The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics in 2020 stating that 31.7% of all births in the United States were done by cesarean section.
This is a large percentage of all births and means that no matter how you are feeling right now, you’re not alone in this.
Many people struggle to get their pre-baby body back postpartum, particularly if they are delivered via a C-section.
The biggest obstacles to overcome are allowing your stomach muscles time to heal sufficiently, losing fat stores, and toning your abdominal muscles.
It is absolutely vital that you wait at least 6-8 weeks after your C-section to restart your exercise programs.
This gives your soft tissues sufficient time to heal from the incision made during surgery. If you attempt to workout prior to this point, you run the risk of developing a muscle tear, hernia, or your scar opening back up.
During pregnancy, fat is stored predominantly in the abdomen as visceral fat (around your organs) as opposed to subcutaneous fat stores (beneath the skin). Visceral fat can lead to serious issues including cardiac disease and diabetes.
It is wise to start slowly easing yourself back into exercise by walking. We recommend pushing your baby in a stroller around your local area.
As you begin to get more comfortable doing this, increase your speed and add in some inclines too.
We recommend doing around 30 to 45 minutes of low-intensity exercise per day.
If you are getting on well with this level of exercise, consult your doctor and see if they will clear you for exercise at a higher intensity.
Good places to start are light jogs, cycling, and even gentle runs if you feel up to that.
During a C-section the doctors will cut through your abdominal muscle wall. This means that you will need to rebuild and strengthen this area after you have recovered.
It is advised to start with just 2 short full-body workouts per week. It is not recommended to exceed 2 sets of 12 reps of any exercise.
Stores of lean muscle boost your metabolism, meaning that your basal metabolic rate is higher.
This is the number of calories that your body naturally burns while at rest. As you improve your muscle stores, you will begin losing weight as a direct consequence.
It is a good idea to start training with just your bodyweight or very light weights. As you become more confident in the movements again, you can slowly begin building back up the weights.
Good exercises to do
Yoga is a great and gentle way to get your body used to movement and muscular manipulation again. There are hundreds of yoga flow routines on the internet, particularly YouTube, that you can follow along with at home.
Yoga will gently tone your muscles, helping your stomach to appear flatter over time.
Lie on the ground with your back pressed against the floor. Bend your knees and drive your heels into the floor.
This pressure will then force your lower back and butt off of the ground. Hold at the apex of the movement for a few seconds before releasing.
All you need to do this exercise is a broom. Hold it behind your back, just beneath your shoulder blades.
Breathe in, pulling your abs up and in. Breathe out, holding your breath at the end of the exhale.
Twist gently from side to side until you need to breathe in again. This is one rep, you should be aiming for 5-10.
Lie on the ground with your back resting on the floor and your knees bent. Breathe in and pull your belly button in.
As you hold your breath, slide one heel out until your leg is straight. Bring it back and then exhale.
Inhale again and repeat this process up to 10 times before switching to the other leg.
This is very similar to a cobra pose in yoga. Lie on the ground on your front, with your stomach touching the floor.
Bend your arms and lay your forearms on the ground in front of you, palms towards the floor. Push your chest off the ground as you inhale and exhale.
Choose a comfortable position, these exercises can be done while standing, sitting, or lying on your back. Breathe in and out very deeply.
As you finish exhaling, hold your breath and then pull your abs into your body. Your belly button should be moving in and up.
Hold this position for as long as possible and then slowly inhale, keeping your abs tight. Gently release your abs and then repeat up to 10 times.
Exercises to avoid
Obviously, these do not need to be avoided forever, but it is wise to wait a few weeks or even months before performing them.
- Exercises that put a direct downwards force onto your pelvic floor (i.e. barbell squats)
- Jumping, step-ups, jumping jacks, etc.
- Crunches, sit-ups, front planks, leg raises
- Exercises performed with heavy weights
It is vital to eat a healthy and balanced diet normally, let alone when you are a new mother and likely to be breastfeeding too.
If you have any concerns about your nutrition we would always recommend consulting a qualified dietitian or medical professional for more in-depth advice.
You should try to consume a diet high in carbohydrates, fiber, and proteins, and reduce your refined sugar intake.
You should also try to reduce your consumption of processed foods. Try to include many different fruits and vegetables in your diet to ensure you are getting the correct amount of vitamins and minerals.
It is also vital to drink a lot of water. Hydration is so important for overall health and cell function.
As well as this, staying hydrated makes it easier for excess fat to be lost. Salt plays a huge role in water retention, so it is not advised to consume too much of this.