Guest Post from Cara Forrester, Director of Education at The MINT Prjct
There can be a lot of uncertainty regarding returning to exercise after a c-section. The following are the most common questions we at The MINT Prjct get from mamas who want to start working out again but are unsure how to get started.
1. When Can I Start Working Out After a C-Section?
First, it is important to remember that a C-section is a major surgery. The surgeon goes through seven layers of tissue (skin, muscle, fat, connection tissue, etc) to reach the baby. Six layers of that tissue are cut while the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack muscle”) is parted like a curtain. “Taking it easy” and recovering for the first few weeks post-c-section is essential!
Your body is not only healing from a major surgery, but you are also caring for a brand-new human. You most likely are not getting the sleep, rest, and nutrition you need. Your first six weeks postpartum are NOT the time to jump back into working out. Take the time to recover and bond with your baby. Once your healthcare provider has assessed your healing and cleared you to resume regular activity at your six-week appointment, you can start working out again.
We also recommend seeing a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist as a first step to help you assess your pelvic floor and core recovery (more on that below).
2. Is It Okay to Go on Walks During My First Few Weeks Postpartum?
Yes! Walking is a great way to move while allowing your body to recover post-c-section. While your first walk may be very short (like from your bedroom to the bathroom), try not to be discouraged; you will most likely build up the ability to take longer walks quickly. Walking outside, once you are ready to go on longer walks, is not only beneficial for your physical health, but it is also helpful for your mental health.
3. What Types of Exercises Should I Start With After a C-Section?
The MINT Prjct has created a 6 Phase Postpartum Return to Exercise Program designed to safely and effectively return mamas to the exercise you love while building a solid foundation through breath and positioning to support your core and pelvic floor with c-section considerations in mind.
Starting with proper breathing strategies, isolated body part movements, and then moving into full body movements with the core supporting those movements is key. These early postpartum exercises include heel glides, glute bridge, quadruped single-arm raises, kneeling squats, and single-leg balance. Exercises that may cause irritation to the c-section scar area, such as the barbell snatch, barbell thruster, and bar muscle up, should be eased into, and it may take a while before they feel comfortable.
Remember that if you experience pain, pulling, pressure, or a return of postpartum bleeding while exercising, you should consult your doctor.
4. I Had a C-Section; Do I Still Need to be Aware of My Pelvic Floor?
Not every woman has pelvic floor dysfunction post-c-section. But just because a woman has a c-section does not mean she is exempt from experiencing pelvic symptoms.
The pelvic floor muscles function as a hammock inside our pelvis, supporting our organs and assisting in sexual and reproductive function, birth and urination, and defecation. During pregnancy, these muscles are affected by the growing baby's weight and the increase in the pregnant woman's blood volume. Regardless of birth type, you may still experience pelvic organ dysfunction.
The surgery may also have carryover effects that can be helped with pelvic floor physical therapy. Considering your pelvic floor as you return to exercise is still essential post-c-section. Breathing strategies, posture, exercise selection, and working with a pelvic floor physical therapist can benefit the post-c-section mama.
Remember, your body is healing from a significant surgery. Take it slow, recover, walk, breathe, move appropriately, and enjoy your sweet baby!
Additional Pregnancy & Postpartum Resources From WAG and the MINT Prjct
Here are a few more resources to explore:
- From Incisions to Insights: Decoding C-Sections - Debunking Myths, Unveiling Recovery, and Exploring Mental Effects
- Overcoming C-Section Stigmas
- C-Section Recovery: Getting In and Out of Bed Comfortably
- Free Download: Foods to Eat and Avoid During Pregnancy
- The MINT Prjct's Pregnancy and Postpartum Programs (Use code WAG to get 20% off their programs)