Returning to exercise after a C-Section Delivery
Returning to exercise after a C-Section Delivery
C – Section rates are on the up but what does this mean if your a new mum wanting to return to exercise. Most health professionals will clear you for exercise in 6 weeks with rest as the primary concern, but this is major pelvic and abdominal surgery. Here’s everything you need to know abour caesarean delivery and how you can get back into exercise safely.
What happens during a Caesarean Section
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 the connective tissue, the abdominals, and the skin stitched up, to varying degrees. We have a lot of layers of sutures and thus scar tissue will form.
Cleared for exercise in 6 weeks?
A C-Section is not the gentlest of proceedures on the body and organs making adequate rest and recovery post labour essential.
Think of a C-section as you would a surgery such as an ACL repair in the knee. The rehabilitation for this would be approx 9 to 12 months. There are steps and checks along the way that you would need to follow, with the surgeon, a physiotherapist, and a set timeline of when it is safe to return to certain activities and how to go about rebuilding strength without causing any further damage.
You have to give yourself enough time to heal from the inside out. 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 recovering.
Be mindful of the types of exercises that will be beneficial to you:
- Restorative breathing
- Core restoration
- Body weight exercises
Exercises to avoid:
- High Intensity
- Heavy weight strength work
- Crunches, sit ups, leg raises, planks and any traditional ‘core’ exercises.
- Anything with direct downward pressure on the pelvic floor, such as a barbell back squat.
“I Didnt have a vaginal birth so my pelvic floor is fine”
Although a vaginal birth can increase the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction post birth, you still went through a pregnancy. Pregnancy itself heightens your risk of pelvic floor dysfunction.
- The downward pressure of your baby on your pelvic floor muscles can stretch these muscles and their connective tissues, leaving them more lax than normal.
- Your expanding uterus puts pressure against your other pelvic organs, including the bladder and rectum, and can disrupt their normal function.
- C-section scars can be tricky for pelvic nerve function, leading to such things as urethral burning, feeling like you need to pee all the time, and pain in the clitoris and labia.
- The alignment changes that happen during pregnancy and postpartum (for example standing with your bum tucked under) can affect the tone of your pelvic floor muscles, leaving them tight and short.
Focusing on restoring the pelvic floor and re-strengthening these muscles and connective tissues is therefore just as important following a caesarean delivery as a vaginal birth.
Recovery in the early weeks after a C Section
1: Ask for Help – Ditch the ‘super women’ cape for now! Remember you dont have to do it all alone and there is absolutely no shame in asking for a little help from friends/family/husbands/partners. Its a tough job looking after a baby, a household and yourself especially on very little sleep. You dont have to have it under control 100% of the time.
2: Restorative Breathing – This is a really gentle breathing technique focused on helping you to reconnect with your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. This breathing drill can be done from home and takes no more than 5-10 minutes. If you can try and complete 3-5 times per week. It is safe and effective and can be started 1-2 weeks after you have had the baby providing you are not experiencing any pain.
Check out this link here to show you what I mean.
3: Rolling Over – This is really important when getting up from a lying position. Ensure that you roll onto your side into a supported position before getting up and avoid sit up type movements.
4: Walking – Gentle walking is a great way a) to get you out of the house and into the fresh air and b) to get the blood flowing around your body. Build up your walks gradually – start with around a 5-10 minute stroll and try to make note of how you are feeling both during and after.
5: Core Restoration Depending on your healing process, you may start some light core restoration exercises, in addition to the connection breath, prior to your 6-week check up. Some beneficial exercises would be:
1 Side lying core + floor connection breath (right side) x 5 breaths
2 Glute bridge x 15
3 Supine Heel slides x 10 each side
4 Side lying core + floor connection breath (left side) x 5 breaths
5 Body weight squat to box x 12-15 reps
Just repeat once through, 3 x per week
6: Scar Tissue massage – The general guideline is to start scar massage around the 6-week postpartum mark. Taking care of your c-section scar is a vital step to recovery. Massaging with coconut or bio oil is a great way to help healing.
There really is no magic date of when you should begin adding in more activity, as everyone heals at their own pace.
Remember Function First before intensity!