I was running again three weeks after my son was born. Which sounds crazy, I know. That first run was slow but I had zero aches and pains, so I didn’t look back.
In hindsight, I had no idea how fortunate I was. I was lucky enough to have an active pregnancy, an “easy” delivery, and a quick recovery period. Many women aren’t as fortunate – as I’m learning this time around.
I had my daughter three weeks ago, and I tried running a few days ago. This time my body screamed at me within the first few minutes. I hurt everywhere and was sore for days, so it’s going to be a while before I lace up my running shoes again.
A lot of people asked me when I’ll be cleared to exercise. The old guidelines used to say that women can resume exercise six weeks after a vaginal delivery or eight weeks after delivery by Cesarean section (C-section). Nowadays, though, many doctors are giving new moms tailored advice.
My doctor said I didn’t have to wait until my 6-week postpartum checkup to exercise if I felt OK. Instead, she gave me these guidelines: Do short, slow walks as soon as I felt up to it, only try more intense exercise once bleeding stops, and listen to my body.
Of course, you should always follow your doctor’s advice. He or she knows your body and circumstance best. Some women are told to walk and do pelvic floor strengthening exercises right away (called Kegel exercises), while others are asked to refrain from any physical activity until the first postpartum doctor visit.
Here are some factors that could affect how long it will take for you to run again after childbirth:
- The type of delivery you had. Healing from a C-section typically takes longer than recovering from a vaginal birth.
- How “easy” your delivery was. Long labors and hours spent pushing can stress your pelvic floor (and possibly lead to uterine prolapse) more than shorter labors. If you have a second, third, or fourth degree tear or needed an episiotomy, it may extend your recovery time.
- If you were able to run during pregnancy. If you ran up until your child’s birthday, you’ll likely have an easier time returning to running than someone who wasn’t able to run during pregnancy.
- The size of your baby. If you gave birth to a larger baby, 9 lbs. or more, you have a higher risk of uterine prolapse. So, you may need to wait awhile before running again.
- The number of times you’ve given birth. Women tend to bounce back quickest after their first baby. With each subsequent pregnancy, you’ll experience more contractions after birth and your risk of pelvic floor problems will increase, which may extend the recovery period.
- If you listened to your doctor’s advice. My doctor gave me strict instructions not to lift anything heavier than my baby for the first few weeks. Not following my doctor’s orders could lengthen my recovery time.
Remember that giving birth really taxes your body. It’s normal to not feel like yourself for weeks – or months – after having a baby. So, be kind to your body. There’s no need to jump back into running before you’re ready – you have the rest of your life to run.
When did you run again after giving birth? Do you feel like you waited long enough?