The fundamentals of safe postnatal exercise

When it comes to safe postnatal exercise there are some fundamentals which should be applied whatever fitness you choose to take part in. So before getting into the nitty gritty of mummy-friendly HIIT, here are some basic rules:

  1. Once your baby has arrived, the very first form of exercise that you can and should do is pelvic floor work. This can be started immediately after giving birth and will help with healing if you have had any stitches or if you have had a caesarean section.
  2. Parallel to this early pelvic floor work you can also start to focus on “waking up” your postnatal deep abdominals. In the first few weeks after the birth have a go at gently tightening your abdominal muscles as though trying to fit into a slightly tight pair of trousers, all whilst remembering to breathe throughout. Can you do this? It is important to make sure that your brain and tummy muscles can reconnect postnatally.
  3. Formal exercise, whether it be in the form of classes or independent exercise, should only be started once you have had your 6 week check-up with the GP and have been given the all clear to exercise.
  4. Being given the all clear by your GP is not a green light to dive straight back into your favourite pre-pregnancy exercise routine, as there are some important rules you need to follow postnatally when it comes to rebuilding your fitness.
  5. Having said this, the FitBumpBox postnatal Pilates programme is designed to be safe and effective from week 1 of the postnatal period – even if you have had a C section - building you up with specialist pelvic floor work and foundation level deep abdominal exercises.


GPs are medical professionals and the vast majority are not experts in fitness and have not had specific training on this front. So do not rely uniquely on your GP for fitness advice when you have you 6 week check-up. Instead, speak to a fully qualified pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert about safe postnatal exercise and to have your abdominals thoroughly checked.


  1. Once you have received the green light to exercise your first step should be to check your abdominals to see if they have separated out (which is the norm) and if so, to what extent. This will enable you to judge what exercises you can and can’t do and will also enable you to adjust the HIIT workouts in this little book and make them safe for your body. Make sure you read the section on how to check your abdominals.
  2. Postnatal exercise must be kept low impact for around 6 months after giving birth. This may seem like a very long time but it is the best way to future-proof your body. The effects of the high levels of relaxin in your pregnant body linger for at least 6 months postpartum and this means that your joints, back and pelvic floor are all more vulnerable and can be damaged by high impact work. This is why I currently writing a little book of mummy-friendly HIIT – so that new mums can do HIIT and work really hard but without damaging themselves.
  3. Abdominal exercise needs to be tailored for your postnatal body. If your abdominals are separated, doing classic abdominal work such as sit-ups, planks, V-sits, rotational sit ups and side planks will actually slow down the healing process or even make the separation worse. This is because these exercises target the outer-most layer of abdominals and will quite literally pull the separated muscles apart.
  4. Postnatal abdominal work should be built up in the following order: deepest layer of abdominals first (postnatal core stability work and pelvic floor); outer layer of abdominals (the “six-pack”) once any abdominal separation has been largely closed; the obliques need strengthening last (your waist muscles).

  5.  You can start testing yourself with high impact exercise from around 6 months onwards. Try testing skipping: does it make you need to go to the loo? If so, that’s an indication that you shouldn’t be doing high impact exercise yet and that you need to increase your pelvic floor exercises to strength these all-important muscles. If any impact exercise you try makes you feel like you might have an “accident” then you MUST avoid it.

And a final all important thought on keeping your new-mum fitness safe is this: if what you are doing hurts your back or joints, or makes you want to dash to the loo, then you are pushing yourself too much too soon.

PS I would like to thank Victoria for modeling these exercises only 15 weeks after the arrival of her beautiful baby daughter. 

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