Following specific exercises after a C-section aid in faster recovery, weight loss, and toning of abdominal and pelvic muscles. However, since C-section is a major abdominal and pelvic surgery, starting an intense fitness regime right after delivery may be risky. Hence, allow your body sufficient time for the incision wound to heal.
Plan exercises according to your health status, beginning with low-impact exercises, such as Kegels and walking, and gradually moving on to those that exert pressure on the abdominal muscles. Further, consult your doctor before starting postnatal exercises after a C-section (1).
Read on to know more about the suitable exercises after a C-section delivery.
Exercises For C-Section Recovery
You may begin with breathing exercises, Kegels, and walking during the initial days of postpartum. Later, begin any exercise at a slower pace and gradually increase its intensity, always being aware of any discomfort, pain or any other weird symptom.
The following exercises may help in C-section recovery.
- Walking: Walking a few steps after you recover from the anesthesia can help reduce the risk of blood clots. You may try to walk with support in the recovery room and do short-distance house-walks for the initial days. Walk without support once you are completely out of anesthetic effects. Do not brisk walk or jog in the initial weeks until the incision heals.
- Seated Kegels: You may try a gentle squeeze of pelvic floor muscles sitting on the edge of the chair. You may begin Kegels as soon as the urinary catheter is removed. This helps to recover from the pain after C-section and strengthens pelvic floor muscles.
- Wall sit: You may stand with your back on the wall and lean against the wall to sit. This helps to strengthen the core muscles. Begin wall sits after your doctor approves it after the C-section incision wound has healed well. Usually this will take two to three weeks.
Not all women can get back to exercises immediately after weeks of postpartum. However, complete inactivity should be avoided after surgery since this may slow down the recovery and cause blood clots in some women. Therefore, seek your doctor’s suggestions and recommendations before beginning postnatal exercises, especially after C-section delivery.
Breathing Exercises Post C-Section
Breathing exercises can help clear your lungs, and these can be done with minimal physical effort. C-section involves anesthesia, so breathing exercises can be helpful to prevent anesthesia-related breathing problems (2).
The steps for breathing exercises are:
- Take a deep breath through your nose
- Hold for a count of two and breath out
You may repeat this three times and try to do it until you sneeze, cough, or laugh since this helps to clear the sputum. You may support the C-section wound with your hands during the initial days while breathing in and out to avoid pain. You may also huff instead of a forceful cough to avoid pain in the incision area.
Kegels After C-Section
Pelvic floor muscles are located in the bottom of the pelvis, and it supports the pelvic organs such as bowel, bladder, and uterus in women. Childbearing and childbirth can weaken these muscles and often cause bowel or bladder incontinence problems later in life.
Pelvic floor muscles exercises or Kegels can be started soon after the urinary catheter is removed after the C-section. You may begin with short squeezes and gradually progress to long squeezes. You may start with short yet frequent Kegels in the initial days.
You may observe the following points when doing Kegels after C-section (3).
- It should be similar to trying to hold urine or bowel. You should not clench your buttock or hold your breath during Kegels.
- Long squeezes involve tightening the pelvic floor muscles and letting the muscles relax.
- Try gentle and short squeezes on the side-lying position. You may do quick squeezes and then relax the muscles.
You may do ten long squeezes, each lasting for ten seconds, with muscle relaxation for ten seconds after each squeeze. Ten short squeezes can be done quickly after long squeezes. You may do it for three to five months regularly to strengthen the muscles.
Ways To Flatten The Tummy After C-Section
The postpartum belly reduces gradually after childbirth. Most women experience a reduction in the tummy by six weeks postpartum when the uterus involutes and goes back to its normal position. Exclusive breastfeeding can help this process. Crash diets and intense exercises are not recommended to flatten the tummy after delivery. Instead, you may try gentle exercises and gradually increase the intensity according to your doctor’s advice.
You may try the following exercises to reduce belly fat after C-section once your doctor approves to go with these exercises:
1. The bridge
Bridge or glute-bridge exercises help to stabilize the glutes, abdominal muscles, hamstrings, and pelvic floor muscles. You may lie with knees up and heels flat on the floor, press the heels, and lift the hips upward. Ensure that your upper back and shoulders are on the floor and the spine is straight while doing bridges.
You may repeat these exercises as much as you can and try to maintain this pose as long as possible on each bridge. The count and the time of each bridge may improve gradually in most women. Always ask your doctor before starting these exercises.
