Your 4th Trimester is your recovery phase. A time to restore your strength and endurance. Think of your postpartum recovery more like a marathon vs a sprint. If it were a sprint, you would see your OB at your 6th week check up and get released to resume exercise AND you would head home to go for a jog. If this sounds like you, you will likely increase your risk for pelvic floor dysfunction (leaking urine, pelvic organ prolapse, low back pain, hip pain, pelvic pain...I could go on and on and on...).
Retraining your pelvic floor and core muscles how to work for you is very important and should take time to get them back functioning properly. I mean, the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles have been stretched for 9+ months and forgot how to work properly. It is our job, as smart moms, to make sure they are functioning before running/ jumping with 10-12 times our body weight thru those muscles. That's a lot of stress on those muscles. Think about your life down the road with your pelvic floor, abdominal muscles and your organs...you want them working in the correct way when you are in your 60s, 70s and so on, right?! I do!
For my friends and patients who love running, I advise waiting 4-6 months postpartum to begin running. I really think closer to the 6 months would be best for our lovely pelvic floors. 4 months seems to be early when you think about life as a mom of 1, 2 or more children. It is a challenge to train your muscles prior to that time consistently. AND then we throw in breastfeeding (hormones), lack of sleep (increased cortisol-stress hormone-effects how our body heals and recovers) and then 6 months sounds a little early. Especially with the hormones that are still heightened in our bodies. If my patients are breastfeeding, we may push back running past 6 months, depending on how the body is functioning with movement and what the pelvic floor strength, endurance and tone is looking like.
Before my patients are advised to begin running, they have completed certain pelvic floor/ core strengthening exercises and home exercise programs for a period of 8-12 weeks to set them up for good outcome when they go out for their run for the first time.
Things to think about prior to going out for a run at 4-6 months postpartum:
1. Have you had an evaluation with a pelvic floor physical therapist to assess your pelvic floor function? core strength? function with posture and alignment? You should! All of us should postpartum!
2. If you pee your pants with coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, bending over etc you are not ready to run yet.
3. Feeling of pressure or heaviness in the vagina? Worse after lifting? Or while on your cycle? If you answered "yes", you are not ready to run yet.
4. Do you have an abdominal separation in your midline that is weak (Diastasis Recti)? If so, I would wait to go out and run.
"So...what can I do instead?"
I love having patients find hills in their neighborhoods to walk up and down. Prior to doing this, patients have been walking on a flat surface (for a long time) with no increased symptoms from above. Patients are to practice proper alignment while walking to promote proper core recruitment. I cue patients to rotate their upper body arm swing while ascending and descending hills.