“When is it safe to return to running after having a baby?”

This is one of the most common questions that I’m asked by post partum mums.

Unfortunately there is no exact answer to this question with regard to how many months (yes months!) postpartum as every pregnancy and birth experience is different. Therefore some mums may be ready to get running earlier than others.

The general guidelines at the moment state:

• If you have had a non-complicated vaginal delivery then the minimum time to wait is 6 weeks.
• If you had a complicated vaginal delivery (perineal tears incurred) or a c- section then you need to wait a minimum of 12 weeks.

However these guidelines are too generalised as pregnancy and birth is so individual. I would recommend women to wait between 4-6 months before they return to running and to see a women’s health physiotherapist to assess your pelvic floor, tummy muscles, global strength, posture and alignment before you do so.

Post partum mums need to train to get back to running. It is important to remember that pregnancy places untold demands on your body and weakens your ‘core’ (diaphragm, tummy and back muscles and your pelvic floor muscles). These muscles need to be strong and working together to withstand the forces put through your body when you run. Therefore returning to running takes time and training to get there.

The post partum period is a recovery process and your core and pelvic floor are extremely important. Running too early can increase your risk of injury, symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence, back, hip and pelvic pain. Therefore it is important to allow time for your pelvic floor to heal and build up your body’s strength and co-ordination before you start back to running.

It is also important to note due to the hormonal changes breast-feeding moms may need to wait a little longer. Your hormone levels affect the “laxity” of the pelvic floor so, in general it is advised that any new mum should not run for a minimum of 6 months and only then if you are symptom free and have had 2 periods.

What are the signs that I am not ready to run? 

• Leaking urine when working out
• Pelvic or lower back pain during or after exercise.
• A feeling of instability in your core or like you’re ‘falling-out at the front’ when you perform any exercise.
• If there is bulging, straining, protrusion or doming anywhere on or from within your abdomen or pelvic floor when you work out.

What may happen if I run too early?

There is a chance that if your body is not ready for you to run then you could suffer with the following:

• Pelvic organ prolapse
• Incontinence (urinary/faecal)
• Diastasis Recti (mummy tummy)
• Low back pain or other musculoskeletal injures.

In short, if you have any of these symptoms you should not run. There are lots of ways to get fit (for now) that are more pelvic floor friendly and that can pave the way to get you back to running. A gradual abdominal, pelvic floor and global muscle strengthening programme will get you there. It may just take some time and some specific training.

Lastly, In France every woman gets a pelvic floor assessment and treatment after having a baby. It is standard post partum care. It is important to have your pelvic floor and tummy muscles assessed by a women’s health physiotherapist as well as your posture, alignment and breathing strategies after birth and especially if you are returning to high impact exercise such as running.

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