2. The tabletop
Tabletop helps to correct posture and stabilize the core. You may hold your body on your hands and feet during tabletop exercises. Try to keep the hands straight down beneath the shoulder. Try to get the thighs and hip to be above knees and bend knees and hold the pose as long as you can. You may bend elbows a little and move forward for the breasts to come over the hands. Increase the timings gradually.
3. Slide-leg glides
Slide-leg glides help strengthen and stabilize the leg muscles, pelvis, and core. Keep your legs stacked and stretch on the floor on one side (side-lying). You may use a pillow to support the head. Keep your spine in a straight line and keep the upper hand on the floor in front of the tummy. Bend the bottom leg to keep the knees at ninety degrees. Then, lift the top leg over hip level, stretch it, glide forward, and return it. You may repeat counts on both legs.
4. Knee touchdowns
Knee touchdowns help strengthen the muscles of the legs, pelvic floor, abdomen, and lower back. You may lay on all fours with the knees folded and hands straight in front of you. Stay in a neutral position with limbs supporting your body. Gently raise one leg until your thigh is parallel to the ground while trying to get your belly button to your spine. Then, slowly bring it down until the knee touches the ground. Repeat the same with the other leg. You may do an equal number of repetitions for each leg.
Certain exercises that stretch the abdomen too far should be avoided. In any case, talk to your doctor before doing any exercises in postpartum to confirm that your incision wound is healed and there are no risks.
Warning Signs To Slow Down
Never overexert yourself during postpartum days, and do exercises only as much as you can. Plan postpartum workout schedules, meals, and feeding appropriately to avoid overexertion. Good rest and sleep are also necessary for recovery.
Warning signs that indicate that you are exercising too much may include (4):
- Muscle pain and muscle aches
- Color changes in postpartum vaginal discharge (lochia) to pink or red
- Increased postpartum vaginal discharge
- Onset of constant pain at or around the site of C-section incision
Talk to your healthcare provider and plan the postpartum exercise schedules as per your health status and other physical conditions.
Exercises To Avoid After C-Section
A C-section is a major abdominal surgery, and you may have some limitations to do certain activities and exercises until the incision wound is fully healed. Do not put pressure on the abdomen before the wound is healed. In general, you may avoid the following exercises after C-section (5).
- Avoid lifting anything heavier than the baby for two weeks. However, even avoid lifting the baby for the first few days and seek help from the partner, family member, or caregivers.
- Avoid heavy household work and limit, not avoid, climbing stairs for at least three weeks.
- Avoid high-impact activities such as jumping, jogging, running, and intense gym workouts at least 12 weeks postpartum.
You may also avoid directly getting up from the bed from a sitting position until the wound heals. Instead, try to roll on the side and get up from the bed to avoid pressure on the incision. Driving and sexual activity are also not recommended up to six weeks postpartum after C-section delivery.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When can I start doing crunches after C-section?
You may wait until the abdominal incision is healed and you don’t have any pain. This may take more than eight to 12 weeks after childbirth (4). Women with diastasis recti, a widened space between the left and right abdominal muscles, should wait to do crunches until this resolves. Take your healthcare provider’s approval before doing abdominal crunches.
2. Can I do squats after the C-section?
You may wait until six weeks postpartum and confirm with your doctor and begin the squats if approved. Every woman heals differently, so do not begin until your doctor approves it for you.
3. Does the C-section belly go away with exercises?
Exercises after C-section should aim to enhance recovery and strengthen the pelvic and abdominal muscles. This may prevent complications such as bowel or urine incontinence or pregnancy issues in the future. Weight loss can be secondary since many mothers can lose weight with a well-balanced diet and breastfeeding. Always seek your doctor’s approval when you begin any postnatal exercises after a C-section procedure.
- Kegels, walking, and breathing exercises are a few simple exercises mothers can begin doing in the initial days after c-section.
- Once doctors approve, mothers can gradually try other exercises, such as the bridge and slide-leg glides, to flatten the tummy safely.
- Muscle aches, fatigue, and changes in the postpartum vaginal discharge to pink or red indicate you are over-exercising.
- Avoid lifting anything heavier than the baby for two weeks and abstain from high-impact activities, such as jumping, at least 12 weeks postpartum.
- Exercise After Delivery.
- Advice after Caesarean Birth.
- Fit for the Future – essential advice and exercises following childbirth.
- Postnatal exercise – sample workout.
- Exercise after having a caesarean.
- Exercise After Pregnancy.
- Postpartum exercise: When it’s safe to start running and lifting after pregnancy.