Women can start easing back into exercise six to eight weeks after having a C-section. Everyone recovers on a different timeline. It is important to know what works and doesn’t work for your body, and to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations.
Belly breathing, seated kegels, wall sits, scar massages, and leg slides can strengthen abdominal muscles after having a C-section. These exercises strengthen core muscles that are weakened from pregnancy. Avoid doing sit-ups, crunches, and planks for several weeks after having a C-section.
Here are five simple exercises to start the day after having a C-section.
Belly breathing is a great relaxation technique during recovery. It helps you to retain your core muscles to start working together during your daily activities. These muscles work your transverse abdominis.
Here are the steps to begin doing belly breathing exercises.
- Lie on your back on a couch or bed.
- Place your hands on your belly while relaxing your body.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose. Feel your abdomen expand into your hands.
- Breathe out through your mouth. When you exhale, pull your belly button towards your spine, as it contracts your abdominal muscles. Hold this for three seconds.
- Repeat these five to ten times, three times a day.
This exercise will help you to gradually improve each day. When done periodically every day, it can help with the recovery process.
The fascia is a layer of connective tissue that connects the muscles to the abdominals of the pelvic floor. Kegels are an important exercise to strengthen and activate the pelvic floor.
Your pelvic floor muscles support the organs in your pelvis, such as your bladder, bowels and vagina. These pelvic floor muscles work to keep your organs in place while assisting in bodily functions such as peeing and pooping.
These exercises are known to decrease stress incontinence after giving birth. After having a C-section, you may have a urinary catheter. These exercises can help once the catheter has been removed. This exercise works the pelvic floor. Kegels work to tighten and release the muscles in your pelvic floor to strengthen them.
Doing Kegels help with issues such as:
- Urinary Incontinence (leaking pee)
- Urge Incontinence ( the urgent need to pee)
- Fecal Incontinence (leaking poop)
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse (pelvic organs sagging or bulging into your vagina)
These are the steps to successfully try Seated Kegels.
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet on the floor.
- Contract your muscles of the pelvic floor. It should feel like you are trying to hold back your flow of urine.
- While doing this exercise, imagine you are closing all of the openings to your vagina. Imagine lifting it up and away from the chair.
- Hold this contraction for as long as you can. Start doing five seconds and work your way to a longer contraction.
- Take a deep breath in and breathe out, relaxing your contraction.
- Try Kegels in different positions such as standing or lying on your side.
- Perform this exercise eight to twelve times including two-minute rest in-between contractions.
- Repeat this up to two times daily.
Follow these steps to do Kegel exercises. Doing these exercises helps strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
This exercise is a way to get all of the muscle groups to work together in unison. Your quadriceps, hamstrings, pelvic floor muscles, core, and lower back muscles are worked when doing this exercise.
To do this exercise:
- Stand with your feet one to two feet away from the wall.
- Slowly start to lean back toward the wall, lowering yourself to a sitting position. Your hips and knees should be at 90 degrees to one another.
- Engage your core. Do this by taking a deep breath in, and while exhaling, feel as if you are pulling your belly button into the wall.
- As an added bonus, contract your pelvic floor by doing a Kegel while holding this position.
- Hold this position for as long as you can. Rest for one minute, then repeat this exercise five times.
This exercise works to strengthen your core. Doing this exercise every day can help you to get stronger right after having a C-section.
As a cesarean delivery scar starts to heal, the different layers of skin such as the skin and fascia become adhered to one another. These layers limit the ability to have a range of motion.
These adhesions can result in future problems such as frequent urination, and hip or back pain. Giving yourself a scar tissue massage can break up the adhesions and assist with proper scar tissue healing.
Only begin scar massages after your scar is healed and your doctor gives you the green light to do so. Here are the steps to begin massaging your scar tissue.
- Lie on your back with your fingers positioned above your scar. Pull the skin with your fingertips around the scar as you observe its movement. Try sliding it up or down and side-to-side. Notice if it begins to move more freely in one direction than the other.
- While working in one direction, slowly start to move the scar back and forth. Start off gently then gradually move towards a more aggressive massage.
- Move the scar up or down, or side to side, or even around in circles. Doing this in small movements is better. Tissue immobilization can be worked in all areas of the abdomen.
- If your scar is painful, stop and try again at a later date. Once you are comfortable enough, you can start doing this massage once a day.
Doing scar massages helps the scar tissue from growing in unwanted places. It helps smooth out thick scar tissue, and it increases blood flow which is crucial for helping the scar tissue to heal.
In general, exercise should not start until six to eight weeks after having a C-section. You should always check in with your doctor before beginning any exercises. Low-impact exercises such as yoga, Pilates, or swimming are the best ways to begin exercising during recovery.
The traverse abdominis muscle is an important muscle that is responsible for supporting your core. This muscle also supports your Linea Alba, which is a fibrous structure that expands from the xiphoid, down to the pubic bone. This muscle supports your core stability.
