For many postpartum women, getting back on the exercise game as soon as possible is a priority. But everybody is different. For some, simply taking a shower is about as much heavy lifting as they can manage after the exhausting work of childbirth. Deciding whether their body has healed enough to break a sweat is quite another thing. And it can be especially difficult to gauge for women who like to cycle. So how soon after birth can you return to spin class?
Factors to Consider
How you approach exercise postpartum has a lot to do with the kind of delivery you underwent. Women who delivered vaginally will have different challenges than those who had a C-section.
For Vaginal Delivery
For women who delivered vaginally, “it depends on the degree of tear,” says Dr. Stan Ottinger, an OB/GYN at Charleston OB/GYN in Charleston, South Carolina. These tears are ranked by first, second, third, and fourth degrees. “Some people may have a minor tear,” Dr. Ottinger tells Romper. “They could be healed in two weeks.” But for those who suffer a third degree tear that rips the skin of the vagina and tears the rectum or a fourth degree tear through the rectum muscle, that will take longer to heal. Four to six weeks is typical, says Dr. Ottinger, for a more severe tear.
If you feel up to it, and aren’t experiencing any pain, Dr. Ottinger says it's fine to head back to spin class.
For C-Section Delivery
C-Section patients can get back in the saddle too, provided they give their bodies enough time to heal.
"The big thing with C-sections is that this is a major abdominal surgery. And so we want to get the abdominal core to heal," says Dr. Danielle Jones, a.k.a. Mama Doctor Jones, OB/GYN at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in College Station, Texas. "You don't want to be doing anything that increases abdominal pressure for at least three to four weeks just to let all those incisions heal up." That also means avoiding any heavy liftings for an additional two weeks after that, she adds.
"I usually tell my patients to wait four to six weeks for big classes like that, but certainly before that, they could kind of work on getting back to normal where they're comfortable at six weeks going back," says Dr. Jones.
"The main concern is the pressure on the pelvis after the trauma of childbirth,” adds Katie Pytlik, a spin instructor at Seattle’s City Cycle. Pytlik always cautions her clients to listen to their bodies and take their cues from there.
“When considering one's postpartum exercise or cycling regimen, women should evaluate what they felt comfortable doing physically during their pregnancy, the recommendations of their doctors postpartum, and ultimately how they feel after experiencing the trauma of childbirth. Listening to your body is always essential for knowing when it’s time to get back on the saddle,” Pytlik says.
In short, postpartum women should go easy on themselves and understand that when their body is ready to return to their favorite exercise regime, they’ll know. And if they have questions or concerns as they heal, they should reach out to their obstetrician for instruction and guidance.
Dr. Stan Ottinger, Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, charlestonobgyn.com
Dr. Gweneth Lazenby, an OB/GYN at Medical University of South Carolina, https://education.musc.edu/MUSCApps/FacultyDirectory/Lazenby-Gweneth
Dr. Danielle Jones, OB/GYN at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, instagram.com/mamadoctorjones/?hl=en
Katie Pytlik, spin instructor, citycycleseattle.com