I know you want the list.
The list that tells you which exercises are good and which exercises are bad.
The list that makes everything super clear and gives you rules and a timeline so that you can keep moving along with your training.
I gotta let you down for a second though: that list doesn't exist.
There are no exercises that are always "right" or always "wrong" when it comes to exercising in postpartum. This includes when you are navigating exercise with diastasis recti or pelvic organ prolapse. There is no set timeline for returning to certain exercises or activity levels. What makes an exercise right or wrong is how your body handles it as well as the risk vs reward (both in the short-term and in the long-term) that varies from person to person.
Let me explain:
One woman might handle push-ups well at two months postpartum while another might be two years out from having her baby and still struggle to perform a push-up without experiencing symptoms. Push-ups themselves aren't wrong and there is no hard and fast rule as to when it's safe to perform push-ups. Instead, it's important to consider how each woman's body responded to the push-up.
If a woman is experiencing symptoms during any exercise at any time, that can and should be addressed. A new strategy to approach push-ups can be chosen or perhaps a level of push-up that's more appropriate for her as she builds back up to it. Telling either of these women not to do _____ until ______ weeks / months / years would not be helpful.
The list you're actually going to want is the list of symptoms to watch for.
The 4 P's (expertly named by Gayle Hulme of Lakeview Physiotherapy) are:
- Pain: pain of any kind is your body telling you to pay attention.
- Peeing: leaking, while extremely common, is not normal.
- Prolapse: symptoms of prolapse include feelings of heaviness in the pelvis, feeling like something is going to "fall out" of the vagina or anus, bulging, something feeling off in the pelvic region.
- Peaking: this is when the rectus abdominis - what many women think of as their "six-pack muscles" - form a peak, cone, or bulge.
If you are experiencing symptoms, there is no need to fear or panic! Symptoms are information. With this information, you can change your approach while you re-train your core and pelvic floor, as well as your body as a whole.
This is so much more empowering than a list of right or wrong exercises. Symptoms can come and go at any stage, for various reasons. Rather than restrictive, nonsensical rules and timelines, you can move forward confidently when training postpartum, knowing that you're doing exactly what is right for you and your body.
Important note: If you are experiencing pain or symptoms, I highly encourage you to schedule a visit to a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
As a postnatal specialist, I love guiding women to understand and navigate exercise in the postpartum period. If you need support, please don't hesitate to get in touch! You don't have to do this alone.