As a general rule, before new mums return to exercise, they should wait 6-8 weeks following a natural birth, and somewhere between 8-12 weeks after a c-section. Your Doctor signs you off to exercise, so you’re best to check with them first.
A c-section differs from a natural birth so take a look at my blog ‘5 FAQS about C-Sections‘ to familiarise yourself with what’s involved in a c-section procedure.
Now, I’ll give you some information about why it’s important to wait longer before you resume a postnatal exercise regime:
Gives time for scar to heal – Some sections are performed under an emergency procedure, others are elected. Regardless of the reason you had a c-section, you need to wait longer before returning to exercise to help give your scar time to heal. Rest is the best thing you can do for yourself after having had a c-section, to be quite honest. Get your partner, your family and your friends to assist you with bringing up baby in those first few weeks after birth, and don’t be ashamed to ask for it. You deserve the rest.
Risk of infection – If you’ve had a c-section, your risk of infection around the scar site itself is higher, and I’ve known several postnatal clients suffer with infections after birth. In fact, roughly 10% of postnatal women suffer with some form of infection following a c-section procedure. If you’re in any doubt, consult your Doctor. Keep a close eye on things “down there”, and if you see any changes in your skin, are worried about leakage, your scar site develops a foul odour, or something just doesn’t feel right, mention it to your GP. Best to be safe, than sorry, as they say.
Doctor’s clearance – As I’ve mentioned above, your Doctor needs to give you clearance to resume exercise. Although in some cases, the “check up” itself is a fairly cursory affair, it’s still important to go along, have a chat with him/her and make sure that any existing medical issues are discussed which may stop you from exercising now you’re no longer pregnant. Although you may “feel” ready to exercise, it’s actually your GP who signs you off, so to speak. If you want to do some exercise, start with your pelvic floor, because this area is the main focus in any postnatal fitness/Pilates session.
Major operation – A c-section is like having major surgery. Some women will “feel” fine after 5 or 6 weeks, others won’t “feel” ready for several months afterwards. The important thing to bear in mind here is, your body needs time to heal afterwards, just like from any other surgery. If you (and I know some of you have) returned to exercise too soon/prior to being ready, you certainly know about it for a few days afterwards. The important thing to do is to return to exercise such as Pilates for your abdominals, and only low-level cardio/toning exercise after you’ve had your Doctor’s Check.
Pain on movement – If you’ve ever injured yourself, or had surgery such as a c-section, you’ll know how painful the most simplest of movements can be. Because a c-section is performed to your abdominal are, it’s amazing how many movements require a contraction of your abdominals to perform eg getting out of bed, going from standing to seated, standing from seated, shuffling from the back to the front of a seat, walking in general, bending down to pick something up, reaching for objects etc. If you were to return to exercise when you’re still suffering pain, then chances are, you’re going to be a lot more pain in the 3-4 days following.
I hope that’s given you some information and helped educate you about why it’s important to wait a little longer before your return to exercise after having had a c-section. If you have any questions yourself about your recovery afterwards, do get in touch. I’m more than happy to help, as you know.