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7 Postpartum Exercises for C-Section Recovery

7 Postpartum Exercises for C-Section Recovery

7 Postpartum Exercises for C-Section Recovery

For new mothers who’ve recently had a C-section delivery, congratulations on your new baby! Exercise will look a little different for you for the next several weeks. Having a C-section requires a bit more recovery time in order to heal properly and avoid complications. Regaining strength gradually will help you return to doing the activities you love with ease.

Fortunately, we’ve come up with a few exercises to help you strengthen the core without disrupting the healing process!

Learn more!

What is a C-Section?

c-section

A C-Section, or Cesarean Section, is the surgical delivery of a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus. C-Sections are only recommended in emergency medical situations, including high-risk pregnancies and when the baby is in breach position and can't be flipped around before labor begins. In 2018, 21% of all births were delivered by C-section, according to data collected from 169 countries. In the US, more than 30% of all births are C-section deliveries.1

Whether you have a scheduled C-section or not, you should know what to expect before going into surgery!

Here’s What Happens

During a C-Section, the doctor will first make a small incision in your lower abdomen, just above your pubic hair line. Then another incision in the lower part of your uterus. For both incisions, two options are possible: low-transverse or vertical cut. A low-transverse cut is used in majority of C-Sections because the muscle at the bottom of the uterus is thinner. This incision results in less bleeding and is less likely to tear during future vaginal births after a cesarean (VBACs). A vertical cut is down the middle of your uterus. This incision is only required if the baby is nestled low in your uterus or in another unusual position.

Before an incision is made, an IV and anesthesia (epidural or spinal block) are administered to the lower half of your body. Next, you'll be prepped by having your abdomen washed with an antiseptic solution. Then, a catheter will be inserted into your bladder and sterile drapes placed over your belly. Once the incisions have been made, the amniotic fluid will be suctioned out and the baby will be gently removed. Because the excess mucus in the respiratory tract wasn't squeezed out while the baby makes their way through the birth canal, some extra suctioning will be necessary to clear the lungs.

Following surgery, you can expect your scar to be sore for at least a few weeks. Avoid holding and carrying heavy objects — except the baby. When nursing, place the baby on a pillow over your incision to protect the tender area.

When Can I Exercise?

newborn baby

You can resume exercise once your doctor gives you permission - typically after the 6 or 8-week postpartum appointment. Even after you’ve been given permission, it’s important to ease into abdominal exercise. Pregnancy puts a lot of strain and pressure on the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, bowels, and uterus. During surgery, the bladder is moved to safely deliver the baby. This creates a lot of trauma for those organs and muscles, so it’s important to focus on strengthening them slowly.

Focus on strength training exercises that engage the core, but doesn’t cause it to bulge out. Avoid doing crunches, sit-ups, full push-ups and full planks at first. These exercises put too much pressure on your abdominal muscles and can disrupt healing. In addition, avoid lifting heavy weights. At the minimum, spend 3-4 months working your way back up to heavy weights.

Another great way to slowly get back into shape is to add cardio to your post-pregnancy fitness regimen! Make sure to start with low-impact cardio for the first 4-6 months after a C-section delivery. These exercises include walking, swimming, cycling, and elliptical training. As your stamina and strength build up, slowly increase the intensity of your workouts.

7 Core Strengthening Exercises

We’ve come up with 7 abdominal exercises to help strengthen your core after a C-section delivery. Ideal for body toning, these exercises can be done every day. In addition, it is also good to implement breathing exercises into your routine before or after your workout. Positional breathing exercises can help you regain proper movement of your diaphragm.

Breathing Exercises

Start on your back and relax your body on the floor. Take a deep breath in through the nose. Hold the breath for 3-5 seconds, and then slowly release as you draw your belly towards the floor and contract your abdominal muscles. Perform this exercise for 1-2 minutes daily to help strengthen your deep core muscles.

