Postnatal Return to Running, Part I
The first part in the postnatal return to running series after childbirth will address signs and symptoms of pelvic floor and/or abdominal wall dysfunction as well as risk factors. One question that frequently gets asked is, “When can I start running after giving birth?” Some women can’t fathom running soon after birth and some go in way too quickly! Running is a high impact sport that places a lot of demand on the body. High impact exercise was found to have a 4.59 fold increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction compared to low impact exercise. After birth, women need adequate time to heal and regain strength, specifically with abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. This includes women who had vaginal births and caesarean section deliveries!
After vaginal deliveries, pelvic floor muscles stretch out and become less strong. Pelvic floor muscle recovery is generally maximized at 4-6 months postnatal. Following a caesarean section delivery, abdominal fascia has only regained 51-59% of its original strength at 6 weeks. It has regained 73-93% of strength at 6-7 months postnatal.
With all that said, for the first 3 months of the postnatal period low impact exercise is recommended. Return to running should not start until 3-6 months postnatal at the EARILEST.
Signs and Symptoms of Pelvic Floor and/or Abdominal Wall Dysfunction:
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
- Urinary urgency that is difficult to defer
- Fecal urgency that is difficult to defer
- Heaviness/pressure/dragging in the pelvic area
- Pain with intercourse
- Obstructive defecation
- Pendular abdomen, separated abdominal muscles, and/or decreased abdominal strength and function
- Musculoskeletal lumbopelvic pain
Be sure to keep an eye on MOSAIC’s Facebook page to watch for Part II of Postnatal Return to Running. You will learn about strength testing and pelvic assessment. And don’t forget to check out our Running Quick Tips to make sure you avoid injury when you return to running.