Although many articles commonly warn new moms that running too early postpartum can cause various complications and is not advised, this does not apply to every woman across the board. Every woman’s body is different and each will not only have a different recovery process, but also variations in their previous baseline of running prior to giving birth.
As a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health, I see many women questioning when they can fully return to running without compromising their postpartum healing process. For those women who have built a career around running, three months is a long time to be out of training. When to return to running is not always clear. Current research from Deering et al. (2020) recommends considering the following three issues in deciding the optimal time to return to running after giving birth: recovery phase, rehabilitation phase, and competition phase. To ensure an optimal return to sport requires a multidisciplinary approach.
Let’s go a little deeper into this model of when to return to running postpartum.
PHASE ONE: RECOVERY
In the recovery phase, it is important that recovering athletes should allow enough time for tissue healing, bonding with their infant, and having their OBGYN be active in their role of assessing wound recovery. Those with pregnancy complications may have a longer time in recovery, longer than 12 weeks.
PHASE TWO: REHAB
In this phase the focus is to progressive aerobic exercise with progressive strengthening. Particularly it is important to strengthen the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles. If available, a physical therapist may help further facilitate a faster muskuloskeletal recovery. As a pelvic floor physical therapist myself--addressing the pelvic floor is one of the most important things especially in preventing urinary leakage during activity--which is common in about 30% of women.
PHASE THREE: RETURN TO SPORT
This third phase involves a woman’s full return to running. Once a woman has returned fully to running, the primary goal of this phase is athletic performance. A physical therapist and coach will ideally work together to develop a plan.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Every woman who has given birth has a different recovery process as not all bodies will recover in the same time period and in the same way. Working and training with a pelvic health physical therapist and postpartum coach can help you get back on track more quickly and injury free.
Deering, Rita E., Shefali M. Christopher, and Bryan C. Heiderscheit. "From childbirth to the starting blocks: are we providing the best care to our postpartum athletes?." Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy 50.6 (2020): 281-284
To learn more about this topic, check out our Pelvic Health page and our Runner & Triathlete page.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.