I’ll be honest. Talking about C-sections makes me kind of angry. Not at all because of the C-section itself (thanks, doc!), but because of the atrocious lack of education and resources for women post-surgery.
If you’re lucky, you might be told not to lift anything, not to drive, and not to exercise for six weeks. This is major abdominal and pelvic surgery. That’s it?! That’s all the information you get?
No “what-to-do’s”, no physiotherapy, no guidelines for recovery, no specific exercise protocol. Just a, "good luck and go home."
C-sections may be common, but they are not a "small procedure."
C-section rates are on the rise, and if you birth your babe(s) via C-section I want you to be confident in your recovery and in your ability to return to exercise safely and strongly.
What is a C-Section?
C-section is short for Caesarean Section. Section deliveries can be planned or un-planned. During the C-section, the doc makes an incision into your skin, through the fat cells, connective tissue, and into the abdominal cavity. The abdominal muscles are then spread apart and the bladder is moved down and out of the way in order to get to the uterus. There is an incision made into the uterus and the baby is guided out. The placenta is taken out shortly after.
The uterus is then stitched up, the bladder put back in place, then connective tissue, the abdominals, and the skin stitched up, to varying degrees. We have a lot of layers of sutures and thus, scar tissue that will form.
Cleared for Exercise and Healed in six Weeks?
Not so fast, ladies. As you can tell by the description above, a C-section is not the gentlest of procedures on your body and organs, making adequate rest and recovery essential. You’re going to need to be patient with the process and not “push through”. There is no rush. Heal well now and save yourself issues down the road in the short and long term.
Think of a C-section as you would a surgery such as an ACL repair in the knee. The rehabilitation for this is a nine to 12 month process.
There are steps and checks along the way with the surgeon, the physiotherapist, and a set timeline of when it is safe to return to certain activities. In my opinion, this should be how C-sections are
treated as well.
Although your doctor may “clear you for exercise” at six-weeks post, be certain that this means light and gentle exercise. The types of exercise that will be beneficial at this time are, for example,
breathing, walking, core restoration, and bodyweight exercises.
The types of exercise that will not be beneficial at this time are, for example, running, jumping, heavy weight training, crunches, leg
raises, and other traditional “ab” exercises.
We’ll chat about the specifics of the return to exercise below.
Keep in mind, the healing process is not done at six weeks. From the outside, your scar might appear healed, but the deeper layers inside still need time. Just the scar alone is many, many layers deep – the tissues that you can’t see are still recovering. Just because my client’s scar (pictured above) appears healed from the outside, doesn’t necessarily mean the tissue on the inside is healed.
To be continued ...