Getting your body back in shape after giving birth ranks somewhere on most new moms' list of priorities. But with little time to think of yourself, it can be tough. Start slow and the results will show.
Here are the risks you need to be aware of and the precautions you must take when hitting the gym after your c-section.
Recovery doesn't happen overnight
While you may be adamant that you want to lose the pregnancy weight, you need to be realistic with regards to your goals. You didn’t gain the weight overnight, so you can’t expect to lose it that quickly either.
A c-section is a major operation and it is essential that you do not push yourself too hard. Rather allow some time for complete healing to take place.
When the incision is made during a c-section, the walls of the rectus abdominus muscles are pulled apart. Then when the baby is taken out, the rectus sheath is repaired and the muscles are realigned.
From this point onward, the muscular recovery is exactly the same as that of vaginal birth. The only difference is that you now have an incision which has been stitched and needs time to heal. The first six weeks are crucial for recovery so make sure that you don’t do anything too strenuous.
After about six weeks, the muscles should have recovered sufficiently. This could take longer, however, if the muscles were weak before the c-section – therefore exercising while pregnant is crucial for recovery after birth. It is of extreme importance to get your physician’s stamp of approval before embarking on any training program.
Read: Recovering from a c-section
Pelvic tilt exercises or Kegels can be started immediately after giving birth. These are exercises that can be done in lying, seated or standing positions and require very little effort. They do, however, make a huge difference in your rate of recovery and also firm up the abdominal area. Repeat this simple exercise 10 times, twice a day:Lie on your back and bend your knees.Squeeze in your pelvic floor muscles as you breathe out.Pull your belly button in and up at the same time.Try to hold the squeeze for 10 seconds without holding your breath.
These exercises are important not only in regaining strength of the abdominal wall, but they also help prevent urine leakage after a c-section. It’s recommended that you do this for six to eight weeks while your stitches heal and until your doctor gives you clearance to train. It is normal to feel tightness, numbness or tingling around the scar and abdomen when initially starting with pelvic tilt exercises.
While you can do these exercises, there are certain restrictions regarding movement and exercise during this time. Under no circumstances attempt to do sit-ups or curls during this period.
You need to allow time for the stitches to heal and for the muscles to realign themselves. There is a realistic danger of long-term damage to the abdominal wall, as the muscles may be forced apart and stretched.
Read: Exercise guidelines for mom-to-be
After eight weeks
After a c-section, you need to wait around eight to ten weeks before embarking on a more formal and intense exercise program. This obviously is dependent on your fitness and strength levels prior to your c-section.
Once again, ask your health professional before embarking on any form of training. Also, before you put on your trainers and head for the nearest gym, there are some key factors to be aware of:
1. If you have any uncertainty regarding exercises after a c-section or normal vaginal birth, it is best to seek the advice of health professionals such as your doctor or biokineticist.
2. Trying to stay mobile and performing pelvic floor exercises will help increase your rate of recovery. You will be more intensely active a lot sooner.
3. Protect your scar and abdominal area as much as possible and use caution whenever moving around.
4. Great care should be taken when doing daily tasks, such as getting out of bed, lifting heavy objects or walking up and down stairs. Work and move at a pace that you can manage.
5. Always break movements, such as getting out of bed, up into parts. Never attempt to do the movement in one go. Remember to use your arms for support – especially when using your weakened back and abdominal muscles.
6. The essential factor in working abdominal muscles is to always tilt the pelvis backwards and to pull the abdominal muscles tightly.