"You're cleared for exercise"
Pretty much every woman at her 6 week postpartum checkup has heard a variation of these words.
If she asks for clarification (like I did after my first pregnancy), she will likely receive some vague answers and will then maybe assume that she can go home and start exercising however she'd like.
Here's the deal: It's not that simple.
Want to know what "cleared for exercise" actually means from your doc?
ALL it means is that you have healed whatever stitches/bleeding etc you may have had from childbirth. That's it. That's all your doc is really checking for, because that's the extent of their role in your postpartum healing.
What that means for you:
It's wise to take additional steps to know what's going on in your postpartum body, especially if you're experiencing symptoms like heaviness in your pelvic floor, a bulging sensation, a "tampon falling out", incontinence, or suspect diastasis recti. You may be able to ask about this at your 6 week checkup, but it would also be a good idea to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist for assessment and diagnosis
Everyone should see a pelvic floor physiotherapist post childbirth if there is one available in your area. She can do an assessment and give you a good understanding of your pelvic health so that you can make intelligent decisions about returning to exercise
Take a slow, progressive approach back to exercise that supports your healing body. Your body is recovering from 9 months of pregnancy, delivery (either vaginal or c-section), possibly stitches, and a placenta sized wound. It's not the time to jump back into marathon running ;). If you experienced that much trauma to your body in any other context, you would be slowly rebuilding strength to support your body, not jumping back into what you were doing previously (this is also why bounce back culture is SO damaging, but that's another story for another day)
Take a pause on high impact workouts. The general recommendation is to wait at least 3-6 months postpartum before resuming high impact activities like running, HIIT, etc. In the meantime, do exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your pelvic floor (like glute strengthening, core strength, single leg strength, etc) so that your body is more prepared to handle the impact when the time comes. Once you're ready, ease back in (again, no marathon!) and add on your run time or amount of impact progressively. If you experience pain or symptoms, your body will thank you if you scale back a bit and try again after a couple weeks.
It can seem frustrating to take a progressive approach back to postpartum exercise, but in the long run, your body will thank you tenfold and you can get back to what you love feeling stronger than ever.
Not sure where to start?
If you're newly postpartum, make sure to check out my Essential Movement Guide for your First 6 Weeks Postpartum. All of the exercises in this guide are intended to aid postpartum healing, gently reconnect to your core & pelvic floor, and set you up for a successful return to exercise when you're ready
Past your 6 week checkup and ready to take the smart road to postpartum return to exercise and/or looking to alleviate symptoms? Check out Core Confidence, my signature 12 week group program that gets you strong, capable, and confident in your postpartum body.