Exercise after Miscarriage: When Postpartum Isn't What You Expected
Full disclosure: My husband and I have been trying for another baby. A few weeks ago, I got the positive test we’d been hoping to see. Last week, I had a miscarriage.
I understand why we don’t talk about them often. It hurts. I mean it really, really sucks. It also feels so weird to have been pregnant one second and then the next to not be, to have had all of these plans for the future of just a twinkle in your uterus and then to suddenly put a full stop on those plans. It feels sort of embarrassing to have been so excited, to have to go back to those people you told and be like “well, nevermind, I’m not pregnant anymore.”
A huge part of me wanted to just move on with life… and part of me has been outwardly being this way because I do feel mostly fine and it was such a short pregnancy. I mean, I was only about 6 weeks along, we hadn’t had a visit with the doctor/midwife yet, and we had really only known for a few weeks. I felt embarrassed being so invested in such a short period of time when I knew this could happen. I also feel foggy, sad, frustrated, hormonal, and at the same time like an inconvenience for showing those things. It’s a real mind fuck of emotions and feelings to have all at the same time.
Let me first say, I am in no way angry at my body. Many women feel that way after a miscarriage, and I did last time as well. This time, I was aware of how early it was in pregnancy and the risks associated with that. I also take solace in the fact that it isn’t anything I did or didn’t do that caused this. But, I’ve experienced those feelings before after my last miscarriage. You can read more about that here.
This time, my struggle was with letting my body and mind recover. My problem this time was with my ego and exercise. I felt myself wanting to just move on from this and go back to what I was always doing- teaching spin, boxing classes, higher intensity weight training sessions.
I had to have a big come to Jesus with myself last week. A HUGE ego check because I was NOT coaching myself like I would coach someone going through a similar situation.
I woke up Monday early morning to pee and I immediately knew what was happening without even turning on the lights. I was subbing a 5:30 AM class that morning as well as scheduled to teach my 9:30 AM class. Thinking I had no other choice, I went in to teach early that morning. I cried all the way to the gym. I was cramping, bleeding, and sad. And when I came home, I didn’t reach out for help covering my second class.
I went back and taught my 9:30 AM class like nothing was happening.
On the way home it hit me “I just taught two classes while having a miscarriage. What the fuck am I doing?” My ego was telling me I was fine, but my body was screaming at me that we aren’t fine. WE AREN’T FINE, YA ASS.
I have a running joke with a client of mine that present Madison can kind of be a jerk to herself. In this case… 100% true.
My thoughts that day and since then have wandered to how I would coach someone through this, though I’m sure I have trained someone through a miscarriage and just never knew about it. How would I tell them that rest and recovery, that healing is important when all they probably want to do is get on with their life? I draw from my own experiences as a person who has experienced miscarriage and also a coach who also needs this conversation and these reminders.
And the truth is, I would treat it much like a person getting back to exercise after having a baby. The timeline may be much different, but the need for rest, recovery, and grace for your body are very much the same.
Here is how I would guide a client back to exercise after loss:
Rest. I’m a person who really just wants to pull herself up by the bootstraps and move on with life. I see it happening when people offer their condolences and help, “I’m fine, I’ll be fine”. While it’s fine to buck up and be all “the show must go on”, it’s ok to stop the show because you actually need rest right now. Many of my clients and women I’ve talked to are the same. Here’s what I would tell someone about rest post-miscarriage: Your body needs time and space to adjust to being not pregnant again and rest is a crucial part of that equation. This might mean recruiting help to sleep, taking time off from exercise, or just admitting that doing it all isn’t going to happen right now. Over the past week and a half, I’ve done all of these things.
Rehab. Even if your loss happened in very early pregnancy, like mine, your body was still pregnant. Though maybe we didn’t SEE change, we experienced it in lots of ways. Personally, I was already getting more out of breath during my normal activities. I was noticing some changes in how my body performed during my regular activities as well. I was already experiencing lots of hormonal and some physical change.
It will take time for hormones to go back to their non-pregnant state, for the cramping and bleeding to subside, and to feel somewhat “normal” again. While working out can be super beneficial during this time for mental well-being, these are things to take into consideration. The body is still in healing mode after a miscarriage. What may have been fine intensity-wise just a week ago may not be fine right now. Dial back the intensity and focus on reconnecting with your body in the weeks after a pregnancy loss. This timeline will vary depending on how far along you were in your pregnancy and your individual circumstances, but know there is no rush. Now may not be the time to push your body and that is ok.
Retrain. This phase may be really short for those who experienced early pregnancy loss and may need to be an extended deal for those who experienced a loss later in pregnancy, either way it’s important to understand that things DID change and getting back into exercise may not look like what it did previously. You may need to spend some time dialing back and working through a retraining phase with lower weights and intensity in your workouts. You may need to take some time off completely, and that’s also fine. If you feel overwhelmed, too tired, or have an increase in pain or bleeding after a workout, adjust some of your workouts or take a step back. It’s not forever, just for now. Personally, I’ve been dialing back in everything even though my miscarriage was a very short and straight-forward process.
What I’m doing for exercise after pregnancy loss. I’m actually taking my own advice for once. I’m managing my expectations for my body, which is hard for me. My ego keeps telling me I’m fine, just forget this ever happened and go all in- but my coach brain that wouldn’t do my body justice right now. Last week I was completely honest with myself. I subbed out classes, moved clients around, and accepted help. Over the past week and a half, I’ve kept movement light and expectations low. I have been working through recovery and month 1 postpartum programs from Strong Like a Mom, my online coaching club. I’m doing the exact opposite of what my ego wants me to do because I know it's best for my body and mind right now.
Even though this seems like a blip on the radar, it’s actually not.
Exercise after miscarriage can be a very helpful in combating the sadness and emotions that accompany such a loss. I also think the conversation of return to exercise after loss deserves more than just “go back to what you were doing before.” We’re dealing with a body that was pregnant, a body that is now postpartum in many ways. The return to exercise after loss should honor that.
If you’re walking this path of pregnancy loss, know that I’m with you on it. You aren’t alone. Even if you’re surrounded by amazing support, know that someone else is on your side. We’ve got this, friend.
Hi, I'm Madison Cleckler! I am a certified pre-and-postnatal specialist, a pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach and DONA trained birth doula. As you can see, I'm passionate about women's health. I also have two kiddos, Avery and Eli who have taught me so very many lessons about myself, my work, and life in general. My mission is to teach moms how to feel stronger in their bodies, fearless in their movement, and fulfilled in their lives as the badass mommas they are.