If you had a c-section, keep in mind that in addition to recovering from the drastic bodily changes resulting from pregnancy, you are also recovering from a major abdominal surgery. This means that you will be weaker, especially in the abdominal muscles, than the new mom who didn’t have a c-section, and will have more pain and difficulty with mobility. Your doctor will give you guidelines on the activities that are allowed and those that are advised against in the first days and weeks after surgery, but many women have doubts about exactly when it’s okay to start exercising.
The First Days: It’s important to stand up straight from day one and not give into the pain by altering your posture. An elastic abdominal support may help to relieve the discomfort and stabilize the incision, especially while you are up and about for the first two to three weeks.
More from The Bump: Nurses Invent Drape To Give C-Section Moms Immediate Contact With Baby
Weeks 2-6: I recommend not attempting any exercise until 10 days post-op to give your incision time to mend while it’s most fragile. Most doctors require a follow up visit around eight to 10 days post-op and again at six weeks post-op. Ask your doctor at those check-ups what you are allowed to do in the weeks that follow. Many doctors have a stock response to avoid all exercise until six weeks postpartum. However, if you ask for more detailed advice regarding specific gentle exercises, most agree that you can, in fact, start to do some exercise before.
I often advise women to show their doctor a portion of the videos that I made for the first six weeks post-cesarean on BabyWeight.TV. If you were fairly fit going into surgery, your doctor will likely approve exercise. But even if you were not exercising through your pregnancy, extremely gentle exercise is generally allowed.
Professional Advice: Dr. Leighanne Glazener, ob-gyn at the Corpus Christi Women’s Clinic in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the advising MD for my book, Baby Weight, says: “I tell a new c-section patient on discharge that she can walk all she wants, but not to lift anything over 20 pounds for six weeks. She can drive when she can move well enough to comfortably turn and look over her shoulder and to stomp on the floor as is required to hit the car’s brake quickly without hesitation, which is usually around the two week mark. I caution against any abdominal “crunch” exercises until six weeks post-op, when the fascial incision, the most important layer, is healed by at least 80 percent, to reduce the risk of hernia.”
More from The Bump: The 3 Most Important Third Trimester Exercises
Your surgeon is familiar with your particular case and must ultimately be the one who clears you for exercise. You might be in a hurry to get moving and recover your shape, but returning to activity before your body is ready will result in a setback and slow your recuperation in the end.
Sometimes even after you are medically cleared to exercise, you’ll feel discomfort during or after your workout, often felt as an uncomfortable pulling or burning sensation around the incision, or as an ache that lasts for several minutes or longer after activity. Heed the warning signs and reduce activity for a day or two. The best approach is to first listen to your doctor and then to listen to your body. Your body might tell you it is okay to start moving, but you should only do so after your doctor tells you it’s okay. —Micky Marie Morrison, PT, ICPFE
(Photo: Getty Images)
More from The Bump: