You’ve given birth, YAY and Congratulations! The fourth trimester is a period of transition considered to be from when you give birth until three months postpartum. Whether you are a first-time mom navigating what it means to care for your infant, or a mom of multiples navigating the world of introducing a new family member to the mix there has been a shift in your family dynamic. This is also a transition time for your body. It is doing a LOT of healing at this point during the fourth trimester.
Remember, you spent 9-10 months growing a baby and then gave birth! Whether you gave birth vaginally or via c-section, your body has gone through a significant event and trauma. You need to give your body the time it needs to heal. During this time sleep is also hard to come by. Shifting focus from the gym to prioritizing sleep, eating nourishing foods, and fitting in showers is important. If you are breastfeeding, ensuring you are consuming enough calories and water is important. Water was especially hard for me, but putting water bottles in every room and in the diaper bag helped a lot!
This is also a great time to work on re-connecting to your pelvic floor and working on your breathing strategy. This will carry over to when you start exercising again. I found a great time to practice was when I was feeding Jameson since I couldn’t move or do much else anyway. Funny enough, my own personal experience with this is that when I would practice my connection breath, my let down was almost immediate (when means happy baby!) and when I wouldn’t focus on my breath it took much longer. I do not know if there is a scientific reason for this, I just wanted to share my experience.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Before returning to the gym, I highly recommend being assessed by a pelvic floor physical therapist (PFPT). Most pelvic floor physical therapists will see you 6-9 weeks after having given birth (or at any point thereafter). For more information on PFPT you can read my blog post herethat will tell you what you can expect from your first appointment. If you need to locate one in your area, try seaching this directory.
The 6 Week “All Clear”
Sometime around the 6-week postpartum point you will have an appointment with your Dr., midwife, etc.. to check in on how you are doing post-birth. Aside from any other health issues or complications, you will likely get the all-clear to exercise. When I asked my midwife what that meant, she said: “You can go back to doing anything you want.” I took that literally and went straight from that appointment to do a CrossFit workout, barely modified.
I don’t recommend doing that.
So what DOES this “all clear” mean? Keep in mind that your medical professional is not a fitness professional. It’s really not in their expertise to give you advice on getting back into the gym. Given that you have been re-connecting with your pelvic floor, working on a breathing strategy, have seen a pelvic floor PT and have no pelvic floor dysfunction (if you do then this process looks very similar with perhaps some tweaks based on you individually and managing any symptoms) then I would recommend starting with the basics. Things like walking, glute bridges, clamshells, band pull aparts, squats to a box (or chair), and incorporating your breathing strategy into those movements. Think about working your way from basic movement to more dynamic movement.
Bodyweight movements first, progress to light weights, then heavier weights. Once you have done that you can add in more dynmic movement. Here’s an example for working up to cleans:
- Squats to box
- BW squat
- Squat with light dumbbells
- Squat with heavier dumbbells
- Backsquat with barbell
- Front squat
- Hang power clean with barbell only,
- Power clean,
- Power clean + front squat
It may look like a lot on paper but this is a natural progression towards that dynamic movement. The other benefit to breaking down those complex movements is that you inevitably create a stronger foundation. Doing the clamshells, glute bridges, etc…all builds a stronger foundation. When you have an amazing foundation, you can build as much as you want on top of it (when the time comes )
I know the fourth trimester can be hard, I know your brain is telling you to GO GO GO. I know you miss your happy place and I know you want to get back to feeling like YOU again. But trusting the process pays off. Here’s what one client had to say, “It was really hard to picture myself not picking heavy things up and putting them down when I went to the gym. But I’ve gotten real results. Like I feel a significant change from when I started. And I am so glad I invested in myself rather than just risking it.” A couple months later…,”You created a stronger foundation than I’ve ever had. You made me trust the process. And you held the reins back when you needed to, making me more patient with myself. I am so happy with where I am, even if I’m not as lean as I’d like. Or as strong. I will be. And you have everything to do with that”.
Head to my resources page if you need help locating a pelvic floor PT, great books I recommend on pregnancy and postpartum, and also some courses.
Want some ideas on what to substitute movements for? I have created this free resource for YOU! If you are pregnant, postpartum, or have pelvic floor considerations and want the confusion taken out of how to modify the most commonly asked about CrossFit movements, you need this.
I go through what, when, how, and also provide video demonstrations for modifications of the following movements:
Stay strong, stay beautiful!