Glute Bridge

  1. Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down
  2. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze the glutes and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back
  3. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before lowering back down

Wall Pushups

  1. Start with your feet and legs together, standing about 2 feet from a wall with your arms straight out in front of you
    • Note: Your palms should be on the wall at about shoulder-level height as well as shoulder-width apart. Make sure your fingers are pointed toward the ceiling
  2. Bend your elbows and begin to lean your body toward the wall until your nose almost touches it
  3. Hold for 3-5 seconds in this position before pushing back to the starting position

Seated Forward Bend

  1. Begin seated, with both legs extended straight out in front of you. Press your heels actively down into the ground and flex your feet
  2. Inhale to extend your arms up overhead and sit tall
  3. As you exhale, hinge at your hips to fold forward over your legs, maintaining length along your spine. You can either leave the palms face down on the floor or reach towards the ankles or outer edges of the feet
    • Note: Keep your shoulders back and relaxed away from your ears
  4. With every inhale, find more length along your spine. With every exhale, move more deeply into your forward fold. Stay in this position for 5-10 seconds

Wall Sits

  1. Make sure your back is flat against the wall. Place your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart, and then about 2 feet out from the wall.
  2. Slide your back down the wall while keeping your core engaged and bending your legs until in a 90-degree angle
    • Note: Your knees should be directly above your ankles
  3. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds, while contracting your ab muscles. Slowly come back to a standing position while leaning against the wall

Kneeling Squats

  1. Start from a kneeling position with knees about shoulder width apart and feet straight behind your knees
    • Note: Engage your core muscles to keep your back and spine in a neutral position, and torso tight and upright
  2. While activating the glutes, sit back slowly and with control towards your heels
  3. Contract your glute muscles to push up and return to the upright position

Modified Side Planks

  1. Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips
  2. Extend your left leg behind you at the height of your left hip. Externally rotate the lifted leg, turning your left toes and knee out to the side
  3. Inhale and press down through your right hand and knee as you lift your left arm up, stacking the shoulders and hip
  4. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Lower back down onto your hands and knees to repeat this plank on the other side

Chair Tricep Dip

  1. Sit on the edge of the chair and grip the edge with your hands
  2. Extend your legs long, with your heels on the floor. Hold yourself up using your triceps
    • Note: Slide forward just far enough that your behind clears the edge of the chair
  3. Lower yourself until your elbows are bent between 45 and 90 degrees. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and slowly rise back up to starting position

Additional Recovery Tips

  • Apply Heat to Your Abdomen: Heat therapy can ease both pain and soreness after a C-section delivery. Apply a heating pad to your abdomen in 15-minute intervals. The warm compression is designed to increase blood circulation to the area where it is applied, promoting faster healing
  • Get Plenty of Sleep: In the first few months after their birth, your child is likely to wake several times during the night. Try to rest when your baby sleeps. For additional comfort, use a body pillow to support the lower back and abdomen. The pillow contours to the body's shape to relieve pressure areas for a more restful sleep
  • Massage with Essential Oils: Essential oils have many unique properties. Specifically, lavender helps to reduce the appearance of scars. Research has proven that lavender promotes wound healing by increasing collagen and regenerating tissue. Without causing skin irritation and/or allergic reactions, the essential oil has antibiotic, antioxidant, and antiseptic properties to speed up wound closure 3
  • Compression Garments: Protect your C-section scar as it heals with a compression garment! Abdominal binders are designed to support the stomach muscles and lower back, helping increase blood flow as you heal from surgery. Breathable, lightweight and discreet, the garment provides gentle compression which restricts the expansion of the chest and abdomen

The biggest change, other than having a new baby, is changing your physical activity until you’ve healed. It could take up to eight weeks for you to get back into your normal routine. Rest when you’re tired, drink plenty of water, don’t lift heavy weights, and call your doctor before you start exercising again. Taking care of yourself after having a C-section is just as important as taking care of your newborn!

Looking for more postpartum exercise tips? Check out these articles!

References

  1. Donaldson-Evans, Catherine. (2019). C-Section: What Happens During a Cesarean Delivery. What to Expect. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3mp99kc
  2. Freutel, Natasha. (2018). 5 Exercises to Help with Your C-Section Recovery. Healthline: Parenthood. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2HyTmQM
  3. Tolbert, Kendra. (2018). 8 Natural C-Section Recovery Tips to Help You Feel Better Fast. Motherly. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/31EeDzN

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on this site, including text, graphics, images and other material, are for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.