Exercise after a c section – what you need to know

It can be hard to know where to ever start with exercise after a c section. Not only do you have all the usual postnatal issues (weak pelvic floor, lack of core strength, lost endurance, low energy, etc) but you’ve also just had major abdominal surgery.

It’s crazy when you consider that the recommendations after most major surgeries are ‘rest, don’t do too much and don’t lift anything heavy’. Yet new mothers are sent home after a c section with a newborn who requires constant attention, feeding and being held. I.E There is very little resting and recovery going on.

exercise after a c section

What you need to know about exercise after a c section

Before your 6 – 8 week check up start with gentle pelvic floor and core activation only.

You may think you have to wait until your 6-8 week check up before you do anything, but you can (and should) start gentle pelvic floor and core activation as soon as you feel comfortable to. For some women this means the day after birth.

After a c section you’ll likely feel most comfortable starting with the pelvic floor. Start by gently lifting and holding these muscles for a couple of breaths each day. This helps to rebuild your control and strength of your pelvic floor. Remember, even though your baby didn’t end up entering the world this way, he or she still used the pelvic floor as a trampoline for 9 months, so it is still important to rebuild this area.

When you feel ready, you can also start activating the abdominal muscles in the same way. Engage these muscles and hug them in towards your spine. Hold for a couple of breaths and then release. Try to repeat this a couple of times each day and whenever you lift your baby up.

Expect full recovery to take a long time

Just like no one can truly prepare you for what it’s like to have a baby, no one can prepare you for how your body will feel after birth.

It’s not uncommon to feel disconnected from your body, a little shell-shocked from birth and to have lost confidence in your body’s abilities.

While it can be tempting to throw yourself back into building strength with weights and strong exercises, you need to take the time to rebuild your core and pelvic floor first. Without these foundations you won’t be able to stabilise your movements and you’re highly likely to end up with an injury.

Allow your body the time it needs to recover. Try to not get caught up in how your body looks and focus on feeling strong and stable in your core and pelvic floor before you start higher intensity workouts.

The good news? If you take the time to rebuild your foundations slowly, you’ll be able to re-build strength and stamina again and get back to how you felt in your pre-baby body.

The bad news? It may take a year (or longer) to get back to where you started. Don’t rush it.

Walking is a great place to start

Walking is a great postnatal exercise, regardless of the type of birth you’ve had. You can choose whether you walk slowly, or whether you feel ready to move a bit faster and get your sweat on.

It’s also great because you can do it with your baby (either in a pram or in carrier) and it means you’re getting out of the house – which is essential for your mental health with a baby.

Listen to your body

Learning to listen to my own body has to be the number one thing that yoga has taught me. When it comes to exercise after a c section, this could be my most important tip. Your body, your scar, your birth experience is unique to you. Only you can know when you’re ready to start moving more. Some women will need time to process their birth before they’re ready to start moving and feeling into their body with their scar.

Also keep in mind that after your 6- 8 week check up the external stitches will be healed but the internal layers may still be healing. Listen to your body and only move in a way that feels good for you.

If you feel ready to get back into a gentle yoga practice, I’ve created this class below for c section recovery. We’ll gently stretch out the chest and shoulders (likely to be tight after being huddled over a newborn) and start rebuilding strength in the core and pelvic floor as well.

If you’d like more postnatal recovery classes, I have a whole series in my Online Yoga Circle. Start your free 30 day trial here.

How did your body feel after a c section birth? How long until you felt ready for exercise?

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