Being An Athlete Before (And After) Pregnancy

If you’re a new mom and an athlete, it can be tempting to hit the trail or the gym asap after the six-week checkup. You want to regain a sense of normalcy and working out is likely a big part of your identity.

But it’s incredibly important to be cognizant of what your body just went through and give yourself the time to regain your core strength and allow the pelvic floor to heal. You may even have to relearn the correct use of certain muscles in order to avoid injury.

Physical therapist Dr. Shefali Christopher was taken aback by the fact that her postpartum body didn’t quite feel like her own: ‘You’re learning how to be in touch with your muscles again, how to contract them again, how to work them again. I think that was more shocking to me … and it took a lot of work.’

Today, Shefali joins me to offer her insight on postpartum care for athletes, explaining the importance of rebuilding core strength and giving the body time to heal. I ask Shefali about her own experience with pregnancy and postpartum recovery, and she shares her ongoing efforts at ‘mental forgiving and acceptance’ of her postpartum body. Listen in for Shefali’s advice around the best resources for postpartum exercise and learn why she shifted her career path to pursue research as a new mom.

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #061

Some quotes from the episode

  • “What we forget is that our body just went through this humongous transformation: Your core muscles just got overstretched, your pelvic floor may have just gotten torn apart, and your stomach fascia may have been torn apart if you had a C-section. What we don’t realize is all of this takes a very long time to heal, and we need to help it heal.”
  • “I loved every part of pregnancy, but what labor did to my pelvic floor and what growing a baby inside did to my core strength was just unimaginable.”
  • “Isn’t it fascinating? Your body doesn’t even feel like it’s your own. You’re learning how to be in touch with your muscles again, how to contract them again, how to work them again. I think that was more shocking to me with my journey … and it took a lot of work.”
  • “It’s very easy for your body to do an activity, but to do it correctly and use the right muscles so that you don’t injure something? That’s a unique thing altogether.”
  • “I’m still not 100%. I still have loose skin around my belly … but being okay with that and wearing it like my tattoo from motherhood has taken a lot of mental forgiving and acceptance, especially from having that self-image of being an athlete and being fit.”
  • “Being careful about who you’re learning from and what they know about the body is really important too.”
  • “There will be days where you’re completely not yourself because you’re exhausted and sleep deprived, and I hope that everyone has people who can lift them up and help them during that process.”
  • “The second [child] was just easier … You’re not hit in the face by this humongous black cloud. It’s a little smaller—you can dodge it sometimes.”
  • “It came to me while I was pumping in a high school parking lot … I should be home cuddling my child, nursing him and putting him to bed. I was not happy being away from him. The things that brought me joy changed.”
  • “I try not to feel that mom guilt … [because] we need successful women to be role models for our children.”


Dr. Shefali Christopher is a board-certified clinical specialist in sports physical therapy. After four years of teaching in the Duke DPT program, Shefali joined the Elon University faculty in June of 2017. Her clinical passion lies in treating triathletes and distance runners as well as helping postpartum athletes return to their sport safely. Shefali is currently pursuing a PhD through the University of Newcastle, and her research focuses on understanding and addressing pain in postpartum endurance athletes.



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