Can I Lift Weights After Giving Birth?

Woman lifting weights

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You may have put weightlifting on hold during your pregnancy, or at least reduce the amount you're lifting. If you're anxious to get back into it after your baby arrives, know that you'll need to wait a little bit longer to pick up this activity again. Your body needs to heal itself before you put any excessive strain on it, but this usually only takes about a month or two.

You can start lifting weights as soon as you get the okay from your healthcare provider at your postpartum check-up, typically around four to six weeks. "This also depends on your fitness level during pregnancy and if you have any complications after delivery," says Leigh Koidahl, MD, a Minnesota-based OB/GYN.

Let's get deeper into exactly when it's okay to lift weights after having a baby, and why you might need to wait a little longer.

How Long After Giving Birth Can I Lift Weights?

Most people can pick up weightlifting about a month to six weeks after giving birth. "Almost all patients would be cleared at the six-week mark, but for active, healthy patients with uncomplicated deliveries, they could return to modified lifting two to three weeks after delivery," says Dr. Koidahl.

The most important thing is to get clearance from your doctor or healthcare provider first. Some people may need more time to heal, and that's completely typical.

Giving birth via C-section is considered a major surgery, so you will definitely need at least six weeks if not longer to recover. "It’s recommended to wait the full six weeks after Cesarean delivery to resume any lifting more than 15-20 pounds," says Dr. Koidahl. "This is to let the incision fully heal."

If you want to pick up weightlifting for the first time, it's even more important to make sure you have fully recovered before starting. Trying something brand-new is more likely to put a strain on your muscles.

Weightlifting can be a part of a healthy postpartum exercise routine. It is recommended to do some kind of weight-bearing exercise twice weekly during this time. Just know that you might not be able to comfortably lift as much as you used to, and take it easy on yourself.

Every postpartum journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about lifting weights postpartum.

What Are the Benefits of Lifting Weights Postpartum?

There are many benefits to lifting after you have had your baby. Let's break down a few of them.

Boosts Your Self-Esteem

Making weightlifting part of your routine may leave you feeling better about yourself. It's common to struggle with low self-esteem after having a baby, whether it's insecurities about your postpartum body or postpartum depression. Lifting may help boost your mood and your self-confidence.

And while lifting may help you lose some weight, remember that doesn't need to be your focus right now. It may also work to improve your posture, strengthen your core, and help you sleep better, both of which contribute to your overall well-being.

If feelings of sadness or anxiety are extreme or are interfering with your ability to function, reach out to your healthcare provider. Many people experience postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA) and there are treatment options.

Helps You Heal

Growing a human being puts a major strain on your body. Many people struggle with issues like diastasis recti, where the abdominal muscles separate, or pelvic floor prolapse, which can cause discomfort and urine leakage.

Lifting weights strengthens your muscles and may play a part in reversing or healing these conditions. However, it's important to lift weights correctly. "A trainer can help you lift with proper form," notes Kristie Alicea, a certified pre-and-postnatal fitness expert and cofounder of ABC Fit Collective.

Keeps You Strong

Lifting weights can make you stronger so that carrying your infant doesn't strain your muscles and leave you feeling sore. "You will constantly be holding and lifting a tiny human that will only get heavier over time," notes Alicea. The average baby is born at 7 pounds 11 ounces and grows rapidly over the first year. Lifting can help prepare you so that your little one's weight feels like no big deal.

It's not just carrying your baby that will be easier though. "Lifting weights can help with everything from balancing your hormones to getting through your everyday activities more easily," says Alicea.

Risks of Lifting Weights to Soon Postpartum

Lifting weights too soon, or trying to lift more than your body is ready to handle, can lead to injury. This might include lower back or elbow sprains and strains, as well as tendonitis. "Lifting more than 15 to 20 pounds after a C-section could cause pressure on the incision or cause the incision to open," adds Dr. Koidahl.

Along with getting the okay from your healthcare provider, avoid rushing back into lifting. You can start with a lighter amount and fewer reps and slowly increase that. "Make sure you are listening to your body and giving it the proper time to heal from within before adding external load like weight lifting," says Sabrina Stockel, Alicea's cofounder at ABC Fit Collective.

Safety Precautions to Consider When Lifting Weights Postpartum

There are some safety precautions to keep in mind when lifting weights postpartum. Following these tips will help prevent injury.

Focus on Your Breathing

Remain mindful of your breath as you lift. This will help prevent you form holding your breath automatically. "Breathing during weight lifting is extremely crucial, especially during your postpartum journey because things like diastasis recti can occur during your postpartum journey as well," notes Alicea.

Engage Your Core

Whether you are lifting a barbell or your baby, try to engage your core every time. Failing to engage these muscles can put a strain on your lower back that leaves you feeling sore for days. "If your core is working properly, it will take the stress off your low back, preventing injury," says Stockel.

Use Proper Alignment

Alignment is key to preventing injury and maximizing the benefits of weight lifting. "This means your shoulders are over your hips, your rib cage is stacked over your hips, and your shoulders are back and down, with your ears directly over your shoulders," notes Alicea.

A Word From Verywell

Lifting weights is a safe way to stay healthy and fit after having a baby, as long as you wait until you get your provider's clearance. This will generally happen at your postpartum check-up, about six weeks after you deliver. If your physician says you need more time, wait to resume lifting. Lifting too soon may lead to injury and discomfort.

If you have any questions about lifting weights after having a baby, always reach out to your healthcare provider for clarification.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Having a C-Section. March of Dimes.

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  4. Westcott, Wayne L. “Resistance Training Is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health.” Current Sports Medicine Reports, vol. 11, no. 4, 2012, pp. 209–16. (Crossref), doi: 0.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8.

  5. Data Table of Infant-Weight-for-Age Charts. Centers on Disease Control and Prevention.

  6. Keogh, Justin W. L., and Paul W. Winwood. “The Epidemiology of Injuries Across the Weight-Training Sports.” Sports Medicine, vol. 47, no. 3, Mar. 2017, pp. 479–501. (Crossref), doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0575-0.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.