So, you and your bundle of joy are settling into a new routine at home, and your thoughts are straying to getting back into a fitness regimen. You did just undergo a major procedure, so it’s important to heed what the practitioner says.
Following your surgery, you should have been advised to take things incredibly easy for at least six weeks. This is the standard recovery time for abdominal operations, and it is highly important that you adhere to this advice.
It’s advised that you should wait until after your 6 week postnatal checkup to start exercising at anywhere near to your regular, pre-pregnancy pace. During the appointment, you can clarify with your physician about the best course of action.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to stay stationary for a month and half. Though, if you did, we absolutely wouldn’t blame you! Pregnancy is very traumatic on the body and you deserve a rest. That being said, there are things you can do.
We’ll take you through some of the less strenuous activities you can indulge in as you recover, giving tips for faster healing and promoting a stronger scar overall. Take care of yourself, and don’t overdo it - your baby needs you!
Exercises In Recovery - The First Six Weeks
Before you left the hospital, it’s likely your midwife told you about some gentle movements and exercises you can perform as soon as you feel ready to. Don’t misunderstand this and hit the gym - you need to be very slow and steady about it.
That being said, if you experienced complications at all as you were pregnant or whilst you gave birth, you should speak to your family doctor before you start any exercise. Otherwise, you could be putting yourself at risk of further illness or injury.
Avoid any routines that involve pushing out or doming the stomach, like planks or sit ups, as you’ll put unnecessary strain on your abdominals, and they’ve already been through so much! Popping your stitches would not be pretty, trust us.
Even though there might still be some overhang, with additional loose skin in the area around your stomach where the scar is, this can be reduced gradually over time by following the below guidelines.
It’s really important that you don’t push yourself, even if there’s no visibly noticeable difference for a while. It’s a very slow process, and could take several months after birth. The scar will heal better if you keep up with the abdominal and pelvic flexing!
Walking and Talking
As a minimalist, low-impact exercise, walking is terrific for postnatal workouts. Once you feel able to safely get up and move around, slowly and carefully head out for a stroll. At first, you’ll want to stick to going around the block a couple of times.
When you’re closer to recovery, you could head to the local park, and even take baby in a stroller so they can enjoy some fresh air and sunshine too! Sure, it isn’t going for a run, but your body will certainly appreciate it.
It can be a nice opportunity for you and your partner to have a conversation about something other than childcare, and check in with one another as you go. Having someone with you those first few weeks is important, just in case there’s trouble.
Aiding the recovery of muscles in your abdomen, as well as promoting a better posture and keeping that spine safe, these movements mean you can still - albeit much, much more carefully, work out those abs.
- Position yourself lying down sideways, bending both your knees a little
- Breathe in and out slowly, allowing your abdominal muscles to relax
- Slowly begin to pull your muscles back in as you exhale
- Whilst you do that, also squeeze your pelvic floor muscles
- See if you can hold both your ab muscles and pelvic floor, squeezing delicately for around ten seconds (no more!), releasing very gently
- You can repeat this exercise for up to ten times in one cycle, and should try to do it at least three times a day as you’re recovering.
Pelvic Floor Recovery
The whole of your body can take a beating during pregnancy and birth, but not more so than your pelvis. Once that catheter is out and you feel up to it, you should try and begin strengthening your pelvic floor.
Given you’ve been sliced open and then had a fair few stitches, it’s only natural you might feel protective of your tummy and especially vulnerable in your movement. As a result, postpartum women can get into the habit of stooping over.
One neat trick is to practice correcting your standing posture and trying to tighten your pelvic floor whenever you bend to pick up baby. This can be a great reminder to loosen your muscles and relax, as well as a quick opportunity for training.
Though you should be resting otherwise, you should try and stand up straight at regular intervals, helping to heal and strengthen your abdominals as well as protecting your spine. Stooping is really bad for the back - try and break the habit.
Weight lifting is absolutely out of the question - for at least two months following birth, you should not be lifting anything that weighs more than your baby. That includes your other kids, as difficult as it sounds!
Other ‘softer’ exercises you should feel safe to perform in those first six weeks include bridges, pelvic tilts and leg slides; these will hardly put any pressure on your stitches, keeping your scar in tip top condition even if you feel a slight tug.
How Soon Is Too Soon?
Wondering whether or not you’re ready to begin working out again?
Not only is it imperative that you inform any potential instructors that you are recovering from a c-section, you should avoid exercise in the event that you:
- Still find walking strenuous and painful
- Are in pain more than 12 weeks after birth
- Struggle with the gentler pelvic floor and abdominal flexing