Where to Start: Finding the Right Muscles
When it comes to exercise after C-section (short for cesarean birth) start with gentle mobilization as soon as you can. Your focus during the early weeks won’t be ‘working out’ but rather foundational breathing and re-connecting your brain to your tummy and your pelvic floor. The sooner you do this after any type of birth, the better. You need to re-establish this reconnection so any exercise you eventually do will be truly beneficial.
Exercise after c-section starts with everyday activity after c-section. You need your core if you want to stand up, sit, move, twist, pull, push, bend or turn- all of which are movements you are doing in every day life. Your core is connected (literally) to the muscles of your pelvic floor, which you need to prevent you from peeing or having a prolapse and in general want to be functional and healthy. You also need a good connection and recruitment of your core muscles to help close diastasis recti or separation of your abdominal muscles postpartum and to ensure your core is supporting your body- your core is the foundation of your body!
Exercise after c-section – how to engage your core
You will most likely experience numbness around your scar site, so feeling what is going on in your core can be hard. The common visualization of ‘gently drawing belly button to spine’ may be unhelpful as you may not be able to feel this movement.
Instead imagine your abdomen as a clock, with your belly button at 12 o’clock, your pubic bone at 6 o’clock, and your hip bones as 3 and 9. Imagine you are slowly and gently drawing the hip bones, or 3 and 9 o’clock, together. It will also work if you imagine you are drawing them apart! Don’t worry that you can’t feel much happening for now. Go gently and do the movement on a long, slow exhale. At the same time, engage your pelvic floor muscles.
If you need more guidance on how to engage your core go here– it will go more in depth on this technique.
Practice breathing with coordinated pelvic floor muscle contraction a few times a day. You can do this as you rest and recover or as you feed your baby. Take long slow breaths, exhaling with gentle muscle contractions, inhaling with a complete release and relaxation of the muscles.
Starting with just these simple breathing techniques will be so beneficial as you recovery!
Taking it a Step Further: Restorative Exercises
Once you have gotten the hang of reconnecting to your core and pelvic floor through breath work you can start to add in some gentle restorative exercises. These are still safe for the early days postpartum. Always be in tune with your body, nothing should cause strain or pain. These movements are slow, gentle, and controlled. Try these 3 exercises in the video below: