C-sections are very common, and often the most under-prepared for surgery. The recovery is typically downplayed, when in fact it is major surgery! I talk to moms all the time that have gone through a c-section and are completely lost when it comes to recovering safely (due to little or no guidance from their doctors). So today, we are going to talk about some c-section recovery do’s and don’ts!
If we are meeting for the first time - Hi! Welcome to Vibrant Mama Wellness! My name is Megan, and I am a pre and postnatal personal trainer. I am certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, with a specialization in pre+postnatal fitness through PROnatal Fitness. I am a mom of 1, and became interested in pre + postnatal fitness as I was going through my own pregnancy journey!
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. This blog post is based on my own research and experience - please consult a medical professional before starting or making any changes to your exercise program).
What exactly is a c-section? It is short for Cesarean section - and is major abdominal surgery. The baby is delivered by cutting through through the abdominal wall and the uterus. It is often performed if the baby is in a unique position (breech), if there is a problem with the cord or placenta, or if the baby/mother is in distress.
The recovery afterwards is no joke. In my case, I was instructed to be up and moving 12 hours later, and it was excruciating. Walking to the bathroom took every ounce of strength I had!
Okay so let’s talk about what you can do to help your recovery!
Ask for help! Yup - this tip is first for a reason. Let me reiterate again...a c-section is MAJOR surgery. There is no other surgery where you advised to move around and act as if nothing ever happened. And this is no exception! Recruit your spouse, have family and friends come buy to help cook and clean - don’t try to do it all! The longer you can take it easy, the better your recovery will be.
Continue to take pain medication. Most people are recommended just Tylenol and Advil, and to continue taking for about two weeks. I thought I could wean myself off about a week in, and let me tell you - that was not a smart decision. Keep up on your pain meds until you are told not to!
Wear a belly binder/band/supportive leggings or underwear. Take all the extra support you can get. I know for me personally, it felt like my organs were falling out of my body. I didn’t get a belly binder from the hospital, but I had a supportive band I wore during my pregnancy, and I purchased compression high waisted leggings and underwear. This gave just a little bit of pressure so it felt like I wasn’t going to split open at any minute! It made me feel more confident as I was moving around that I wasn’t going to hurt myself.
Get yourself some high waisted underwear! There is nothing worse than having fabric rubbing against your c-section incision - newly postpartum or even a few months later. I bought some silk, high waisted underwear that felt great on my skin and didn’t irritate the area.
Hold a pillow to your stomach when you laugh/cough/sneeze. This is a tip that no one told me until it was too late. I remember the first time I coughed in the hospital (my water went down the wrong way) and I immediately erupted into a coughing fit and felt like my incision was ripping wide open. It was terrible. The nurses then told me to hold a pillow to my stomach to splint some of the pressure. It sounds weird, but it actually works. ALWAYS have a pillow nearby, as you never know when you might need it!
Take the stairs. If you live in a two story home, try having a “baby command station” on both levels. What this means is to have an area with all the essentials - diapers, wipes, burp cloths, pumping/nursing items, pads, nipple balm, onesies, extra shirts, etc downstairs and upstairs so you don’t need to go back and forth. Ideally, you would only take the stairs twice daily: when you wake up in the morning, and when you go to bed at night. Climbing stairs is tough on your body (and recruits your abs which need to be resting!) so limit them as best you can.
Start working out too early. This is something I see a lot of C-sections mamas do. I can’t not stress this enough - DO NOT WORKOUT UNTIL YOU’RE CLEARED BY A DOCTOR IF YOU HAD A C-SECTION. Again, it is MAJOR surgery! There is no other surgery that allows you to workout before being cleared by a doctor, and I don’t know why people think this is an exception. Your abdominals have been cut through, and they need time to heal. Trying to workout before your body is ready can have serious consequences, so if you’re reading this, please let this be your biggest takeaway! If you really feel the need to get moving, I recommend walks. Walking is so great for your cardio-vascular system, plus getting outside and getting fresh air does wonders for your mental state, especially postpartum! But please please do not do any sort of workout until you’re cleared. Okay?
Alright - so now that we know that you should wait for a doctors approval before working out, what do you do when you are cleared? I recommend avoiding any sort of planks and traditional abdominal exercises (like crunches, russian twists, etc). The best thing you can do is to practice diaphragmatic or TVA breathing exercises. This helps you reconnect with your deep core, and start to slowly build back that strength, by learning how to manage the pressure in your abdomen. Remember that everyone recovers at different speeds, but slow and steady is the best approach. I like to remind my postpartum clients that it took your body 9 months to make a baby. It’s going to take more than 6 weeks to feel like your body is back to normal.
In conclusion, my biggest tip here is to take it slow. A c-section is a big deal, and it will take your body time to recover and heal. Don’t rush it! Always ask for help, and if you experience any pain in your incision site or heavy vaginal bleeding, seek medical care right away.
Did you have a c-section? Preparing for one? Let me know in the comments!
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Disclaimer: This blog does not serve as medical advice. Please consult your medical provider before starting a new fitness routine. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.