We all have a mental picture of that mom who has everything figured out. Her baby sleeps through the night. She always has time to shower. She wears real clothes. Her house is spotless. She’s hosting fun family get-togethers. And the most perfect trait of all: she’s already lost all that baby weight. Let’s just agree right now that this mother doesn’t exist. Anywhere. Ever. And let’s be honest about what postpartum fitness actually looks like in the real world.
Whether working out is the last thing on your mind right now or if you’re eager to get back to the gym, these six myths about postpartum fitness should give you a more realistic picture.
Myth #1 – You need to bounce back.
No. You don’t. Whatever type of birth you had, your body has gone through an incredibly intense experience. You might be recovering from surgery, healing from a vaginal tear, or dealing with the postpartum emotional rollercoaster. And during all of this, you’re getting to know a tiny, demanding, human who needs care and attention 24/7. Getting back to “normal” activities might not be an option right now. Your only priorities in the early postpartum weeks should be rest, nutrition, and caring for your newborn.
Myth #2 – You should start moving right away.
When it’s safe to start exercising again really depends on your individual pregnancy and delivery. If your birth was relatively uncomplicated and you had a vaginal delivery, you can begin some light exercise a few days afterward. Now, light exercise does not mean running or lifting weights. Think a slow walk around the block and maybe a few Kegels. It’s best to hold off on anything more strenuous until after your postpartum bleeding has stopped. If any activity makes your bleeding increase, you should stop and rest.
If you had complications or a C-section, you will need to wait longer, probably until after your first postpartum appointment with your OB-GYN. A C-section is major surgery, and your body needs more time to heal.
Myth #3 – It’s all about weight loss.
We all want to fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans again, but postpartum weight loss will happen gradually at its own pace. Especially if you are breastfeeding, don’t make weight loss your focus right away, at least until your breast milk supply is well established. Your body needs 500 extra calories a day to produce breast milk, so eat enough and make sure your diet includes healthy fats and lots of protein. Exercise has many benefits even if weight loss is not your goal.
Myth #4 – Your abs will never be the same.
Diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) is very common after pregnancy. But it does not need to be permanent. Think of the postpartum period as rehab for your core. Take it slow and don’t jump back into an abdominal workout routine. Exercising too early or doing the wrong exercises can actually slow your recovery and make diastasis recti worse. You may need to work with a physical therapist who specializes in postpartum patients to help repair your abs, and they can often be fully healed even years after giving birth. Your doula can recommend the right people in your area.
Myth #5 – Peeing when you laugh, cough, or run is just part of motherhood.
No. Postpartum incontinence is extremely common, but you don’t have to live with it. Your pelvic floor also needs rehab, and while Kegel exercises may help, they are not always the answer. Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist is the best way to get back to normal. In fact, it might be useful to do this even if you’re not having leaks!
Myth #6 – You will always be too exhausted to exercise.
It probably feels this way, especially during the early months. If you’re not feeling up to exercising, that’s okay. Give yourself permission to rest during this time. You will eventually get a full night’s sleep and start feeling like a human being again. When you’re ready, find a routine that works for you. It might be walks with the stroller or a short workout video while the baby naps. Remember that taking time for yourself is important and caring for your body matters.
Mae is here to support you both during pregnancy and afterward. If you’re looking for more postpartum information, ways to connect with a doula or resources to track your pregnancy, create a profile and let us support you on your journey!