Getting active after the birth

Getting back to your previous level of fitness or starting new activities after you’ve had your baby has benefits for both of you.

Benefits of exercise

Even small amounts of regular activity can:

  • help you feel better and relieve stress
  • boost your energy
  • help strengthen and tone your tummy muscles
  • help you sleep better

You're also less likely to have the symptoms of depression if you keep active after the birth.

How your body changes during pregnancy

When you’re pregnant your body makes lots of changes to adjust to your growing baby:

  • Your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor stretch
  • The way you walk and stand changes
  • The stability of your joints is affected

These can affect how soon you can get back to being active. Having a caesarean section or complicated delivery will affect this too.

Good activities to start with

Your midwife or an obstetric physiotherapist will encourage you to start gently walking and give you some exercises to do soon after you’ve had your baby.

These exercises will help the muscles in your back and tummy to get stronger.

If you’ve had a healthy pregnancy and vaginal delivery, it’s safe to start doing these a few days after giving birth or as soon as you feel ready.

Pelvic floor exercises

Your midwife or an obstetric physiotherapist will also show you how to do pelvic floor exercises.

You should start doing these as soon as you can.

How to do pelvic floor exercises

If you’ve had a complicated pregnancy or birth

If you’ve had a more complicated pregnancy or birth, such as a caesarean section, tear or assisted delivery, you can start walking and doing pelvic floor and tummy muscle exercises when you feel ready.

If you’re not sure, ask your midwife, health visitor, obstetric physiotherapist or doctor for advice about getting active again. Your 6 or 8 week check is a good time to do this.

If you're breastfeeding

If you’re breastfeeding, wear a sports bra over your nursing bra for extra support and comfort.

It’s a good idea to feed your baby before exercise and it’s also important to stay well-hydrated.

Activity and exercise won’t affect the amount of milk you make if you’re breastfeeding.

How to start being active again

Start gradually at first. Begin with walking and take your baby out in their pram, buggy or sling.

Gradually build up to doing 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. It doesn’t need to be done in one go. You can do 3 lots of 10 minutes or 2 lots of 15 minutes if that works better for you.

A change of scene can often calm your baby if they’re crying and it can help you feel better too

Paths for All has more about the benefits of walking

Buggy Walks

In some areas parents get together for regular Buggy Walks run by Paths for All. These are a great way to get active and meet other parents.

Find a health walk in your area

Swimming

If you want to go swimming, you’ll need to wait until any discharge (lochia) has stopped and any stitches have healed.

This is likely to be from about 6 weeks onwards.

Jogging and aerobics

If you want to do a high-impact activity such as jogging or aerobics, wait until at least 3 to 6 months after giving birth. Any sooner could strain muscles in your back and pelvic floor.

Walking and swimming are good alternatives to high impact activities.

Use ALISS to find ways to keep active in your area

Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and Pilates are good for building strong muscles and balance.

You can start these 6 to 8 weeks after birth.

Use ALISS to find yoga and Pilates classes in your area

Returning to regular sport or training

If you were doing regular sports or fitness training:

  • wait at least 6 weeks after birth before you start again, longer if there were complications
  • make sure you tell your instructor you’ve recently had a baby
  • make sure you rest before doing any activity, especially in the early days

Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.