Exercise after C-section can help you heal faster, but knowing what moves are safe is important.
Now that you've had your baby, you're probably eager to get back to your pre-pregnancy exercise routine. Exercise after C-section can help you heal faster and get back to feeling like yourself, but knowing when your body is ready and which exercises to do -- and which ones to avoid -- is crucial. "Readiness to resume activity after a C-section can vary a lot depending on the mother's fitness level, age and overall health," says Helene Byrne of BeFit-Mom, a prenatal and postpartum health and fitness specialist who authored "Exercise After Pregnancy."
"Fit moms recover quickly and can feel ready to get moving again in a matter of weeks. Other moms might find walking a fairly strenuous activity for several weeks if not more." Byrne stresses that each woman should check in with her OB/GYN and discuss when exercise is right for her based on how she's healing after the initial six-week time frame. After you've checked in with your doctor, there are some do's and don'ts you should keep in mind when thinking about exercise after C-section.
Most of your recovery will take place in the weeks immediately after giving birth. "During the first six to eight weeks, do not do things that stretch the incision or cause your belly to bulge, which will stretch out the incision," says Marianne Ryan, a physical therapist and the award-winning author of "Baby Bod."
Here are three general exercises to avoid:
- Heavy Lifting
Avoid picking up anything that weighs more than your newborn baby, as it can place pressure on your healing abdomen muscles. This includes lifting heavy grocery bags or doing any weight-training exercises.
- High-Impact Exercises
Exercises like running, aerobics or anything that stresses the hips or pelvic floor should be avoided. Those muscles and joints are still healing, and an intense workout could interfere with recovery.
- Twisting Movements
After a C-section, you have both internal and external stitches, and twisting movements should be avoided due to these incisions. This includes twisting that may happen during yoga, Pilates and dancing exercises as well.
When your doctor says you can begin an exercise routine, most women start on toning their midsection, and experts agree that this is the way to go. "I think it would be best to focus on the pelvic floor muscles first, and once you have control of them, then expand to other parts of the body," acknowledges Ryan.
Ease your way back into exercise with a few of these practices:
Seated on a chair or large exercise ball, tighten your pelvic muscles, squeezing in and sucking your belly button. "Core muscles -- the pelvic floor muscles are the bottom of the core -- should be done with the right alignment and with the proper breathing coordination," says Ryan. "When you do a pelvic floor contraction the right way, it restarts the core muscles to work optimally again."
Low-impact exercises like walking are great for most women. "Fitness walking, with a baby in a stroller, is the ideal re-entry activity for most new moms," says Byrne. She added that women should walk at a moderate pace for about 20 minutes, which will increase circulation and accelerate healing.
- Deep Breathing
Also called "diaphragmatic breathing," this exercise is done while laying on your back with your knees supported by a pillow. You then concentrate on tightening your stomach muscles with each inhale. By doing so, you're slowly working on toning your abs.
- Arm Rotations and Ankle Flexes
Holding your arms out at your sides, make small circles with your arms, focusing on keeping them parallel to the ground. For ankle flexes, hang your feet off the bed and rotate your feet side to side and up and down.
Byrne points out that exercise should feel good. You should keep an eye on any signs that you may be working too hard. "Pain or discomfort either during or after exercise, increased inflammation or bleeding at the incision site and fatigue are all signs that you need to slow down," she continues. Healing from a C-section takes time, and knowing which exercises to avoid and focusing on the ones that can aid healing will help you recover quickly and get you back to your fit lifestyle.
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