After the birth of Oscar, Charlotte needed a goal to get back to running
Can’t wait to hit the track after time out while pregnant? Here’s everything you need to know about running post-pregnancy.
David Gillick and his wife Charlotte recently welcomed their first son, Oscar into the world. We spoke to David to hear how pregnancy impacted Charlotte’s fitness and what she did to get back in shape after birth.
Charlotte was quite active before she was pregnant, but once she fell pregnant, David says she struggled to keep up the exercise she loved.
“She suffered a lot with fatigue and tiredness so exercise was the last thing she felt like doing. Running also became quite uncomfortable after a while.”
“That lasted until about 18 weeks when she started to feel better and started swimming and doing pregnancy Pilates on the reformer. In the final weeks of her pregnancy she was walking every day.”
For help keeping fit during pregnancy, read here.
Charlotte had a Caesarean, and David says she found recovery hard.
“Walking around was difficult for the first few weeks and she did no exercise at all for at least the first seven weeks. Her priority was making sure her body was repaired enough before attempting any exercise so she only started when she felt ready.”
Indeed, advice from Vhi’s Midwife and Doctor below firmly encourages women to avoid hard physical activity until your first post natal check.
When Charlotte did get back into exercising, David says she took it slow and listened to her body.
“She started off very small and easy, walking the dog was the first step and even at that it was very small relaxed walks, nothing like going up the mountains like we used to!
“She was very sensible when it came to starting off exercising again; Oscar is only 10 weeks old and Charlotte did her first run after 9 weeks and that was only 15 minutes. She plans to start off small and build it up, but she still needed a little motivation so she set a goal to work towards and decided to enter the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon.”
David proudly added, “It will be a great achievement for her to do it, a little over 2 months after giving birth.”
If you’re thinking of starting to exercise post-pregnancy, here is some advice from Caroline Wallace, Midwife and Registered General Nurse with Vhi’s member-only One-to-One Midwife advice service and Dr Ui May Tan, GP and clinical strategist for Vhi Healthcare and medical support for the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon.
I’ve just given birth, when can I start running?
Caroline Wallace: It is usually not recommended to start running or doing any hard physical activity until after your first post natal check, which is usually held at 6-8 weeks. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states that this depends on how fit you were when you had your baby and how straight forward your birth was. Vigorous exercise can put a strain on your pelvic floor causing Stress Incontinence. It would therefore be advisable to strengthen your pelvic floor prior to exercising. Your pelvic floor supports your bowel, bladder and uterus, you may find you leak urine when your cough, sneeze or exercise. Your ligaments and joints are still quite pliable for up to 6 months post partum.
Dr May: Also make sure you listen to your body and how it copes with it. Take it slow. Delivery is an extremely strenuous process, so you need to let your body recover.
Can I run whilst breast feeding?
Caroline Wallace: Breastfeeding and doing moderate exercise should not reduce the quantity or quality of your breast milk or have any knock on effects on your baby. Even vigorous exercise does not significantly affect the amount or composition of your breast milk. Ensure you nurse your baby prior to running so you wont feel uncomfortably full. Wear a good supportive sports or nursing bra. Be sure to eat a healthy, well balanced diet, plenty of water and get lots of rest. Breastfeeding burns up to 330 calories a day.
Dr May: It's another case of listening to your body; you may be too exhausted to run while you are breastfeeding, but some gentle activity can be very beneficial.
I had a C-section, when can I start running again?
Caroline Wallace: If you have had a C-section, you must wait until you recover from your operation before beginning an exercise programme, this can take several weeks. It is not generally recommended until after your postnatal check at 6-8 weeks post partum. Consult with your Doctor or Midwife when it is safe to start running post caesarean section.
Dr May: We wouldn't recommend anyone do any strenuous exercise for at least 6-8 weeks, and you do need to check with your doctor. Even driving can be too much. Some women take months to recover fully. Typically though, a short walk would be ok, to help build the muscle up again, but you need to remember it is not about your leg strength, it is about protecting your womb so don't overstretch.
Can you suggest any alternative exercises to get me back in shape?
Caroline Wallace: I would suggest gentle exercise, walking, pelvic floor exercises and stretching, immediately after birth. Walking will improve your circulation, decrease your chance of blood clots, decrease intestinal swelling and promote healing. Swimming is also recommended but best to wait until lochia (post natal bleed) is ceased prior to commencing same.
Dr May: Breastfeeding can actually help you get back in shape. Take it slow though and listen to your body, you know it better than anyone else does.
Should I strengthen my core muscles before getting back into running?
Caroline Wallace: Your lower back and core abdominal muscles are weaker than they used to be. Some women develop a gap in their abdominal muscles, as the tummy expands during pregnancy and labour, a condition called ‘Diastasis Recti ’. This can take 4-8 weeks post partum for this to gap to close. If you exercise too soon, you will risk injury to these muscles.
Dr May: The only thing I would add is that you make sure, for any exercise you are doing, that you warm up and cool down properly.
Is there a particular surface that's better to run on?
Caroline Wallace: As I mentioned earlier, your joints are still pliable for up to 6 months post partum, so you still need to be careful, especially with knee joints. Hard surfaces put extreme stress on these joints. Grass, dirt and woodchips help minimize shock placed on the knees when you run, but you must ensure these surfaces are stable and firm to avoid falls. You could consider running on a track, not only is this easier on joints, but will minimize the risk of falls on an uneven surface. I would always say flat pavement is better and no uneven terrain.
What about distance? What is best?
Caroline Wallace: It's more about time spent exercising and how your body reacts to the exercise, than about the distance. We recommend no more than 30 minutes of hard physical activity 3 – 5 times weekly. Even if you were a runner before, we would suggest not doing more than 45 minutes of intense exercise in a day. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend exercising 3-5 times a week, at 30 minute intervals, at a pace in which you can still hold a conversation. You must ensure you keep hydrated throughout your exercise programme.
Are the type of running shoes I use important?
Caroline Wallace: Wearing running shoes that fit properly, with plenty of support for your ankles and arches, will make a huge difference, especially if you have unstable knee joints. They need to be designed to cushion your feet, to help take the stress off your knees. They need to be replaced every six months or 300 – 500 miles.
Dr May: Don't use new shoes if you can avoid it, use shoes you have used previously to prevent additional pain.
If you are thinking of supporting the Vhi Women's Mini Marathon, take a look at the website on www.vhiwomensminimarathon.ie.
You can get additional support when you download the FREE Vhi Women's Mini Marathon App now from iTunes and Google Play.