Returning to Exercise After a Cesarean Birth
A cesarean birth is a major abdominal surgery which requires at least 6-8 weeks to recover but often much longer.
You will need to give your self at least this much time to heal before you start working out and there is really no one date that suits everyone its so dependent on so many variables to do with your pregnancy, surgery and postpartum experience so please don’t put any pressure on yourself to have to exercise from 6 weeks. To be honest I feel like its taken me 12 weeks to truly recover and heal and I am now just feeling stronger and ready to train properly.
Even once you get the clearance to exercise you can guarantee that that means gentle, non impact, light exercise NOT your usual training or high intensity.
Even if you feel like you are healed you are healing deeper than on the surface so please be gentle with yourself and just allow your self time to really recover. Even after 6-12 months I still found certain movements uncomfortable after having my first baby so its important to recognise these things and avoid them.
Once you have clearance to exercise from your doctor/OB please make sure you see a womens health physio to also get proper clearance as they will properly asses your core and pelvic floor for return to training.
Things you should be doing as soon as possible post birth:
Kegels/Pelvic floor exercise
Abdominal bracing / stomach contractions
Gentle walking - short distance around the hospital/house and then building up from there
Avoiding sitting straight up in bed. Instead turn to the side and push yourself up using your arms.
There are some things that I believe should be avoided in at least the first 3 months completely even if you don’t have any abdominal separation or pelvic floor issues and these include:
Lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first 6 weeks
Situps, crunches, double leg raises
High impact exercise like HIIT, F45 Training (with the help of a qualified postnatal trainer you could do from 3 months but check with the coaches if anyone is qualified in the area of postnatal fitness), running, skipping and jumping movements
Heavy weight training
Anything that places extra stress on your wound
Anything that causes intra abdominal pressure
Heavy overhead exercises like over head press
Any movement or exercise where you are unable to brace your pelvic floor and core
Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting
The Pelvic Floor & C-sections
Even though it is more common for pelvic floor prolapse after a vaginal birth you can still experience pelvic floor prolapse or weakness from pregnancy if you’re a c-section mama.
There is a lot of constant downward pressure on your pelvic floor during pregnancy simply from the weight of your baby, placenta and all the fluid which can stretch and weaken the pelvic floor.
After you have a c-section you can also experience pelvic nerve damage which can lead to weakened pelvic floor control or make you feel as if you need to wee all the time.
Poor Posture during pregnancy and post birth can lead to a weaker core and pelvic floor.
Please see your womens health physio to asses your pelvic floor before your return to exercise.
Exercises to help rebuild :
Some one my favourite gentle post sections movements that can be performed once you have medical clearance are:
Glute Raise ( core, legs and bum)
Side laying hip openers/clams
Modified Single leg drop
Wall push ups
Kneeling Arm/Leg Raises
Ideas of types of training once you have clearance and feel comfortable:
Pilates - seek the advice of a postpartum specialist if possible to ensure they are taking in to account your needs in the postpartum period
Walking - the best for post baby workout plus you can push your baby in the pram
Gentle cycling on a stationary bike
Body weight circuits (you can buy my guide here)
Yoga - seek the advice of a postpartum specialist if possible
Swimming once your incision is well healed
Personal training with a qualified Personal trainer who specialises in Postpartum fitness
TIPS FOR SAFE RETURN TO EXERCISE:
Take as much time as you need to heal
Rest more than usual between sets
Shorter workout times to start
Start with gentle walking from about 6 weeks and build up over time
Seek the advice of a qualified professional for programming. Don’t take the advice of someone you see online with out the right qualifications and knowledge.
Dont compare yourself to others or others to you
Progress intensity over time
listen to your body and if your wound feels uncomfortable don't keep going
Be patient and kind to your body
Remember you have had major abdominal surgery so you need to give your body proper time to heal and recover
Drink plenty of water
Wait around 3-6 months before returning to more generalised programming or higher intensity exercise. Your body will thank you for being kind and allowing it to rebuild and repair.
Massage your scar daily (once its healed enough) to help promote blood flow and reduce scar tissue.
DO YOUR KEGELS EVERY DAY!
If you are looking for a suitable post Caesarean exercise program my “MOVE MAMA” EGUIDE is perfect. Its a 4 week kickstart back to fitness guide designed specifically with the post baby body in mind. All movements are post baby safe and take in to consideration pelvic floor and abdominal wall safety post birth. And the best part is if you feel uncomfortable doing a movement due to your wound you will find plenty of alternate exercises in the exercise library. I truly loved writing this guide and am so proud of it. I know it can help you return or start exercising safely post baby or not.