OB sent me to Heather for one last try.

Read more: Testimonial by J.H.

Testimonial by M.M.

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

My husband and I were married for 5 years before we were able to have intercourse due to my vaginismus. There was nothing traumatic in my past but for some reason, even though I wanted sex, I mentally avoided "that area" of my body and didn't even admit to myself that there was a problem for a long time, even though I was never able to put tampons in. Once I finally opened my eyes up to the fact that I had a problem, I had a surgery that was supposed to fix the issue.

Read more: Testimonial by M.M.

Testimonial by M.M.

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

My husband and I were married for 5 years before we were able to have intercourse due to my vaginismus. There was nothing traumatic in my past but for some reason, even though I wanted sex, I mentally avoided "that area" of my body and didn't even admit to myself that there was a problem for a long time, even though I was never able to put tampons in. Once I finally opened my eyes up to the fact that I had a problem, I had a surgery that was supposed to fix the issue.

Read more: Testimonial by M.M.

Testimonial by Ann V.

I wish i could give this place 10 stars!! 
I have been suffering from vaginismus for 5 years and never found the cure to it. I had seen an ob/gyn and he diagnosed me with vaginismus and told me i needed a surgery to cure my condition, which i refused to do. He also referred me to a PT that he works with, i had given them multiple calls and they never responded back to me, so i started searching yelp for another PT. I am SO HAPPY I found Heather's office! I was working with Laureen, and with her guidance and techniques i was able to be cured from vaginismus in only 2 1/2 short months!!! I couldn't believe how quickly their program worked for me! I am forever grateful and thankful from Heather, and Laureen! They are the absolute best at what they do!

Read more: Testimonial by Ann V.

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