You had a C-section and now you’re looking for tips and strategies for getting back on that workout train, hey?
You’ve probably seen the usual do and don’t lists and maybe you’ve even found a few C-section “safe” workouts. But there could be a couple things that some other pros haven’t mentioned.
Things that’ll help you dive back into your workout routine feeling strong and confident.
That’s why I’m sharing 4 things you need to know about exercise after a C-section.
#1. Focus More on How You’re Doing It
There are plenty of lists out there of exercises you shouldn’t do in the early weeks (and maybe even months) after a C-section.
They say you shouldn’t do things like:
- Running, jumping, burpee-ing
- Crunches, sit-ups, planks, v-sits, and other ab-focused exercises
- Heavy lifting or intense strength training
- Anything that puts a lot of pressure on your abdominal wall or pelvic floor (like heavy overhead presses or heavy barbell squats)
And these suggestions are all true. There are certain exercises – like these – that I wouldn’t recommend my clients do until we’ve done some groundwork to help rehab and strengthen their bodies first.
But the truth is, it’s less about what you’re doing and more about how you’re doing it.
Even if you’re doing “C-section safe” exercises, if your alignment is out of whack, or you’re holding your breath constantly, you’re not doing your body any favors.
This is why I am such a stickler for awesome form and great breathing. Especially in the early months postpartum. Especially after major abdominal surgery (AKA a C-section).
C-sections may be common, but they’re still major surgery. And you wouldn’t want to just go out and run 5K a mere 8 weeks after getting ACL surgery (unless you were willing to take the risk of injuring yourself and being sidelined for even longer).
Healing takes time and the right strategies and approaches to feel and function awesomely well again.
And one of the most important ingredients in the post C-section recovery pie is how you breathe and how your body bits are stacked on top of one another.
Because remember, it’s not simply about what you’re doing, but also how you’re doing it.
The strategies you use in the early weeks and months postpartum can help ensure your body heals well and can actually help you recover faster.
So educate yourself on some optimal alignment and breathing techniques to keep that recovery train rolling toward Feeling Awesome-ville.
I share lots of key strategies for getting into great alignment and breathing well during any workout you’re doing in this free workout program.
For the mini crash-course, remember these simple cues:
1. Untuck your butt
2. Stack your ribs over your hips
3. Exhale and engage your core during the hardest part of the exercise
#2. Scar Tissue Might Make Things Feel Painful or Weird (or Both)
Adhesions and scar tissue that build up because of a C-section can:
- Give you back or pelvic pain
- Make sex uncomfortable or painful
- Cause or contribute to incontinence
- Give you digestive issues (including stuff that looks and feels a lot like IBS)
- Even make your tissues go numb so it’s harder for you to feel your ab muscles working during exercise
Scar tissue is no joke and it can easily build up after going through surgery. Especially if you’ve had multiple cesarean surgeries.
So we want to break up that scar tissue to prevent (or help fix) any issues it could cause.
This is why I recommend that every women I know who’s had a C-section – even if it was years ago – go see a massage therapist or physiotherapist/physical therapist who’s skilled in C-section massage.
I’ve heard stories from women in their 60s+ who have had troubles related to C-section scar tissue get amazing results with massage. It’s never too late.
The best part is that it’s not time consuming (it only takes 4-5 minutes) and you can actually do it yourself if you can’t find someone in your area to help (although I highly recommend you try finding a qualified pro if you can, at least for an initial treatment).
Most women start doing scar tissue massage around the 6 week mark because by then your external scar should be healed pretty well.
You can check in with your therapist or doctor to make sure your incision site is well healed before starting the massage.
The best way to massage your scar is when you’re laying down on your back so that your muscles and tissues are completely relaxed and you can get the most benefit.
But honestly, just doing it is the most important part.
So go ahead and do some massage at the stop light if that’s what needs to happen in order for it to just get done.
Most women start with daily massage then after 2-3 weeks they’ll do it every other day, then a couple times a week, then once a week, then once things are feeling good, they might just do it every once and a while if they feel any tightness or symptoms creeping up.
Here’s a quick video showing you how to massage your scar:
Things didn’t go as planned and you’d rather not be reminded of that fact, so touching your scar daily is not your idea of fun.
If you’re having a tough time looking at or touching your scar I highly recommend you connect with a psychologist, counselor or other professional who can help you feel your feelings and become more comfortable with what happened. Even talking to your husband or partner can be incredibly helpful.
Because when you go through something like a C-section you can feel sad, disappointed and out of control – like it happened to you instead of you being in control of the situation. And that feeling can be hard to live with.
So I want you to know that it’s okay to find someone to listen and help you explore your feelings about what happened.
There’s no shame in getting help. There’s no shame in wishing things went differently. There’s no shame in having a C-section when you were set on having a vaginal birth.
This, my friend, is a shame-free zone.
This isn’t about what you did or didn’t do that caused this to happen. This is not your fault. This is about recognizing how amazing you are for growing and bringing a baby into the world – however the exit strategy went – and taking care of your body (and soul) after the fact.
So please ask for the support you need. You deserve it.
#3. It’s Not Just About What’s On the Outside
What you see on the outside of your skin – the external scar – is only a small part of what’s going on with your scar and the tissues around it.
The truth is that even if your scar looks healed on the outside, there could still be some crucial healing going down on the inside.
Scar tissue can actually continue to build for up to two years after having a C-section.
I’m not saying this to scare you or suggest you need to wait 2 years until your body settles into a new status quo before you dive into your usual pre-baby workouts.
The goal of saying that is to drive home the point that healing takes time.
This doesn’t mean you have to just sit around and wait though. You can absolutely start with some gentle strength training and build back up to higher weights and reps and intensity (while continuing to do some massage to help break up the scar tissue).
We simply want to take it slow and not dive into too much, too soon.
Because the last thing you want is to find yourself in the vicious get injured, rehab, repeat cycle.
#4. Your Pelvic Floor Still Needs Some TLC
You may be thinking, “Huzzah! I had a C-section so I don’t need to worry about my pelvic floor.” And it’s true that not having to go through a vaginal birth may have helped create less issues for your pelvic floor.
But you still went through a pregnancy. And that’s still an incredibly challenging thing for your pelvic floor to go through.
So before you dive into those burpees (because I know you really wanna 😉 ), remember that taking awesome care of your pelvic floor post-birth is still a smart idea – even when you’ve had a C-section.
Baby may have come out the side door but the main entrance still needs some TLC.
This means that you’re still going to want to see a pelvic health physiotherapist or physical therapist and do some pelvic floor recovery and rehab work once you feel comfortable and ready for it.
This may feeling daunting and challenging and overwhelming. So many things to consider. So many things to do. And you still need to keep your baby alive!
Deep breath. It’s okay. You don’t have to get it right every day. Just start somewhere. Pick one thing. Massage, alignment, breathing, something. Focus on that then start stacking the other strategy bits on top of that foundation to embrace the big picture.
Going through a C-section is not easy. The recovery doesn’t happen overnight.
But you absolutely can get back into the exercises you want to do – feeling great.
You simply need to give your body some time, space and the right tools to heal well first.
Start by taking these 4 tips seriously and you’ll be well on your way to feeling like yourself again.
P.S. Did you like this post? If you did, please share it with your mom friends.