Ways to Exercise After a Cesarean

I’ve been a certified personal trainer for 12 years now, licensed massage therapist for 10 years, and mom for 7 years. I’ve been pregnant three times with three different delivery outcomes (induced with emergency cesarean section with the first, natural birth with the second, breeched fetus with a scheduled cesarean with the third) – I have enough material to write a book! For now, I’ll start with this blog post! I’d like to focus on post-natal physical fitness after a cesarean. Before going any further, I’d like to say that everyone heals differently – and there are many types of healing taking place, emotional and physical – sleep, rest and getting to know baby are priority. I’ve been through two C-sections now, with two very different experiences but the recovery journey remained similar. For this blog post I’ll outline how I’m managing to gradually recover my strength, balance, speed and coordination – this is still a work in progress, 8 weeks postpartum.

Weeks 1-6 – oxymoron to say, not much going on these weeks, yet there is! Immense recovery and changes happening. The recommendation is to lift nothing heavier than the baby. That’s when this next bit of advice is critical. I made sure I wore a supportive belly band (the doctor mentioned that studies have not shown wearing one made a difference – I believe tactile sense has a lot of value thus it made a difference to me) and focus on deep breathing exercises as follows;
Inhaling through the nose for a count of four seconds – pausing for one second – exhaling through the mouth for four seconds, slowly and completely before beginning the next inhalation. Repeat this sequence four times in a row and perform frequently throughout the day.
I would perform this sequence while out on a walk, before a nap or while breast feeding. The goal and intent is to help the abdominal muscles recover, utilizing their most basic function, and bringing awareness to you, their power. The mind to muscle connection (neuromuscular connection) is why this step is critical. How would you know if something is functioning properly if you first don’t establish a relationship with it. You must be familiar with it’s strength and function, when standing still, and in motion.

How would you know if something is functioning properly if you first don’t establish a relationship with it. You must be familiar with it’s strength and function, when standing still, and in motion.

This brings me to the second step for these weeks – walking. All variations of walking, slow, quick, short strides, long strides, short quick strides, long slow strides, shaking your hips from side to side, holding the hips still, and so on. Begin slowly and only as tolerated, no steep inclines or unstable surfaces. Again, the goal is to establish a base line, get familiar with your body at its current state so you could help it along to the next step. The third vital step for these weeks – to enhance that mind to muscle connection – are pelvic tilts and kegels. Pelvic tilts are a good strengthener of the pelvic area and a baseline exercise, preparing the body for more. To perform, imagine pushing your tailbone out (tush out) and then inward (so that the arch in your lower back flattens) squeeze your glute (buns) muscles.

What do all these exercises have in common? The core and pelvic floor. If you’ve suffered some degree of diastasis recti – you’ll have some degree – (when the connective tissue between your left and right rectus abdominis stretches and separates) these exercises are helpful and non invasive. If you are experiencing low back pain or bowel issues, get checked for diastasis recti. The link below includes great exercises and tips for postpartum. I performed the Sit-backs and Leg-bracing noted in the article as soon as I was able to, about a week after surgery. The second link leads to a great article on core exercises for new moms with diastasis recti.

Postpartum exercises from babies.sutterhealth.org
Core exercises for new moms with diastasis recti from dailyburn.com

Weeks 6-8 – and here I am. After my 6 week postpartum check-up I got the OK from my doctor to begin exercising with light weights. Always consult with your doctor before moving on to weight training, no matter how light, or how fit you were prior to pregnancy. I began with 5lbs dumb bells in each hand or a 10lb kettle bell. Basic exercises, mostly stationary. I will have to continue this article in a follow-up blog post that will include videos of my exercise routine, along with fun creative ways to gently challenge the body postpartum cesarean. I will post by next week, I’ll have to check in with Boss Baby first! Don’t hesitate to contact me for a consultation regarding a personalized program! I’m here to guide and support, meanwhile…

Stand Tall, Breathe Deep!
Corina

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