Postpartum Exercises: 5 Exercises to Start in the 4th Trimester

After your baby arrives, you likely focus on your baby first and everything else feels like it now comes second. Having good help with things like meals, cleaning, laundry, etc. in the postpartum period is invaluable. But, it's important to consider your own recovery too. Your recovery doesn't have to be daunting. These 5 postpartum exercises will help get you started and on the road to healing and feeling your best. For a more detailed guide for return to exercise after a vaginal delivery, check out our guide. We also have a guide specific to recovery and return to exercise after a c-section.

While it's important that life focuses almost completely around your new baby in the beginning, you can't forget about your own recovery too. For 9-10 months, your body changed drastically. Muscles and tissue were strained, joints were stressed, and breathing was difficult. Then, there's labor and finally birthing your baby. Regardless of mode of delivery- vaginal or C-section, your body was asked to do a lot. That's why your recovery is important. Ultimately, you need to take care of yourself so that you're best positioned to take care of your new family. Knowing a few essential postpartum exercises for the 4th trimester can take you a long way.

5 Postpartum Exercises for the Fourth Trimester

The postpartum period, especially the first few weeks, are certainly challenging times, but there are some things you can start to do help heal your body. I could go deeper into vaginal and C-section healing, and I will in a future post. Today's post, however, is really more about 5 simple exercises that you can start almost immediately postpartum. This is all assuming there are no medical complications that would prohibit you from any of these things.

Postpartum Exercises

Diaphragmatic Breathing

  • Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, fully engages the diaphragm and abdominal wall. This is incredibly easy to start in the immediate postpartum period.
    • Benefits:
      1. Helps you relax
      2. Decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressures
      3. Improves core muscle activation
      4. Helps with stress relief
    • How To:
      1. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Relax the shoulders. Relax the jaw. Place a hand on your chest and a hand on your belly.
      2. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, expanding the belly and the ribcage forward and out to the sides.
      3. Exhale through the mouth for a count of 4.
      4. Continue for 10 deep breaths or a few minutes.

Deep Abdominal Activation

  • Deep Abdominal activation involves turning on a muscle called the transverse abdominis. The transverse abdominis wraps around the spine and attaches to the pelvis. You can think of the transverse abdominis like a corset that surrounds the low back and pelvis.
    • Benefits
      • Stabilizes the low back and pelvis to decrease pain during movement
      • Begin to improve tension in the fascia and muscle after pregnancy
    • How To:
      • Begin seated or laying down
      • Gently draw the belly button towards the spine, "bracing" the abdomen as you exhale
      • Another cue: exhale as if you're trying to fog up a mirror to feel a slight tightening in the lower abdomen
      • Hold for an exhale
      • Repeat 10 times

Pelvic Floor Contraction (Kegels)

  • Pelvic floor contractions are the way to turn on the muscles of the pelvic floor. These muscles are crucial for bowel, bladder, and sexual function.
    • Benefits:
      • Kegels help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
      • Decrease urinary leakage
      • help to heal perineal tissue postpartum
    • How To:
      • I'd suggest trying this first laying down, but you can certainly do them seated
      • Inhale deeply
      • On the exhale, squeeze and lift the pelvic floor as if you're trying to stop the flow of urine
      • Hold for the duration of the exhale
      • Complete 5-10 repetitions

Shoulder Blade Squeezes

  • You'll probably find you spend a lot more time sitting after having baby. Shoulder blade squeezes are an easy exercise to do to improve posture and strengthen the upper back.
    • Benefits
      • Strengthen upper back and postural muscles
      • Improves sitting posture to decrease forward head/ forward shoulders position
    • How To:
      • Sit upright with shoulders over hips, ears over shoulders
      • Draw the shoulder blades together and squeeze
      • Hold for a count of 3
      • Repeat 10-15 times

Chin Tucks

  • Another great, simple exercise for postural awareness! And you can do it while breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
    • Benefits:
      • Strengthen the deep neck muscles
      • Stretches back of neck where a lot of tension can live
      • Improve postural awareness
    • How To:
      • Sit upright with the same posture as described above
      • Gently draw chin in as if you're actually trying to give yourself a double chin
      • Avoid looking down and draw the chin straight back

This list is not exhaustive of every possible thing you can do postpartum. These are five simple things that I think are easy to add to your daily routine without interrupting caring for your baby in those early weeks. Returning to pre-baby fitness is another great topic, but these exercises can help your body heal while preventing some aches and pains common to new mamas.

Postpartum Exercises: Recommendations

When it comes to postpartum exercises and recovery, I think that taking as much guesswork out of your recovery is also crucial. There is enough on a new mom's plate, and honestly, there's probably not much energy left to think about what to do for a workout. I highly recommend postpartum workout apps to help guide you through your recovery. There are also a few essential products (along with the exercises) that will make recovery just a little easier.

For guidance in the initially stages of postpartum recovery, our guide to recovery is a great and simple place to start: 

Postpartum Recommendations

An all inclusive postpartum workout app. I love Expecting and Empowered. It was created by a PT and personal trainer, and they take you through postpartum and beyond with their weekly workouts. Use our link and enter code SIMPLI for a $20 off discount for an annual subscription or $5 discount on a monthly subscription.

Supportive clothing and a nursing sports bra. Supportive clothing will be key, especially as you start to add more activity and exercise to your routine. I recommend products designed for new moms at places like Kindred Bravely or Storq.

For more on postpartum recovery, head to these blog posts:
If you have had a c-section, check out our guide and planner for exercise after a c-section.

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