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How to exercise after a c-section

There are two main questions that people have about exercising after a c-section and they are:

When can you exercise after a c-section?

The official answer is to wait until you have been signed off at your 6-8 week check but there is a lot more to consider and ultimately it depends on a number of factors that we will investigate in a moment.

How to exercise after a c-section?

Follow the Postnatal Exercise Progression (PEP) to safely return to exercise after a c-section. There are three stages and the idea is the each phase builds on the previous one so you gradually increase the amount of movement:

  • 1st phase: walking, breathing, core exercises and gentle stretching
  • 2nd phase: 1st phase exercises plus low impact exercises
  • 3rd phase: 1st and 2nd phase exercises plus high impact exercise

When you can progress to the next phase depends on how your recovery is going. Later we will look into each stage more thoroughly.

Now lets do a deep dive into exercising after a c-section. Pregnancy and giving birth come with physical changes, especially for mothers who have had a Caesarean section (c-section). Understanding and addressing these changes is crucial for a full and quick recovery.

No pregnancy and no birth are the same so there is no one size fits all, especially when it comes to exercising after a c-section. Things that I struggled with after my second c-section, were not even on my radar after my first and vice versa. For example while I was shocked at how big my tummy was after a week of giving birth, but it wasn’t as big a week after my second c-section. On the flip side, my tummy went down to my new normal pretty quickly with my first pregnancy but with my second it stuck around a lot longer! It’s essential to find a workout plan that works for you and takes into consideration your rate of recovery and your physical condition.

Getting back into exercise after a c-section can have great benefits both physically and mentally, there is nothing like going for a nice walk with your baby to get your heart pumping. However make sure you don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get your pre-baby body back. The most important thing to get back is your functionality and this is where your core exercises and kegels come in. Too many struggle with incontinence issues and think that is the new normal but it doesn’t have to be like that.

Common concerns about c-sections

The body’s healing process after a c-section is remarkable but requires time and care. There are a number of common concerns about exercising after a c-section but hopefully I can help put your mind at ease.

  • Scar sensitivity and numbness – of course there can be complications for scar healing that could affect when you can start exercising after a c-section but generally the body heals the scar AMAZINGLY well. When they removed the dressing after 5 days, obviously the scar was still visible but I couldn’t believe how well it had healed.
  • Abdominal strength – the thing to look out for when you start exercising after a c-section is your tummy doming. A c-section is major abdominal surgery and that combined with pregnancy understandably does affect your abdominal strength but the good news is that when you can gradually build up your exercises, you will get your strength back surprisingly quickly. The key is to focus on general core exercises to re-engage and strengthen your whole core and not just your abs.
  • General cardiovascular fitness levels – I was pretty active during my pregnancies but then the recovery after major surgery and sitting for hours on end breastfeeding meant my fitness levels were really affected. I remember my first run after Theo I literally felt like I had never run in my life! The good news is that you can gain back your cardiovascular fitness back very quickly and with not too much time at all, take it slow, listen to your body and your will be back to normal in no time!

So while it might feel daunting the prospect of exercising after having a c-section. Know that as long as you listen to your body, you cannot go wrong!

When can you exercise after a c-section?

So as I said before, the official answer is to wait until you have been signed off at your 6-8 week check but however there is a lot you can (and should) do before then. The key is listening to your body and don’t over do it as this will result in you moving backward, not forward.

If you are experiencing any of the following you should hold off from progressing on to the next phase of the Postnatal Exercise Progression (PEP).

  • If your scar is weeping or showing signs of infection, seek medical help.
  • If your scar hurts when you try a new exercise, it is too soon, that is your body saying you are not ready yet.
  • Heaviness/pressure/bulge/dragging in the pelvic area.
  • Pelvic or lower back pain.
  • Urinary and/or faecal incontinence.
  • Ongoing or increased blood loss beyond 8 weeks postnatal, seek medical help.

How to exercise after a c-section?

I designed the PEP to help you safely return to exercise after a c-section. There are three stages and the idea is the each phase builds on the previous one so you gradually increase the amount of movement.

Postnatal Exercise Progression (PEP)

  • 1st phase – from birth until around 6-8 weeks pp.
    Includes walking, 360 breathing, core exercises including kegels and gentle stretching.
    Initially walking will just be getting up and moving around the hospital ward but this includes going for proper walks as soon as you feel up to it.
  • 2nd phase – from the end of phase 1 until 3-6 months pp.
    Includes the exercises from the first phase plus low impact bodyweight exercises, swimming and brisk walking.
  • 3rd phase – from 3-6 months pp onwards.
    Includes exercises from the first and second phase exercises plus high impact exercise including running.

The Mama Plan has all three phases built in to it and you can start it from as soon as you feel ready to after giving birth.

Whether you like doing a workout with your baby in the sling or your exercise time being your ‘me’ time, whether you like working out in a nice gym or in your pjs at home, the most important thing is to find what works for you so that you actually do it. For me its a a 20 minute workout each morning while my husband is on breakfast duty for the boys!

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