Congratulations on the safe arrival of your bundle of joy. For the first couple of days and for some the first couple of weeks, you won’t feel up to doing much other than tending for your baby. After all you have a lot to learn, many sleepless nights to endure and multiple nappies and spit ups to clean a day. Although exercise may not be at the top of your priorities list just yet, once you are ready to start regaining your physical fitness following the guidelines below will allow you to do so safely.
For the first six months after a c-section it is recommended to only engage in low intensity activities to ensure your internal and external stitches have healed completely. With the doctors confirmation some woman begin to continue their exercise routines after 3 months.
Exercising for some is an escape and can make you feel physically and mentally healthier. In saying this it is important to look after yourself and only engage in exercise that won’t risk a full post baby recovery.
What is a Cesarean?
If you are reading on behalf of another mother or are scoping out deliveries we’ll explain in the next paragraph what a cesarean is.
A cesarean, often shortened to c-section is a surgical procedure where a cut in the mother’s stomach and uterus is made to deliver one or multiple babies. A cesarean can be pre-planned many weeks before the baby is due for a number of reasons or alternatively, an emergency c-section may be the result if there are medical issues that occur during labor.
Did you know 1 in every 3 babies are delivered by c-section
Some reasons a baby may be delivered via cesarean opposed to vaginal birth is:
- A cesarean has been performed previously
- There have been complications throughout the pregnancy
- If the baby is in a breech position or transverse
- If the mother is carrying multiples (twins, triplets, quadruplets)
- The placenta is covering the opening of the cervix
Prior to a cesarean the mother will be given an anesthetic and an epidural which prevents them from feeling pain during the birth. The majority of mothers will be awake during the birth although in high risk emergency cesareans, the mother may need to be given a general anesthetic. Fluids will be delivered to the mother during the birth and a catheter will be inserted to collect urine.
A cut into the mothers stomach just above the pubic bone is made as well as cut into the uterus. The mother should feel no pain during this process. The baby will be delivered through the stomach approximately 10 minutes after the cesarean process begins although it can take some time to be stitched and cared for afterwards.
Exercising After a C-Section
After a c-section a mother is always encouraged to get up and start moving around as soon as possible. This decreases the risk of blood clotting. Pacing around the ward can help with the recovery process.
For the first 6 weeks after a c-section a mother should not engage in an heavy lifting or strenuous activity. This allows the mother to regain her strength and also allows internal and external stitches to heal. Fast weight loss should never be the motive for exercising after having a c-section.
After six weeks of healing from a c-section you may feel up to exercising. If you had any complications during your pregnancy or birth it is always important to get the clearance from a registered GP before beginning to exercise.
Different Types of Exercise After a Cesarean
While some fit moms swear by exercises that have helped them regain their ‘post baby bodies’ these exercises should only be undertaken with caution. For the first 12 weeks after having a c-section a mother should not be:
- Doing crunches or sit ups
- Running or jumping up and down
- Lifting heavy weights
While C-Sections are Common they are not Simple or Small Procedures. Allow your Body to Hea
l Prior to Engaging in High Intensity Activities.
It is important to wait until approximately 8 weeks post par-tum to enjoy intensity exercises. This is even if you trained regularly prior to the birth of your child. After your 6 week checkup with the GP they will let you know when you specifically will be able to attempt physical exercises although as a rule of thumb, it’s always best to wait 2 months. This allows your scar to heal over properly and your energy levels to reach a normalize. Giving birth to a child takes a lot out of a woman and it’s important to listen to your body. Your body will let you know when you are ready.
Some low impact physical exercises that’ll allow you to regain your strength after a c-section include (although are not limited to):
- Gentle Walking/Jogging
If you have any abdominal pain you should not be participating in physical exercises. Many woman feel confident walking their newborn in the pram for a half hour walk six weeks after a c-section birth. Getting out and about is great for your mental health as well as your physical health.
After 12 weeks many women can often start participating in the following high intensity exercises:
- Weight Training
Pelvic Floor Exercises
There is nothing worse than laughing post baby to find yourself letting out more than a laugh.
Many woman find after giving birth that they loose some control of their bladder. Even though you did not have a vaginal birth, the weight pushing on your bowel and the stretching during pregnancy can result in pelvic floor issues. Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen the muscles that support your uterus, bladder and bowel. Next time you go to the toilet attempt to stop the flow of wee. The muscles that control this are the pelvic floor muscles. Strengthening these muscles can allow you to gain back the control you had prior to falling pregnant.
Some low intensity pelvic floor exercises can commence shortly after giving birth. Below you can find some exercises you can attempt at home to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles:
- Squeeze your bottom and release it a number of times
- Attempt to squeeze your vagina in an up motion
- Squeezing to stop the flow of wee (although don’t do this too often as it can lead to a UTI)
Focusing on one of the exercises above and continuing to do it 5 times a day will over time strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
The Do’s and Don’t After Having a Cesarean
Follow the guidelines below to ensure you have a healthy c-section recovery.
Allow your body to fully heal.
Involve yourself in too much too soon. Allow yourself time.
Listen to your body.
Place unreasonable expectations on yourself.
|Be patient. You have just given birth after all.||
Stress your scar by becoming involved in high intensity activity too soon.
Believe in yourself. You will get your pre-body back although you need time to do so. Now’s the time to lap up lots of newborn cuddles.
Practice exercises that compromise posture and core.
Seek advice from doctors and midwives if you are unsure when you’re ready to commence physical activity.
Swim in public water before your c-section has entirely healed.
Commence low impact activities when you feel ready. This is generally around the 6 week mark.
Exercise if you have any pain. If persistent pain continues weeks after a cesarean be timely in seeing a doctor.
Continuously practice pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your bladder control.
Lifting heavy items for the first 6 weeks after giving birth. It is always best to wait till 12 weeks before lifting heavy items.
Engage in exercise programs when you feel that you are ready. It may take up to 12 weeks to feel physically and mentally ready for exercise after giving birth.
Expect miracles. Slowly over time you will return to your pre-baby weight if you engage in physical activity.