The road to fit after a c-section is a long and twisty road. One to be approached with caution – as I found, much to my detriment.
Everyone’s c-section recovery will be different. Our bodies are all unique. We all start in a different place. We all heal differently. And we all branch into different directions.
My own c-section was relatively straight forward and my recovery wasn’t too complex (as long as I didn’t push myself too hard). Despite this, until about six weeks after my caesarean I was unable to do even simple tasks. This isn’t surprising as a c-section is a major surgery that cuts through your core abdominal muscles and takes time to heal. And this is after your growing baby has stretched, distorted, and in some cases, torn your muscles.
I know, I make pregnancy sound like torture, which isn’t surprising given my pregnancy story but, in all honesty, growing and delivering a baby is tough on your body. And, even though generations before us have gone through it, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take some time to accept that pregnancy changes us – physically and mentally!
For me, pregnancy ruined my body. Severe pregnancy sickness meant I was unable to exercise for eight months and lost over three stone. Most of my weight loss was muscular. My body became weaker than it had been in years, my skin slack, and my limbs wobbly. And so, pregnancy over, and with a bouncy (if grizzly) baby in my arms, I have been desperate to begin my road to fit, to regain what I lost and come back stronger than I was before.
A word of warning
As I have mentioned, a c-section is a major surgery. As such, doctors advise avoiding all exercise for the first six weeks of recovery. From six to twelve weeks, they advise keeping exercise gentle; swimming, walking, and yoga are ideal. It is only really at twelves weeks postpartum that they advise incorporating more strenuous exercise into your regime.
However, all bodies are different and I know people who couldn’t manage swimming or yoga at twelve weeks postpartum. I strongly advise speaking to your medical team before starting to exercise as they will be able to suggest the best activities for your own circumstances. My health visitor and GP gave me the all clear before beginning yoga. I was also given the all clear to swim (which is my favourite form of exercise) and then Covid-19 hit and the swimming pools closed. I’ll let you know how I get on with swimming after a c-section as soon as we’re all allowed out again!
I also strongly advise listening to your own body. Four weeks into my c-section recovery I was convinced that I would be able to do some yoga. I had a perfectly healed wound which gave only minor discomfort. Then I tried to lift my baby from the floor and I felt something physically tear in my abdomen. It was agony and I lay on the floor, crying for a good fifteen minutes before I could move. I struggled walking the next day and my lower abdominals were incredibly painful for several days. Healed on the outside doesn’t mean healed on the inside. Take things slow and if an exercise hurts or your wound feels painfully tight, then stop the activity immediately.
Walking after a c-section
My mid-wife told me that walking is the best way to heal from your c-section. Yet for the first two days I couldn’t lift my own legs into the bed and stairs were agony. Because of this, I took things really slow. Simply walking around the house (and climbing the many stairs of our three-storey house) was enough exercise for me during the first fortnight of my recovery.
Three weeks after my c-section recovery I could manage the twenty minute walk to the park and back. I sat on a bench whilst my husband exercise the dog. Having a pram to hold onto was wonderful as walking up the hill to my house was more than exhausting. Over the coming weeks I slowly increased my walks, ensuring that I left the house, pram in hand every day. Wherever possible, I avoided hills and rocky terrain as picking my feet too high would cause tightness in my lowed abdomen.
By six weeks postpartum I was managing a good hour of walking a day without feeling too tired or too tight. This is when I switched the pram for my ergo baby, strapping Tristan to my chest and heading out for my walks. Again, I took this slow beginning with a half hour stroll and gradually increasing the length of my walks over the coming weeks. I also start adding more rocky terrain and hills into my daily walks.
By twelve weeks postpartum, I was tackling five mile walks over hills and down valleys, through streams, and over gnarled and twisted roots. I could easily walk further. But Covid-19 places restrictions on the amount of time we’re allowed out each day.
Yoga and stretching to aid ceasarean recovery
Tight doesn’t quite describe how my body felt after my surgery. From my hamstrings to my trapeze, the very act of holding myself straight with severed abdominals meant that my other muscles had to work twice as hard. Add in the contortionistic elements of breastfeeding and it’s safe to say that I craved a rack to stretch myself out.
Gentle stretching, or bed yoga, was excellent for getting my body supple again. Sitting in bound angle pose before and after breast feeding really helps to stretch out your back and hamstrings, realigning your spine and rolling your shoulders back into position. Pelvic floor exercises have also been hugely beneficial – I could spend hours in bridge pose.
At six week postpartum I began simple, slow yoga flows. This routine from Anna of Pretzel Studio is perfect for slowly awakening your body and preparing it for the more ambitious yoga that you can start after hitting the twelve week mark.
A note on my workout wear
Comfort is key when exercising is even more important when recovering from a c-section. Harsh materials and poorly placed seams can irritate your scar. I also find that I need a little more support to my workout wear post-pregnancy. Stronger materials make me feel more supported in my workout, it’s like they’re physically holding my muscles in place whilst I move.
My maternity yoga clothes from Asquith have been fantastic in supporting me through pregnancy. Now I’ve turned to their Move It leggings, which make for excellent plus size yoga leggings, to see me through my road to fit. They’re stretchy and supportive with a double width waistband for a super high waist and hip and side seams that give extra lift and support. I’m wearing the matching Radiance Racer which holds my heavy milk-filled breasts nicely in place with it’s high-neck and reinforced bust. For out walking, the Be Grace Batwing top makes for a great and easy cover up – it looks phenomenal against summers green foliage too.
My postpartum recovery plan
I have to admit that I’ve been a little lost with how to regain my strength, stamina, and tone following my pregnancy. So I am taking it all out of my hands and working with a remote personal trainer, Sarah Dean Fitness, on a postpartum recovery plan.
Sarah has developed a weekly workout routine for me to follow that will fit in around babies nap time, Archie’s dog walks, and my own preference for yoga. She has developed three thirty minute workouts for me to do every week and sent me instructional videos to go along with them. The exercises are all based around activities I love combined with equipment I have available at home. I will be checking in with her once a week to feed back on the exercises, allowing her to modify my next workouts to maximise enjoyment and effectiveness.
I’ve already completed my first workout and guess what … I didn’t die! In fact, I loved it. I felt energised (albeit sweaty) and ready and raring to go. I did find one of the exercises hard on my dodgy old knees, but Sarah has already given me some variations on the move to take the pressure off my joints.
I’m excited by my road to fit journey and I hope it is one that you’ll follow me on. I’ll be posting regular updates on here and my instagram so check back in soon to see how I’m doing in my postpartum recovery.
AD GIFTED/PR PRODUCT - The products featured in this post have been gifted for review. All thoughts and opinions remain true to my own findings.