The Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out After a C-Section

You’ve just had your baby and you want to start getting back in shape. But what exercises can you do?

Having a baby is hard work, and trying to get your body back into shape afterward can be just as hard. It’s important that you know what your body has gone through to help you understand how to exercise again properly.

So What’s Happened In There?

During the C-section, the doctor makes an incision into your skin, through the fat cells, connective tissue, and into the abdominal cavity.

The abdominal muscles are then spread apart and the bladder is moved down and out of the way in order to get to the uterus. There is an incision made into the uterus and the baby is guided out. The placenta is taken out shortly after.

The uterus is then stitched up, the bladder put back in place, then connective tissue, the abdominals, and the skin stitched up, to varying degrees. We have a lot of layers of sutures and thus, scar tissue that will form.

From the outside, your scar might appear healed, but the deeper layers inside still need time. Just the scar alone is many, many layers deep – the tissues that you can’t see are still healing.

Tone Your Muscles

We know you may be impatient to come back into shape, but always consult your doctor before exercising to ensure that your body is healing properly. Traditionally, new mothers are advised to wait about six to eight weeks to resume most exercise. But, since different women heal at different speeds, be prepared to wait longer than this minimum time limit if your doctor advises you to do so.

When your doc gives you a green light, you can try the following exercises:

  • Bridges to strengthen your hips. These gentle, easy exercises help
  • tone crucial muscles in your hips and core.
  • Kegel exercises can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which are important for balance and stability. In addition, they improve your ability to stop urine flow (which can sometimes be a problem for postpartum women) and can be performed anywhere.
  • Try forward bends to strengthen your lower back. Back strength is important for anyone, as it's crucial for maintaining proper posture and avoiding lumbar pain.

Find detailed explanations of how to perform all of the above-mentioned exercises here.

Back to Strength Training? Why Not

In your return to traditional strength training (after your six-week clearance and a check-in with the pelvic floor physio), allow your body plenty of time to adapt to the increase in movement and a good deal of recovery time between bouts of exercise. If you have any bleeding or pain (scar, pelvic, back) at all during or after exercise, keep your intensity milder.

Examples of beneficial exercises are: modified side planks, bodyweight squats, bodyweight split squats (keeping the depth small to begin), band pull-aparts, and inverted row.

Check if you’re doing these exercises properly here.

The key thing to remember is, when you gradually start exercising after a C-section, you should not experience any pain or discomfort. If your workout is painful, you should stop completely or try another type of exercise.

What Not To Do

On the list of exercises to avoid at any cost after a C-section, you’ll find crunches, sit-ups, leg raises, front planks, heavy overhead presses; and generally, anything with direct downward pressure on the pelvic floor, such as a barbell back squat.

Health experts will tell you full body plank exercises put unnecessary pressure on your incision. These should be saved until your body has had adequate time to heal and the incision is fully closed.

Crunches, sit-ups and bicycling work your outer abdominal muscles. You need to start with the inner ones first. Sit-ups put a lot of stress on the abdominals, and you've just had surgery there. Also, if you've just had a baby your abdominal muscles can have a rectus diastatis, which is a splitting down the middle.

Running and jumping are also on the no-no list. In fact, steer clear of any high-impact aerobic exercise for at least six months. Dr. Dyer says running means a lot of force through your pelvic floor, with the gravity and the pounding. This is even more extensive after a C-section, in which the muscles were cut through, organs were moved around and replaced, and it was all sewn back together…

And finally, please avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby. Weight lifting causes postpartum workout equipment unnecessary pressure on the incision, that often results in heavy bleeding, tearing, and frequent infections.

If you are overly worried about not doing enough exercise after a C-section, keep in mind that just carrying your baby is a kind of daily workout!