Guest Article By Emma Brockwell, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, a.k.a. Physio Mum
Why is it so important that you do not return to running too soon post-baby?
Pregnancy and childbirth weaken and stress our internal and external muscles. Running is high impact, and if our bodies are not strong enough or have not healed well, then it is probable that injuries will occur or get worse (and we are not just talking about ankle sprains or knee pain). 30% of first-time mums will experience urinary incontinence and a startling 1 in 5 first time mums complain of faecal incontinence at 1 year postnatal. At 3-6 months postnatal up to 56% of new mothers have a pelvic organ prolapse. This means that one or more of the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel or uterus) have descended downwards into the vagina to at least the vaginal opening.
Often for litigation purposes, the 6-week postnatal milestone is one that serves as a tick box confirming readiness and suitability to return to exercise, including running. The healing process, however, extends well beyond this. Research indicates that the pelvic floor can take up to 4-6 months to heal, and if you have had a c-section it is likely that your abdominal muscles, still at 6-7 months are only 73-93% healed. With this in mind, this 6-week ‘milestone’ is not adequate time to presume a woman is run ready, it is simply not enough time to heal and regain strength. Therefore returning to running with guidance, rehab and more time is essential.
How will I know that I’m safe to return to start running?
To know you are ready to return to running it is recommended that you see a pelvic health physiotherapist, regardless of delivery mode. A pelvic health physiotherapist will assess your internal muscles, namely pelvic floor, abdominals and of course key running muscles, like glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings. They will run through a variety of tests that will determine if you are ready to run and advise you of how to become run ready if you need further rehabilitation. As a rule of thumb (but remember this is generalised not individualised) we do not recommend anyone run before 12 weeks post-baby. Your GP can refer you a Pelvic health physiotherapist on the NHS or you can see a private pelvic health physiotherapist.
Are there any flags which mean I should stop running immediately?
Yes – if you:
Leak urine or faeces, heaviness/dragging in the pelvic area, pain with intercourse, obstructive defecation, abdominal separation (depending on severity) or low back or pelvic pain that exists before, during or after running.
What is your top tip to returning to running?
– See a pelvic health physiotherapist
-Start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you have had baby. Ensure catheter (if present) is removed prior to commencing pelvic floor exercises.
– Carry out low impact exercise, like MUTU System. Just because you cannot run it does not mean that you cannot start getting your body run ready.
Where can I find out more information?
If you want to know more then please feel free to download our return to running postnatal guidelines. We hope these help. If you wish to see a pelvic health physiotherapist, please ask your GP to refer you to a therapist within the NHS. You can also self refer within the private sector.
The MUTU System program can help you to build the foundations. More information about the program here.
Find out more about pelvic health and running post-baby. Follow Emma or colleague Grainne Donnelly.