Returning to exercise after a C-section
Whether you had an elective or emergency C-section, you should know a couple of things before starting to exercise again. It is major abdominal surgery, and proper recovery is necessary. Meli Comaschi-Cordoba explains what you need to know.
Whether you had an elective or emergency C-section, you should know a couple of things before starting to exercise again.
Having a C-section is not the “easy way out”! It is major abdominal surgery, and proper recovery is necessary, just as with any other procedure of the same nature.
If you’d had shoulder or knee surgery, would you start living normally straight after it? I’m sure the answer is no. You would take plenty of time to rest and recover, and when the doctor advises it is safe, you can start with the rehabilitation.
Why is it different for C-sections? I know, the life of the new mum is super hard! Very little sleep, feeding every three hours, starting to know this little person while the rest of the world keeps moving… Just writing about it makes me tired!
There is one thing you can’t delegate to others: breastfeeding. For the rest of it, ask for help. You should be resting as much as possible after the operation. So, bottle-feeding the baby, bathing, cooking, tidying up around the house and help with older children are some of the tasks that can be done by your partner and other people from your support system.
Did you know that there are 7 layers of tissue to access the baby?
- Skin cut
- Fat cut
- Connective tissue, tough and fibrous (Fascia) cut
- Abdominal muscles are spread apart
- Peritoneum (supportive layer) cut
- The bladder is moved out of the way to access the uterus
- Uterus cut
Now that you have an idea of what a Caesarean implies, let’s talk about going back to exercise.
Even though you might be cleared to exercise after your 6-week check-up, this doesn’t mean you should go and exercise in the same way you used to before getting pregnant.
Yes, your scar might look healed, but you will need a bit more time before jumping (literally, too) into high intensity physical activity.
Where to start?
Breathing exercises: Your core will need a rewire, and you can start with this in the very early days. After nine months of constant changes, your organs being moved out the way to make room for your growing baby and your centre of gravity changing, your core muscles might not be working in synergy. Take advantage of the time in bed and focus on your breathing. You can also practice conscious breathings while feeding your bub.
As you inhale, notice your tummy expanding. Try to connect with your pelvic floor and relax it as you take that first inhale. Then, as you exhale, gently lift your pelvic floor muscles (think taking a tampon higher up in your vagina, holding a wee or picking a blueberry up with your vagina).
A good habit is to practice this breathing before lifting (e.g. your baby) to make sure you are not pushing out at the hardest part of the movement (when you pick your baby up).
Go for walks: Ask your doctor when it would be ok to start walking and go for short walks around your neighbourhood. This is not only good for your body but also for your mental health.
Keep it simple: You will get to the point of being able to do fancy workouts, but for now, keep it simple with bodyweight exercises, resistance bands and lights weights. You can have fun with training while doing simple movement patterns – your trainer knows how!
Let your scar guide you: If you feel swelling or pain at some point, it’s time to stop or regress. Always listen to your body.
Make an appointment with your Women’s Health Physio: Even though you didn’t have a vaginal birth, your pelvic floor has been affected by your pregnancy. Your physio will also check your scar and teach you how to mobilise it. This can help in the process of healing. You can find a Women’s Health Physio here.
What you should avoid:
- Heavy weights
- Pressure on your pelvic floor muscles
Remember to be kind to yourself and your body. There’s no need to rush, and you deserve a good time to heal. And when you are ready, start rebuilding from the inside out. Before you know it and with the right training, you’ll be stronger and fitter than ever before!
Meli runs Phoenix for Mums in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. To find out more about her and get in touch, click here.
You can also find her on Instagram.
If you are a new mum returning to exercise and are not sure where to start check out our FREE Safe Return to Exercise for New Mums program to learn all you need to know.