Yes – you are actually allowed to do exercise after a Cesarean section. However, going at it in the gym after your c-section may have to wait. In this article, we discuss how to get fit after a c-section. Here are some tips and tricks for reintroducing exercise into your daily routine after baby’s birth, without causing any harm to your body.
First things first…..
Healing doesn’t take place over night – be realistic about your goals post-baby. You didn’t pick up the extra baby weight overnight, so don’t expect to get rid of it just like that. A C-section is a big operation and it is really important to be patient and to allow proper healing to take place. The first 6 weeks is still part of your healing period, so be sure not to strain your body or do anything that can hamper the process.
Fit before pregnancy!!
For those still planning to fall pregnant, it’s important to know that your fitness & conditioning before pregnancy plays a very important role. If you didn’t think you have to be fit to have a baby – think again! The fitter and stronger you are before pregnancy the better your body can cope with the demands that are being placed on the systems and the muscles during pregnancy. The stronger your core prior to falling pregnant the quicker your recovery will be post C-section and the quicker you will be able to get back into your fitness routine.
Remember that during pregnancy your Rectus Abdominus muscles as well as your Pelvic floor takes a HUGE strain – so if they were already weak to begin with that means they will take much longer to recover again. So training these muscles prior & during pregnancy is of utmost importance. And don’t forget there is a right and a wrong way to train these muscles safely during pregnancy. So make sure you find someone a fitness professional qualified in Pre/Postnatal fitness to give you guidance and support.
How to get fit after a c-section
Directly after birth
You can start with Kegel and pelvic floor exercises directly after giving birth. These are exercises you can perform anywhere at anytime. It requires very little effort and does not threaten your healing scar in any way.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees
- Gently contract your pelvic floor muscles while exhaling
- At the same time contract your abdominal muscles in towards yourself and up – focus on contracting all your abdominal muscles and not just “sucking” in your stomach
- Hold this contraction for 10 seconds, and don’t forget to breathe – really important!
- Relax and repeat 10 times
Please note that these are the only abdominal exercises you perform for 6-8weeks until your doctor has given you the green light to go back to normal exercises. Sit-ups, crunches & even planks are completely forbidden to do in this initial healing phase. Not only can you tear your stitches open but you can and most likely will cause or worsen Diastasis Recti if you experienced it during your pregnancy – so please avoid these exercises! It can cause long term damage to your abdominal muscles.
After 6-8 weeks
You should see your doctor for a visit 6 weeks after the birth, and GET CLEARANCE before commencing your normal fitness routine again. Recovery will differ from woman to woman. How to get fit after a c-section will also depend on your fitness levels before the pregnancy. Some women may need longer than 6-8 weeks to heal and that is okay! You just made a human and that is pretty awesome – you should also give your body the full time that it needs to heal.
You should still be careful with abdominal exercises. Don’t just assume you can all of a sudden jump back on the sit-ups and crunches wagon. If you experienced any form of Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) you will need corrective exercise to help heal the gap between your abdominals. Consult with a Pre & Postnatal exercise specialist to make sure you are getting the correct help you need to help with this healing process or just to find out if you have Diastasis Recti.
Once you have been cleared for exercise and you experience any of the following symptoms, please contact your medical doctor:
- You experience nausea
- Constant dizzy spells
- Any vaginal bleeding
- Blurred vision
- Stomach or chest pains
- Swelling in the ankles or calf area
Be gentle on yourself
Most important of all to remember is to not put a timeline to your recovery – it is not a race. You need to make sure you are looking after yourself first – you cannot give your baby all he needs if you are not well yourself.
Don’t compare your healing process with fellow moms – you will only place unnecessary stress on yourself. We live in a world where moms are expected to do everything and more and are left with zero time for themselves. You will undergo the most significant changes during pregnancy and especially postpartum and the body afterwards is not always what you might expect. So once you got clearance from your doctor, take it step by step.
Allow yourself to be confident and strive to love yourself no matter what. Be patient with your body and with yourself. Be proud of yourself. You just did the most amazing thing in this world – created a new life!
Getting your postpartum body back and reaching your own personal goals will take time. Hard work pays off. Taking some time for yourself to exercise can have an incredibly amazing impact on your confidence and mental well-being. You got this beautiful mamma!