Jessica Ennis-Hill’s physio Ali Rose explains the recovery process after having a Caesarean and gives us guidance on when it’s safe to try postnatal exercise…
If you’ve had a Caesarean, it’s important to take things easier than if you’ve had a vaginal birth. Your doctor will be able to advise you, but generally you’ll be told to wait for eight weeks before doing any form of exercise, and you’ll be advised not to lift much weight and not to drive in this time.
After the first week, with your doctor’s permission and if there are no complications or bleeding from the wound, then it can be beneficial to walk up to 10 minutes a day to help prevent blood clots. With your doctor’s permission, you can then gradually increase this over the next few weeks, walking about 20-30 minutes in weeks six to eight.
“If you’ve had a C-section, you should avoid postnatal exercises that put a lot of strain on the abdominals, like sit-ups, planks, press-ups and leg raises”
Is there anything I should do while waiting to get more active?
You can start pelvic floor exercises within the first week after giving birth. As you go into the second week, you should be able to start doing pelvic tilts, gently using your lower tummy muscles and to tilt your pubic bone up towards you. For optimum postnatal health, you should continue with both pelvic floor and pelvic tilting exercises throughout the eight-week recovery phase.
Part of the reason for doing this is that your muscles and the nerves to the muscles 'forget' how to fire and doing gentle work from the start, helps to keep those connections and helps the next phase not be quite so hard.
Be wary though, there will be things you may not have thought about, like getting out of bed or getting off the floor if you’ve been lying on your back, which are effectively a sit up, and these will put stress on your abdominals! Roll onto your side and get up in a safer way, using your hands to help push you up into a sitting position.
“You can do pelvic floor exercises within the first week after giving birth”
What types of postnatal exercise should you do if you’ve had a Caesarean?
After eight weeks, as long as your doctor is happy with the progress, you should test your abdominal function using the abdominal split test. (This appears on Jessica Ennis-Hill's postnatal exercise app, Jennis Postnatal, in the Read Your Body playlist). If you have your doctor’s approval and feel well enough, you should be able to start following Jennis Postnatal exercises at week one (even though you are actually at week eight). For more on this, please look at the blog on abdominal separation….
Is there anything else I need to know about how I should look after my scar?
Yes, definitely. Scar tissue, if not looked after, can thicken and get bound down to structures underneath it. This can cause issues with abdominal muscle mobility, pain and even stiffness in the hips. It’s important when the scar is healed to massage Bio-Oil, or something similar, into it to facilitate healthy healing of the scar.
What should I avoid if I’ve had a C-section?
If you have rectus diastasis or have had a C-section, you should avoid exercises that put a lot of strain on the abdominals, like sit-ups, planks, press-ups and leg raises.
You should also avoid anything that stretches the abdominals and the scar for the first three months, as the scar needs to knit well. This includes heavy lifting (including baby car seats!), jogging and jumping.
The main points we want to get across for anyone who's joined or is interested in signing up to Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis Postnatal app is that you need to take postnatal fitness slowly – and it’s perfectly ok to do so. The slower you take things now, the better you will feel in the long run – and for us, that’s the most important thing. Find out more about why it's important to take it slowly when it comes to postnatal workouts.