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    Exercise After Cesarean Delivery: What Is and Isn’t Safe

    Updated 26 November 2021 |
    Published 26 November 2018
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Anna Targonskaya
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Anna Targonskaya, Obstetrician and gynecologist
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    If you want to get back to exercise after delivery, there are a few factors to consider. Since no two births are alike, your case needs to be assessed according to your unique needs. Here, we'll look at what exercises can help speed up recovery and which are better to put off for a while.

    Cesarean section delivery

    Since the 1990s, rates of cesarean section deliveries have been steadily increasing around the world. In 2018, 21% of all births were delivered by C-section, according to data collected from 169 countries. In North America, more than 30% of all births are C-section deliveries. 

    As common as cesarean sections have become, the procedure is still major surgery and should be regarded as such. Like all other major surgeries, it takes weeks for proper recovery and healing after a C-section. 

    Exercise after C-section delivery usually needs to be postponed for longer than after a vaginal delivery. It’s also important not to push yourself too hard after a C-section: doing so can elevate the risk of infection and other complications that can prolong your recovery.

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    When is it safe to exercise after cesarean delivery?

    If you’ve had a C-section delivery, wait to jump into your post-pregnancy exercise regimen until at least six weeks postpartum, after you’ve visited your health care provider. Passing these two milestones before you begin exercising is vital to ensuring that your recovery goes smoothly. 

    Even people who had smooth deliveries need to be careful about postnatal exercise. Childbirth and cesarean section deliveries are traumatic to the body, and overexertion can cause problems. 

    If you want to get your body moving before your 4–6 week postnatal check-up, start with gentle, low-impact activity, like walking. 

    Once your health care provider has given you the thumbs up for exercise after delivery, you can slowly ease yourself back into a regular workout routine over a few weeks or months. Postnatal exercise after a C-section may look very different from your pre-pregnancy exercise regimen, but that’s perfectly okay.

    Gentle exercises for the first six weeks

    High-impact exercise, tummy-toning workouts, and full-blown cardio are definite no-no’s for the first six weeks after a C-section delivery. Here are some things you can do as soon as you feel up to it:

    • Walking — As soon as you can get up and move around, venture out of the house and around the block a few times. It’ll probably feel great to get your body moving again.
    • Pelvic floor exercises — You may have already been doing pelvic floor exercises throughout your pregnancy, and if you have, you know how important they are. As soon as the catheter is out, you can resume doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support your bladder, bowel, and uterus.
    • Practice good posture — Pregnancy, C-section, and breastfeeding can all contribute to bad posture. Practice sitting up with your back straight and your shoulders back. This will help you to strengthen your stomach muscles and support your back.
    • Light stretches — Focus on stretching your neck, shoulders, arms, and legs with light stretches that don’t put pressure on your C-section scar.

    Abdominal exercises after C-Section delivery

    Even after you’ve gotten the green light to exercise after C-section delivery, it’s important to ease into abdominal exercises. 

    Before you exercise to strengthen abdominal wall muscles, make sure you don’t have a condition called diastasis recti, which is when there’s a gap in the rectus abdominis muscles of more than 2.7 centimeters after pregnancy. A gap in the rectus abdominis muscles isn’t considered dangerous, but it can create the appearance of pregnancy long after you have delivered. If you have diastasis recti, your health care provider may recommend modified workouts. 

    If you’re specifically looking for exercises to reduce your belly after delivery, focus on strength training exercises that engage the core but don’t cause it to bulge out. Avoid doing crunches, sit-ups, and regular planks at first. 

    These are some exercises you can do to strengthen abdominal muscles once your health care provider gives you the go-ahead: 

    • Pelvic tilts — This is one of the safest exercises to start with to strengthen the abdominal wall muscles after delivery. Lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your feet firmly planted on the floor. Tilt your hips toward your upper body and engage your core as you raise your butt about an inch off the floor. You should be closing the gap between the curve of your lower back and the floor. Hold the position for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times.
    • Modified or full side plank — The side plank engages your inner core muscles. Start with a modified side plank with your knees bent on the mat as you lift your body into plank position on your side.
    • Wall sit — This exercise works to strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, pelvic floor muscles, and lower back. Stand one or two feet away from a wall, with your back facing it. Lean against the wall and go into a sitting position with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Engage your stomach and pelvic floor muscles and the position for as long as you can. Repeat five times.

    Pelvic floor exercises after C-section delivery

    pelvic floor exercises after c-section

    Some of the most important postnatal exercises you can do engage the pelvic floor muscles.

    Pregnancy puts a lot of strain and pressure on the pelvic floor