Exercise After a C-Section

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Giving birth to your newborn via cesarean means your recovery process is going to be much longer than if giving birth naturally. If you’re keen to get back into exercising as soon as possible to shed some of the weight gained during pregnancy you might be wondering if it is ok to exercise after a c-section.

Exercising after a c-section isn’t recommended for at least 6 weeks post-surgery. C-sections involve incisions straight into a woman’s abdomen which means the body’s core muscles need time to heal before any type of exercising is started. Light exercises are recommended after 6 weeks.

If giving birth to your baby by c-section or if you’ve had an unplanned c-section, you might feel some discomfort and pain throughout your recovery time which isn’t pleasant but is normal. There are some recommended ways to help a new mother with healing after a c-section and that includes some light exercises. For now, exercise your brain instead by reading below to find out what type of exercise you can do after a c-section and when you can start.

Can You Exercise After a C-Section?

If you’re wondering when you can get back into or start a post-pregnancy exercise routine after a c-section, doctors and physical therapists advise that you can exercise after a minimum of 6 weeks.

You can do light and low-stimulating exercises after a c-section once you have fully recovered from your surgery, but recovery times can vary for each new mother.

Most mothers are advised to see their GP or health care provider at least 6 weeks after giving birth via c-section so they can instruct on whether they need more time to rest, recover, and heal, or if they can begin some light exercises immediately or within another week or two.

It is good to participate in low-impact exercises after having a c-section when you feel ready to do so, to strengthen the core muscles that you need for many daily activities. Doing light-duty exercises after a c-section can also help you sleep better and can help the healing process when done right.

When Can I Start Exercising After a C-Section?

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As mentioned above, most mothers will be booked in for a post-surgery follow-up around the 6-week mark. This is typically the absolute minimum time you should take to recover before you start any type of exercise.

In saying this, that doesn’t always necessarily mean you can definitely start exercising after 6 weeks or even that you must wait up to six weeks. The healing time and process are different for everyone so don’t be discouraged if your recovery is taking slightly longer than a friend did. Our bodies aren’t the same after all and you’ll find some women even start their exercising regime after 4 weeks.

Generally, in most cases, you can start exercising after a c-section after 6 to 8 weeks of recovery, but you and your post-surgery doc can be the judges of when.

What Exercises Can I Do After a C-Section?

It is advised that you only participate in light exercise after a c-section so that you don’t set your recovery time back.

Avoid heavy lifting, not eating, not getting enough rest, and over-exerting yourself. I understand you want to care for your baby but, if possible, ask your parent for as much help as they can manage until you’re able to do some more on your own.

If you feel well enough to participate in some of the following activities before 6 weeks you can try them out, but never push yourself too hard or it’ll take even longer for you to be able to care for your baby without needing help. Trust me, ladies, it’s not worth it.

Here are some exercises you can start to do once you’re ready after a c-section:

  • Easy walking
  • Wall sits
  • Beginner yoga
  • Pelvic floor exercises like belly breathing and leg slides
  • Cycling
  • Pilates for back strength and posture
  • Swimming

Here are the exercises to avoid after a c-section until your postpartum healthcare professional gives the go-ahead:

  • Squats and thrusts
  • Lifting weights
  • Bridge pose
  • Any core training and workouts
  • Running
  • Contact and ball sports like boxing, football, netball, etc.

If you feel any pain while trying to exercise you should stop immediately. Sometimes even low-impact sports can cause discomfort and instead of trying to push through it you should stop and avoid it. It does not make you weak, it makes you human.

Why Does Recovery After a C-Section Take so Long?

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Having a c-section is a type of surgical procedure and like all surgeries, there is a specified recovery time. In the case of a c-section, it can typically take up to 8 weeks to be fully healed.

C-sections usually result in mothers needing to stay in the hospital for longer than those who give birth naturally, possibly up to 4 days and sometimes longer depending on any complications.

A c-section makes either a vertical or horizontal incision through your abdomen which is deep enough to cut through muscle and tissue to deliver your newborn. It’s only natural that the healing time should take a few weeks.

C-sections make up approximately 31.7% of childbirths in the US so cesareans aren’t uncommon or new.  

Your abdomen will need time to heal because the muscles that have been cut through to deliver your baby need to mend. Your stomach will feel tender, and you will occasionally feel pain if you move too fast or stretch your muscles when they’re not ready.

If you do stretch your stomach during the healing process, you risk setting your recovery time back by weeks. This is why exercise is not recommended until at least the 6-week mark or until you have spoken to your GP for advice.

After around 6 weeks, most women should be back to normal in terms of having their muscles and uterus back in place which means they can then start some low-intensity training that can help them to lose any unwanted belly fat and get into what they consider “shape” for their body.

Here is the typical recovery process for women who have a c-section:

  • Week one is staying in the hospital and having nurse assistance with pain management and cleaning of your incision.
  • Week one and two are much the same but at home and by managing your own pain medications. While the muscles in your abdomen are still weak you should limit your movements.
  • Light vaginal bleeding is normal.
  • In weeks two to three, it’s suggested that you do get up and move around slightly to avoid blood clots. You should also have a postpartum GP visit to check the progression of your recovery
  • Weeks three to five are again much the same. Limit your movements but don’t sit still for too long. Contact your doctor if you start to feel unusual pains, have heavy blood flow or discharge, experience swelling in your legs, or find that you’re feverish and can’t breathe well.
  • Week six should be the week you have your final checkup where your healthcare practitioner lets you know what light exercises you can begin doing.

Conclusion

Once you’ve given birth to your baby boy or girl, you’ll want to dote over them for the first few weeks of their life before exercising even becomes an issue. Whether you realize it or not, you may not have time for exercise between sleepless nights and feeds.

Take the 6 to 8 weeks off while recovering from your surgery and enjoy that time with your child before starting your light exercises. Chances are you’ll be too exhausted to do too much anyway. When you’re ready, start slow with low-impact exercises and gradually build your muscle strength back up.

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