EXPERT ADVICE: POSTNATAL CYCLING TIPS
The idea of ‘jumping back into the saddle’ will fill most women who’ve recently been through childbirth with dread. This means lots of women – even those who were previously keen cyclists – can end up falling out of love with cycling, despite its incredible health benefits 🚴♀️
Here at the Bike Club, we know how important family cycling can be, so to celebrate Cycling UK's Women's Festival of Cycling, we’ve teamed up with a Women’s Health and Musculoskeletal Chartered Physiotherapist from the White Hart Clinic – to find out just how best to get back into cycling after giving birth.
WHY CYCLING CAN BE GREAT AFTER GIVING BIRTH
It might seem counter-intuitive but cycling really can be one of the best forms of exercise after giving birth. Why?
- Well, it’s easily grade-able, so can be as hard or as easy as you’re feeling up to.
- It’s very low impact compared to other forms of exercise, which let’s face it means there’s a lot less chance of sending your boobs flying around!
- Cycling can also offer the perfect path to build your fitness back up, before you put the stresses through your bones and ligaments that something like running can cause.
- Whether you’ve already got older little ones, or this is your first, at some point you’re going to be faced with trying to keep up with a speedy toddler, so getting back on the bike sooner rather than later is a very good idea! (Plus, there’s few more effective ways to tire the kids out than a good family cycle).
- Finally, it would be impossible to talk about cycling without noting the invaluable good that exercise and fresh air can do for postpartum mental health. It’s worth it just for that bit of time to yourself.
TIMELINES DEPENDING ON DELIVERY
Whatever your mode of delivery, you will likely want to wait around 4-6 weeks before getting in the saddle.
C-Section - Even though you are more likely to be comfortable on the saddle, it is best to wait 6 weeks as you need to ensure your scar is well healed.
Perineal Tear - You will want to wait until sitting in a chair and using the toilet feels comfortable at least - likely to be around 4-6 weeks depending on the degree of tearing.
Vaginal delivery with no tears or stitches - Let your body be your guide. As for vaginal tearing, wait until it does not feel uncomfortable to sit or use the toilet.
If you feel you need longer than 6 weeks then take your time, there is no rush. Listen to your body and start when you want to and feel ready.
HOW YOU CAN MAKE IT MORE COMFORTABLE
- A good pair of padded cycling shorts are an absolute must. Remember, that it’s your seat bones rather than your perineum that will be taking the weight on a bike, so that’s where you’ll want most padding. (To begin with, a sheepskin saddle cover can offer an extra bit of comfort, too – ensure it fits well and doesn’t slip around when you’re riding).
- Saddle choice can make a massive difference, and using a female-specific saddle is more important than anything. (Wider saddles designed specifically for the female anatomy will keep the pressure where it needs to be, supporting your buttocks more and taking the pressure off the perineum).
- Scar massage – at the perineum or c-section scar – can also be a great pain reliever. After 6 weeks, use an un-perfumed oil and spend 5 minutes a few times a week massaging after a bath or shower. (You can start to the side of the scar if it is uncomfortable to begin with, and then start to press over the scar. Move in gentle circles, up and down and side to side, building pressure as it feels comfortable. Remember to take it slow to start with and gradually build up).
TOP TIPS FOR IF YOU’RE FEELING NERVOUS
- Start on a static bike or just sitting on the bike with both feet on the floor
- Gradually increase how much pressure is through your bottom/perineum
- Take one foot off the floor, then the other
- Try pedalling a short way down the street and back
- Gradually build up distance
- Stop and repeat any of these steps as many times as you need
WHEN TO SEEK HELP
- If it is too painful to sit down or sit on a bike seat at or after 8-12 weeks post-natal
- If you get abnormal bleeding not related to periods or Lochia
- If you notice any discharge that is a funny colour or smell
- You have burning, redness and/or pain around any healing wounds
- You notice a bulging or heavy sensation around your vagina
- You notice leaking from your bladder
If you have any concerns, then speak to your healthcare professional.
*Please forward this on, if you have a friend who would benefit from our Expert Advice*
Whilst you're here, why not read our blog on international women's day, or 5 women who changed the future of cycling.