New research! Does Exercising at 6 weeks Postpartum Negatively Affect Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Recent research from Tennfjord, Ellström Engh & Bø (May 2020) emerged last week about the influence of early exercise postpartum on pelvic floor muscle function. This study classified woman at 6 weeks postpartum as either exercisers (3x per week for 30 min) or non exercisers, and sought out to determine if exercise at 6 weeks postpartum had negative impacts on the pelvic floor by 12 months postpartum. The study used manometry to measure vaginal resting pressure, pelvic floor muscle strength and endurance, and patient questionnaires to assess symptoms of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
The results of the study found no significant difference at 12 months postpartum in pelvic floor function or symptoms if women were part of the non exerciser group, or the exercising group at 6 weeks postpartum. This study suggests that women should begin regular exercise at 6 weeks postpartum, as it has no negative effect on pelvic floor function. However, this study did find that being overweight was associated with more stress urinary incontinence, and women with physically strenuous occupations reported more pelvic organ prolapse.
This is great news to encourage women to begin exercising in a safe, effective way postpartum. What this study does not clarify is what exercise is being done at 6 weeks postpartum. This first phase postpartum (the first ~6 weeks) is one for gentle movement, easy walks and reconnecting with the breath, core and pelvic floor. Around 6 weeks is a great time to have an assessment with your pelvic floor physiotherapist to determine an individualized plan on where to go from here, what exercise is right for you and where your body is at postpartum. For me, I began road biking, easy hiking and strengthening exercises around 6 weeks postpartum and gradually progressed as I felt stronger.
It's great that we are finally getting some more research on postpartum exercise! Find the study here:
May 2019, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.