Postpartum Running and Exercise: When can I REALLY return?

“When can I start doing “x” after I’ve given birth?”

 Up until just recently this question was only answered at the 6-week postpartum check-up.  After some quick questions and *possibly* a physical exam, new Mamas are cleared for activity or told to return when they feel ready using the common refrain, “listen to your body”. 

But what if I don’t know what I’m listening for?”

 Exactly.

 Even as an experienced physiotherapist, who knows what to look and listen for, it was not until I became a mother twice that I understood how our current postpartum healthcare framework sets up women to have very low expectations about their physical health after birth. 

 “You had a baby, what did you expect? That’s normal”

 What is often “normal” expectations for how women will return to activity after birth - which is one of the most physically intense activities their body will experience – is actually quite different from how most athletes get cleared to return to sport after major injuries.  This process involves weekly rehabilitation for anywhere from 6-18 weeks and then testing for range of motion, pain levels, muscular strength and a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). FMS is a pre-participation screening tool that is highly effective in isolating and identifying imbalances in muscle mobility and stability through seven fundamental movement patterns. Once deficiencies have been identified, a program of corrective exercises is then developed with the goal of moving efficiently and avoiding musculoskeletal injury. The seven movements are scored from 0-3 points, with the sum creating a score ranging from 0-21 points. Scores lower than 14 are correlated to higher risk of injury.

 So Mamas, if the professional athletes with low FMS scores aren’t getting clearance to return to sport by their doctors, why aren’t our doctors being just as discerning with our bodies?  Exercise is so crucial to stress management, energy optimization and mental health so let my unique professional training and personal pregnancy experience guide you back to activity in the same way a pro would return to their sport. My vision for Mamas includes pain free movement, running without “accidents” and returning to your sport/activity of choice without risk of injury.

 Parenting is hard enough.  New Mamas take EXTREME measures to avoid all viruses and sickness when they have their newborns. Imagine we took that approach to our physical strength programs to avoid injury and optimize our return to athletic endeavors?  There are so few moments in a Mama’s day, let me simplify and target how you make use of that precious time to be #momstrong.

 “But wait, I ran all through my pregnancy so can I return when I feel like it?”

 Not exactly.

 Pain, whether you think you can control it or not, alters our movement patterns.  We will always move to avoid a pain pattern and each of us interprets pain differently.  This is why some Mamas seem to jump back to a regular routine and others may not make it out of bed that day.

Think about how you start to limp when you get the smallest of blisters from a new pair of shoes. So now picture how may have “waddled” carrying 20-40 baby pounds on your frame.  Or to be more direct, recall how you walked after a human exited your vagina or maybe, after that human exited through an incision that cut through 10 layers of your abdomen, which is supposed to control your core/pelvic movement. 

Suffice to say, we may not be moving in the most efficient or optimized way. So why would we add load (weights) or repeat movements (running) to dysfunctional movement patterns?

 “I’m not an athlete, I’m just a Mama who wants to be healthy.  I looked up these tests and I can’t do any of them”

 I got you Mamas. I can modify most of the seven movements to determine a better start for you. I understand intimately how pregnancy changed your body movements. I want to provide you with an experience that builds confidence of what you CAN do and not what you CAN’T.

 For the first time in women’s postnatal care, let’s be objective about how our bodies are moving to determine if we’re returning to activity safely.  No more arbitrary timelines. It is no longer about 6 weeks, 8 weeks or 12 weeks postpartum when you can start activity. It is about starting at the week when your body is ready to handle momentum, load and repetitive movements like running. No two pregnancies or births are the same so this process is unique to you and an FMS is bespoke postpartum rehabilitation to optimize the RIGHT time to fully return to what you love doing actively.

 ***

 

Learn more - Book a complementary call with Kate to find out if you should be completing a Functional Movement Screen to return to activity.

 Let’s get started!  Kate is accepting new clients on Tuesdays at Integrative Health Institute

 Book your Initial Assessment to determine what your body is ready for.  At this time,  she can also assess if your pregnancy put you at risk for Diastasis Recti vulnerabilities and what can be done to regain functional control of your abdominal muscles.

 She was certified in FMS in 2011 and has 14 years of sport medicine experience. She has conducted these screens on all populations and was invited to the Toronto Maple Leaf training camp last year to screen our hometown boys.  Kate is a mom of two kids who used to score an 8/21 on an FMS and now scores a 16/21. 

Michaela Mantini