C sections, the how, what and why of exercise

C-sections can be planned or emergency. I knew very little about them when I gave birth the first time and actually avoided the antenatal class on the topic! However it is really best to have some knowledge in case you have one. Some women elect to have a section, and others go through the stages of labour and then deliver their baby via section.  Around 25% of all births in the UK were delivered by section (2008).

What is a c-section?

An incision made horizontally, just above your pubic hair line.  Contrary to belief, your abdominal muscles AREN’T actually cut with this incision, it’s the outer coating of the muscle, and the cling film type structure in between the 6-pack muscles that is.  The incision is made on the outside of your body horizontally, and then your surgeon gently peels your Linea Alba apart (vertically) to gain access.  The Linea Alba runs vertically down your stomach, and separates your six pack muscles in half, above and below your belly button.  The outside incision is then sutured back together, but the inside cling film/Linea Alba is not.

I know I’m having a c-section, so I don’t need to do pelvic floor exercises, right?

If you elect to have a section, there’s a misconception that your pelvic floor will be fine.  You might think that because your body won’t be going through the stages of labour, your pelvic floor won’t be affected.  However, pregnancy itself puts tremendous pressure on your pelvic floor, as the weight of your developing baby gets bigger and bigger, and therefore weakens these muscles.  So, it’s still very important that you strengthen your pelvic floor during and after pregnancy, even if you elected to have a section.

When can you return to exercise following a c-section?

You will need to have had your Doctor’s Check up before your return to exercise after a c-section, which, depending on your Doctor’s Practice/Surgery could be 8 weeks, 10 weeks or even 12 weeks, so give them a call to see what their guidelines are.  It’s major surgery and your body will need time to heal, so my top tip is to listen to your body and don’t rush back into exercise too early.

What is recovery like after a c-section?

After a c-section, your recover time is longer than a natural birth, you may have a loss of sensation, a numbness in your abdominals especially around the scar area, and the scar tissue itself may reduce your ability to do certain movements completely pain-free.  Your pelvic floor may take a little while to activate consciously too, but keep sending the signal from your brain to these muscles, and eventually, it will switch back on, I promise.

What exercise is safe after a c-section?

Postnatal-specific Pilates-based or core exercise is probably THE best form of exercise for any new mum to be doing, regardless of the type delivery.  Pelvic floor work and then TVA core work is essential to get everything firing again and to start toning that tummy too. It can take time for sensation and nerve impulses to start working again, but it will happen. Patience and perserverance are needed. Babies teach you a lot about both of those I find 😉