WOUND CARE

When And How To Return To Exercise After A Caesarean

WOUND CARE

When And How To Return To Exercise After A Caesarean


Returning to exercise after birthing your baby via a caesarean section 

 

by Melissa Henderson, Registered Nurse and Registered Midwife, New South Wales, Australia

  

May I begin with the fact that though caesareans are considered very routine these days, they are still major abdominal surgery. The obstetrician cut through multiple layers of skin, adipose tissue, muscle and of course your uterus. Wounds take time to heal. So, let’s be clear, the ‘you’ll be back to normal in six weeks’ spiel is not realistic. In my opinion, a realistic timeline is nine to 18 months - and you deserve all the available support to help you recover your strength and fitness. 

 

Be gentle with yourself, your body has carried and birthed your baby, and it needs lots of TLC. Regardless of how you birth, being pregnant puts pressure on your pelvic floor and core muscles. Adding surgery to the mix weakens your core even more. Consequently, within a week of birth you can start breath-work (see below) and gentle stretches and once your wound has healed you can begin gentle scar massage. A great idea is to book an appointment with a women’s health physio (even when you’re pregnant or TTC, the earlier the better) who can suggest some personalised gentle exercises to rebuild strength in your core. 

 

Learning how to breathe from your diaphragm and connect with your pelvic floor will help you stay in tune with where your body is, how it’s feeling and what it’s capable of. Take a few breaths now. Be conscious of them. Where are you breathing from? Does it hurt? It shouldn’t. (If it does, please see your GP or an allied health professional like a physiotherapist). Be aware of the rise and fall of your chest. Now try a ‘belly breath’; instead of breathing “up” into your chest, breathe “down” into your belly. Long and slow. It may help to hold your hands on your ribs – a bit like when you put your hands on your hips, but higher, with your thumbs pointing towards your back and your index fingers, tucked just under breast level. Feel the expansion of your ribcage when you belly breathe. Now, when you exhale, consciously relax all your muscles (don’t worry if you don’t feel it the first few times, it does take practice, and took me three or four sessions to learn as well). 

 

Holistic care is vital, so if there are any negative emotions associated with your birth, it’s worthwhile to seek out some professional support for processing them. Stress and pain increase tension, and tension is the enemy of lengthening and relaxing muscles, which are necessary for safe and healthy exercise. One place to start would be a debrief with a representative from your hospital care team. Also, don’t forget that self-care is primary (preventative) health care. Committing to self-care is not an indulgence, it’s essential. Look after you, because you can’t be there for anyone else if you’re not there for you. You are worth it! So, take that moment to drink a (hot) cup of tea, take that offer of help, have that massage… all those things will help you heal, recover and be the best mum, partner and friend that you can be. 

 

Disclaimer: All advice is general advice only and may not be suitable for your personal circumstances. Please talk to your main care provider for personalised recommendations 

 

 

Grown in the country, trained in the city, returned to her roots, Melissa is a passionate midwife. Melissa has experience across the whole continuum of midwifery care, with particular zeal for antenatal education and empowering women to make informed decisions about their pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum.

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