Postpartum physical activity can improve mood, maintain cardiorespiratory fitness, improve weight control, promote weight loss, and reduce depression and anxiety. This review summarizes current guidelines for postpartum physical activity worldwide. PubMed (MEDLINE) was searched for country-specific government and clinical guidelines on physical activity after pregnancy through the year 2013. Only the most recent guideline was included in the review. An abstraction form facilitated extraction of key details and helped to summarize results. Six guidelines were identified from 5 countries (Australia, Canada, Norway, United Kingdom, and United States). All guidelines were embedded within pregnancy-related physical activity recommendations. All provided physical activity advice related to breastfeeding and 3 remarked about physical activity after cesarean delivery. Recommended physical activities mentioned in the guidelines included aerobic (3/6), pelvic floor exercise (3/6), strengthening (2/6), stretching (2/6), and walking (2/6). None of the guidelines discussed sedentary behavior. The guidelines that were identified lacked specificity for physical activity. Greater clarity in guidelines would be more useful to both practitioners and the women they serve. Postpartum physical activity guidelines have the potential to assist women to initiate or resume physical activity after childbirth so that they can transition to meeting recommended levels of physical activity. Health care providers have a critical role in encouraging women to be active at this time, and the availability of more explicit guidelines may assist them to routinely include physical activity advice in their postpartum care.
Target Audience: Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians
Learning Objectives: After completing this CME activity, physicians should be better able to describe the benefits of physical activity identified in postpartum physical activity guidelines, discuss the impacts of physical activity on breastfeeding as described in postpartum physical activity guidelines, and assess the limitations of the current postpartum physical activity guidelines.