Here are the steps to complete leg slides:
- Lie your back on the floor with your knees bent and flat on the ground. Wear socks or put a towel under your feet to allow your feet to slide easily on the floor.
- Take a deep breath. As you exhale, try contracting your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button towards your spine, without ruining the curvature of your back.
- While doing this contraction, slowly begin to extend your foot away from your body until the foot is extended fully.
- Slowly bring it back to the starting position.
- Repeat this exercise ten times on each side once a day.
This exercise should make it easier to perform this on a daily basis. Start on a basic level, then ramp up this exercise once you start to feel more comfortable doing so.
When to Start Low-Impact Exercise After a C-Section?
Immediately following your C-section, it is okay to start doing light exercises such as walking. Avoid running, jumping, or any other intense activities before consulting with your healthcare provider.
Most importantly, listen to your body to know whether or not low-impact activities will benefit you right after having a C-section. Light walks or other low-impact activities will benefit your body whether or not you feel like these exercises are doing anything. Anything small can help your body to receive more strength as your body continues to recover.
Your healthcare provider might suggest you avoid swimming until the incision has healed. It depends on the severity of the procedure and how you feel about swimming. Check with your doctor before trying to swim.
Starting low-impact activities right after having a C-section can help to improve your mood, mind, and body. The recovery process can be reduced when doing the proper exercises. Doing the proper exercises shouldn’t feel like they hurt. If they do make you hurt, it is best to stop until you feel ready to begin doing light exercises.
When to Start High-Impact Exercise After a C-Section?
In most scenarios, it is okay to start doing high-impact activities after your healthcare provider cleared you to do so. This clearance usually happens after your six-week mark.
At this point, it is okay to begin regular exercises if you haven’t had any complications with urine or pelvic floor issues. If you ever do begin to experience any pelvic floor dysfunctions and other musculoskeletal issues, it is best to see a pelvic floor specialist specialized in women’s healthcare before starting any high-impact activities.
Getting back into your normal exercise routine will be more gradual during and after recovery. It is a gradual process to get back to where you were before. Being patient in your abilities during your recovery will help you eventually get back to intense physical activity.
Exercises to Avoid After a C-Section
You should avoid doing planks, crunches, sit-ups, twisting movements, and push-ups for the first twelve weeks after starting to exercise again. You should only start doing exercises once your core has healed from surgery, or when there is no clear sign of diastasis recti or any pressure on your abdomen while doing core work.
Avoid trying to curl the front of your body. This only makes it worse. Further separation of the abdominals can increase this risk and possibly prevent you from fully recovering. Building your core stability is important to begin before going towards challenging abdominal exercises.
These are some of the core exercises you should avoid right after a C-section.
- Twisting movements that place strain on abdominal tissues
- Lifting heavy objects
- Push-ups on flat ground
- Leg raises
These exercises should be avoided since they tend to put a lot of pressure behind the ab wall and scar, leading to pain and more damage to your scar tissue.
Exercises After C-Section to Reduce Tummy
It is often frustrating to be stuck with a hanging belly after having a C-section. The good news is you are not alone in this journey to recovery. Lots of mamas struggle with getting their bodies back to normal.
How to Get Rid of a Hanging Belly After a C-Section
- Develop a cardio routine. Cardio exercises can help to burn fat and tone your muscles.
- Eat healthy fats and proteins.
- Try regular strength training.
- Drink lots of water.
- Massage with oils.
- Try skin-firming products.
- Go to the spa for a skin wrap.
If you follow these tips, your tummy fat will start going away once you have started using a routine. Be patient with yourself as you go through this process after having a C-section. Losing weight while recovering can take a while.
These are some tips you can use to improve your tummy over time.
Once your surgeon cuts your skin, this can result in a pooch just under your stomach. This can add stress to your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor.
First, you need to heal and recover before you start exercising. Once you can, start doing light exercises like walking to get your body moving.
Once you are approved to do so, you can start by getting a post-pregnancy massage from a qualified therapist. Getting a massage may help break up body fat, and help lose fluids resulting from lymph nodes, which reduce your waistline.
Make sure during your recovery, the therapist avoids the abdominal area and focuses mainly on the back, hands, and legs.
Drink lots of water and fluids
Drinking water can help maintain the fluid balance in your body while burning the excess fat resulting from your waist. It is always important to stay hydrated, especially after giving birth.
Start eating healthy foods
It is important to eat healthily as a new mom. Make sure your diet is filled with carbohydrates that are low in fat and loaded with the proper vitamins and minerals. Eat more fruits and vegetables and lean protein. Avoid tons of sugar and sodas, as well as high saturated fats and fried foods.
These exercises and incorporating better lifestyle choices can place you in the right spot to fully recover. Speaking with medical professionals, getting adequate nutrition, and maintaining exercise after recovery can help with your journey to recovery.