It is understandable that new mums are keen to get their bodies back in shape and lose weight post-pregnancy, but taking time to recover from pregnancy and delivery is important before getting back into exercise.
If your baby was born by caesarean section this is all the more so. Your first and foremost priority is to recover from surgery and settle in with your beautiful new bundle of joy and not rush any fast weight loss.
Whilst caesarean techniques can vary according to individual circumstance. They all involve a surgical procedure and opening of the lower abdominal wall, which means extra care and thought is important in regards to recovery and returning to exercise.
The early days
In the early days after a caesarean delivery you will be mostly resting and recovering, with sensible pain management helping you to do gentle activities, commence feeding and bond with your baby. During this time you will benefit from performing some very simple exercises 3 times per day:
- Pelvic Floor exercises 3 long lifts or 5 – 8 quick lifts , will help strengthen your pelvic floor after assist the prevention of incontinence and other problems down the track. You can see examples of pelvic floor exercises here
- Core strengthening. The deepest abdominal and back muscles support your spine and pelvis and provide foundation strength for all other activities. As soon as it is comfortable you can lightly start to regain their strength and control. Gently draw your lower abdomen inward and upward and hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Relax and repeat x 3. Check you are not sucking in your waist or ribs and you breathe normally as you draw in below the navel.
- Simple foot and leg movements such as waving your feet back and forth x 10 and bending and straightening your knees x 5 on each leg will help maintain healthy blood flow whilst you are resting in bed.
- Gentle neck and shoulder movements will also help to minimise neck and shoulder stiffness and post caesarean postural problems: Sit tall to lengthen your spine, then roll your shoulders slowly up, back and down x 10 then carefully roll your head and neck in a small circle 3 times each direction.
The early weeks
As the days go on, simply getting up and about and looking after your baby is all the activity you need plus continuing pelvic floor strengthening and neck and shoulder stretches. Avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activity for a good six weeks or more.
When you are comfortable you can start light walks. Getting out and about with your baby in the pram is great for your mind as well as your body. Commence with 5 minutes and gradually increase your time within comfort , monitoring your comfort and energy levels.
The life of a new mum involves plenty of leaning forward over your baby, at the change table, on the floor and when cuddling or feeding.
This leaves them prone to neck and back problems. Add to this a subconscious tendency to protect your abdominal wound, women who have had a caesarean are even more at risk of back muscle weakness, strains and associated aches and pains.
To keep your back strong and your posture proud, sit or stand tall frequently and continue your simple neck and shoulder exercises.
Add upper back strengthening to your daily routine. Sit or stand tall with your fingers resting behind your ears and elbows pointing sideways. Lift your pelvic floor and engage your core then, without arching your back glide your elbows backwards , focusing on drawing your shoulder blades inwards and down wards. Repeat x 5
In regards to moving onto more strenuous exercise, you are well advised to continue gentle walking and light activities for 12 weeks after a caesarean delivery.
Then within comfort you may gradually return to low impact exercises, swimming and gentle strength training.
Sound healing and strong core muscles are imperative before trying abdominal curls and weight training. Gentle pilates style core exercises, raising an arm or leg on all fours for example, are ideal preparatory exercise for weeks prior to ab curls. As a guide to when you are ready , you should be able to engage and maintain pelvic floor and core recruitment before and during any exercise.
Most importantly, always listen to your body and know that you will get back in shape …all in good time.
- Take time to recover and heal
- Listen to your body
- Perform gentle pelvic floor, core, circulation and mobility exercises early on
- Start gentle low impact exercise such as walking at 6 weeks or so and progress gradually
- Progress to low impact and light resistance exercise programs when your body is ready, this is usually at around 10 – 12 weeks
- Seek advice from a womens health physiotherapist or women health experienced fitness instructor as to when and what is right for you
- Acknowledge the amazing work your body has done and the fabulous job you are doing
- Be patient and kind to your self during this precious time
- Believe with confidence that you will get your body back in shape in time
- Too much, too soon
- Placing undue stress or expectation on your body or your mind
- Over-stressing your scar, pelvic floor, body and energy levels
- Lifting anything heavier than your baby for 6 – 12 weeks
- Exercise if you feel unwell or tired or have any pain or concern
- Exercise in the water until your lochia has ceased and your incision is well healed
- Any exercise during which you are unable to maintain pelvic floor and core recruitment