Getting back to exercise after baby can be daunting regardless of how you delivered your baby. However, if you had a c-section, this could add another layer of consideration to getting back into exercise. It’s important to know when to start exercise after c-section.
When to Start Exercise after C-Section
It may surprise some that you can actually start exercise immediately after a c-section. It is important to follow some basic guidelines when it comes to exercise after a c-section, but it isn’t complicated.
Here are a few guidelines to consider as you start exercise:
- Let pain be your guide
- Do not allow pain levels go beyond 2-3/10 from where your pain started. For example, if you are experiencing 2/10 pain in your incision prior to moving, do not allow that pain to go above 4 or 5/10 at most. If the pain does start to increase significantly, this could be a sign of over-doing it or that you need a break.
- Remember the “talk test“
- When you are walking or moving, you should be able to carry on a conversation. If you’re feeling short of breath or cannot carry on a conversation, this could be a sign of working too hard or needing to rest.
- Rate how hard you are working
- You can rate how hard you are working with a 0-10 scale called the Borg Scale. 0 is considered very easy like sitting and watching TV and 10 is working as hard as you can. You should be no higher than 4 on this scale (maybe 5).
- Soreness or some muscle aches are “okay” but should be mild. If that soreness does not improve after 24-48 hours, that’s a sign you did too much
- Vaginal Bleeding
- Vaginal bleeding after a c-section is normal, however, if you notice a large increase in vaginal bleeding with activity or exercise, this is a sign of doing too much.
- Limit Bending, Lifting, and Twisting
- Limit these movements for the first few weeks after a c-section.
Safe Exercises after C-Section
There are specific exercises that I recommend over others after a c-section. These are exercises that will not put extra stress on your incision and should not cause more pain. Incorporating exercise after your c-section can help improve and even speed up recovery.
I recommend walking over any other exercise after childbirth, especially c-section. Walking after a c-section can help prevent secondary complications from what is a major abdominal surgery. I recommend starting with 5-10 minutes of walking, 2-3 times per day even the day after your c-section. Monitor how you feel after this walk and gradually add 5-10 minutes to your walking routine every week as you’re able.
Breathing exercises after a c-section are crucial for many reasons. These reasons include improve oxygen delivery to muscles after surgery and help with pain management. In addition, working on breathing exercises helps to start coordinating your diaphragm with your pelvic floor.
Pelvic tilts can be done laying in your hospital bed after surgery. Lay on your back with knees bent. Gently press your low back into the bed and slowly tilt the pelvis forward after this.
Shoulder blade squeezes
Squeezing the shoulder blades can help improve posture and upper back strength. This is important to start to rebuild strength and improve posture postpartum.
Deep Core Activation
Starting to activate the deep core muscles helps set a foundation of strength to support your back and pelvis as you recover.
In addition to the above exercises, stretches for your legs or neck/ shoulders are typically safe to perform as well.
Exercises to Save for After at Least 6 Weeks
While you can start moving immediately after a c-section (or within hours), there are some exercises that are better to save for later down the road. Those exercises include:
- Jumping exercises
- HIIT Workouts
- Twisting core exercises
- Heavy weight lifting
- Sit-ups, V-ups, crunches
Red Flags with Exercise and after C-Section
At any point after a c-section, watch out for these red flags and consider calling your healthcare provider:
- Fever over 100.4
- Very heavy vaginal bleeding or large clots
- Shortness of breath that does not improve with rest
- Leg swelling
- Headache that does not improve with over the counter medications
- Pus or drainage from your incision that is green/yellow or has a foul odor
Exercise after c-section does not have to be intimidating. Listen to your body as you move through recovery. If you need more guidance, consider a fitness app that will help guide you through your recovery like Expecting and Empowered (Code: SIMPLI for a $20 discount!).
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