You've had the time to soak up the joy of welcoming your new addition, and now you want to work on returning to your pre-pregnancy body and start doing sit-ups after giving birth. It's best to ease into things because doing too much too soon may set recovery back.
Though you can start exercise after a normal delivery within days of giving birth, it’s best to wait at least a few months before doing sit-ups. If you delivered via cesarean, wait until your medical provider clears you for core strengthening exercise.
Follow Your Doctor’s Postpartum Guidelines
The American American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends waiting a few days after birth to start exercising if you had a normal vaginal delivery. If you delivered by cesarean or dealt with other complications, it's best to ask your doctor about when it's safe to resume regular exercise. Because it is an abdominal surgery, your body needs time to heal.
Diastasis recti, or separation of the ab muscles, is common with pregnancy. According to Mayo Clinic, you're at an increased risk for developing diastasis recti if you carried a large baby to term, gave birth to multiples, have a small stature or are age 35 or older. There are certain exercises that can improve ab strength and reduce the severity of the separation.
Ease Yourself Back into Exercise
The ACOG suggests you stay active for 20 to 30 minutes a day. When you first start exercise after a normal delivery, begin with simple exercises to help strengthen various muscle groups such as the abdominals and pelvic floor. Gradually work to moderate-intensity exercise. If you were a competitive athlete or exercised heavily before pregnancy, work your way back to vigorous activity. Regardless of fitness level, stop exercising if you feel any pain.
Doing Sit Ups After Giving Birth
Even exercise after a normal delivery may require modification, especially if your ab muscles separated. Doing sit-ups after giving birth may not be the best postpartum exercise to reduce your tummy right away. An April 2018 study in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association studied the effects of a postpartum weekly, supervised, exercise program focused on strengthening the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. The study concluded the exercise program did not reduce the prevalence of diastasis recti.
Instead of doing sit-ups after giving birth, try exercises specifically for separated abdominal muscles. These include pelvic tilts, kegels and planks. According to a September 2015 study in Physiotherapy, crunches are a safe and beneficial option for postpartum exercise to reduce your tummy, but shouldn't be done in the first few months after delivery. Because sit-ups and crunches put stress on the pelvic floor, they can cause your belly to bulge. It's more important to focus first on the deeper abdominal muscles and restoring core strength.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Exercise After Pregnancy"
- Mayo Clinic: "Why Do Abdominal Muscles Sometimes Separate During Pregnancy?"
- Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association: "Effect of a Postpartum Training Program on the Prevalence of Diastasis Recti Abdominis in Postpartum Primiparous Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Physiotherapy: "Abdominal Exercises Affect Inter-rectus Distance in Postpartum Women: A Two-Dimensional Ultrasound Study"