Having a baby is hard work, and trying to get your body back into shape afterwards can be just as hard. It’s important that you know what your body has gone through to help you understand how to exercise again properly. Undergoing a C-section also means recovery time after an operation, so know your limits.
What happens to your stomach muscles during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, your stomach muscles go through dramatic changes. “Your abdominal muscles become stretched because your baby increases in size. It can stretch to as much as 50cm,” says owner of Travelling Trainers, personal trainer and mom, Candy Bukes. It could take up to eight weeks for these muscles to recover, and by this stage they will certainly need to be strengthened and toned, Candy suggests.
What about your other muscles and ligaments?
Your stomach isn’t the only thing that’s changing. “Very often aches and pains are felt in the hips and pelvic area. This is due to the release of the pregnancy hormones that assist in relaxing the ligaments that hold your bones together, in preparation for childbirth,” says Candy. Posture changes also contribute to aches and pains in the muscles and ligaments, which happens because of the shift in the centre of gravity – this often results in strain being asserted on your back, knees and even ankles. It’s important to do body weight or very light resistance training for the first two to three months after having your baby.
What happens to your stomach muscles during a C-section?
About half a dozen incisions are made throughout the process. “The muscles themselves are not cut, but rather the fascia, which connects the abdominal muscles, and this allows the doctor to pull the muscles apart in order to get to the next layer of fascia,” says Candy. With all the incisions, the nerves are also severed. Separating the muscles causes nerve damage, loss of blood supply, and damage to the muscle itself. So take time to allow your body to heal.
What is abdominal separation?
“Diastasis is the term used for the gap of roughly 2.7cm, or greater, between the two sides of your abdominal muscles,” says Candy. Because of the pressure that is put on your stomach muscles by your ever-growing baby, sometimes your abdominal muscles can separate. If you do have diastatis, it’s not recommended you do crunches, proper push-ups, front plank and even downward dog. It’s also best you don’t do anything on your hands and knees.
Exercising after a C-section
Always consult your doctor before exercising, to ensure that your body is healing properly. The first type of exercise you do after your C-section should be very gentle. Even if you routinely lifted weights or ran marathons before your pregnancy, now is not the time to resume your training routine.
“Rehab is of the utmost importance after a C-section. Although it’s often treated like a minor procedure, it is actually major surgery,” says Candy. Avoid doing any abdominal exercises that force your lower abs to push out. You should also not do any backbends or plyometric training such as jumping, skipping or anything that involves explosive movement.
Best exercises to do after a C-section:
To get on track follow this total body workout from personal trainer, Candy Bukes.
- You can do this against a wall, on the back of a couch, chair, step ladder or bench – depending on how strong you are feeling. Stand about three steps away from your support, keep your feet together and then rest the palms of your hands on your support.
- Bend your arms and lower yourself down by bending your arms. Hold for a few seconds and then push back up. Make sure your back does not arch, so keep your stomach muscles pulled in.