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Managing your wellness after childbirth

Mother with her two children in the living room of their home.

In some countries in Europe, women receive routine Pelvic Floor rehabilitation and wellness packages after having children. However, this level of support is lacking in the UK. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to wellness after childbirth – from rest and sex, to exercise, diet and mental health. At Benenden Hospital, we’ve got you covered with our Continence Care, Urogynaecology and Private GP services.


Prioritising rest during the first one to two weeks after giving birth is crucial. Sleeping or simply lying down when you can promotes the healing of your pelvic muscles, any tears, or a C-section incision.

Having a newborn baby can make resting difficult, especially when trying to fit in feeds. However, if you’re breastfeeding, there are some safe ways to do this lying down if it feels comfortable to do so.

Post natal exercises

One of the most important exercises to do post birth is your pelvic floor exercises. These can be started as early as one to two days following childbirth as long as you don’t experience an increase in pelvic pain.

One of our specialist Continence Care Nurses, Jan Chaseley has put together a ‘how to’ guide which is easy to follow. Repeating these pelvic exercises will not only promote healing of any stitching but will also restrengthen your pelvic floor and help you to return to your pre pregnancy shape.

It is a myth that women who’ve had a caesarean section won’t struggle with pelvic floor issues. Whilst you were pregnant, the weight of your baby would have been pushing down on your pelvic floor, creating pelvic floor weakness no matter how you gave birth.

Before beginning any exercise post-pregnancy, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional as each woman’s pace of recovery is different. Avoiding high impact exercise and heavy lifting for four to six weeks is essential to minimise any further tears.

Timeline for exercising post pregnancy

  • Zero to six weeks – by this point you’ve hopefully been resting and focusing on pelvic floor strengthening exercises. At around one-month post-partum, you may want to go out for a short walk or try some gentle core exercises or stretches
  • Six to 12 weeks – You can now begin low-impact cardio exercises like swimming, walking (for a sightly longer distance than before), light strength training or postnatal Pilates or yoga
  • Three to six months – You can level up your core work, stretches and increase the duration of low-impact cardio and strength training – you may feel comfortable to do some light jogging too! Consider joining a postnatal fitness class to meet other people who are also post childbirth
  • Six months and onwards – By this stage, you’re well into your recovery and, if you’re progressing pain-free with all of the above, six months and onwards is when to introduce high impact exercises like running or jumping

Exercising after giving birth should be done at your own pace, so if you wish to simply walk and do pelvic floor exercises to recover, this is more than enough.

For more in depth exercises to improve your mental and physical wellbeing, read our exercise for pelvic health article or for general advice consult our guide to women's pelvic health.


Whether you’re breastfeeding your baby or not, it’s recommended that you eat a healthy, balanced diet.

  • Fibre: wholemeal bread and pasta, breakfast cereals, potatoes with skin on – help to ease constipation
  • Protein: pulses and beans, fish, eggs and lean meat
  • Dairy: milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • Starchy food: rice, pasta, potatoes, bread and starchy carbohydrates
  • Fruit and vegetables: fresh, frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetables, and no more than one 150ml glass of 100% unsweetened juice or smoothies
  • Vitamins: if you took a prenatal vitamin you should continue to take this to support your hormone and vitamin/mineral balance


If breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you have no more than 200mg of caffeine a day. This is because it can reach your baby through your breast milk. Below are some examples of what some of your everyday drinks contain:

  • Instant coffee (100mg)
  • Filter coffee (140mg)
  • Tea (including green tea, which can have the same amount of caffeine as regular tea) (75mg)
  • Cola (40mg)

Weight loss

If losing weight is a goal of yours post pregnancy, it’s important to note that oestrogen (a group of sex hormones found in greater amounts in females) can lead to weight gain. This is also to be true with high levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) which is overproduced when you’re sleep deprived.

High levels of cortisol — the stress hormone, which is made in excess when you’re not getting enough sleep, can also do the same.


Many healthcare professionals recommend waiting four to six weeks postpartum to have sex. This applies to women who have given birth vaginally or through a c-section. Waiting not only gives any vaginal tears time to heal but it also reduces the risk of any further complications. Most women experience vaginal discharge, dryness, pain, fatigue and a lowered sex drive after giving birth. You’ll know when the time is right for you and your partner – everyone’s pace of recovery is different.

Mental health

It’s normal to struggle with mood swings, anxiety, crying, a feeling of being overwhelmed, irritability, reduced appetite or concentration in the first week or so after birth. Many label these symptoms the ‘baby blues’. But how do you know if you have postnatal depression?

If your ‘baby blues’ last for over two weeks post-delivery, and the symptoms you’re experiencing worsen, you could have Postnatal, also known as Postpartum Depression. It’s important to remember that postnatal mental health problems don’t just affect new mums, research has shown that up to one in 10 new dads become depressed after having a baby (paternal postpartum depression).

Signs of post-natal depression can begin as early as during pregnancy to up to a year after giving birth. If you’re suffering from any of the below symptoms for more than two weeks, it’s important to access support to keep you and baby happy.

  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Sleep problems – insomnia or too much sleep
  • Intense anger, severe mood swings, depressed mood
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Intrusive thoughts of harming yourself or baby
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Hopelessness

Remember you’re not alone if you’re struggling with your mental health post pregnancy. From changes to lifestyle, to CBT, talking therapy and medication - there are so many ways to get help.

Useful links:

When to see a GP about urogynaecology health or for mental health support

Are you struggling with your postpartum physical or mental health? Our private GPs offer 25-minute, in-person appointments so you have plenty of time to discuss any mental health concerns, any pelvic floor symptoms or any other women’s health problems. Our Continence Care team, expert Consultant Gynaecologists or Urogynaecologists, or Nutritional Therapy service can offer you diagnosis and treatment so you’re at optimal health to care for your baby.

To book or find out more, contact our Private Patient team via LiveChat, by completing our online enquiry form or by calling us on 01580 363158.

Published on 09 April 2024