Exercise after having a baby is very important, not just because you want to lose the extra weight you may have gained, but also because it helps your body heal faster and come back together.
As you get back into an exercise routine, you should do so very gradually and carefully, especially if you’ve had a c section.
C Sections are so common these days that many people don’t realize, or consider that it really is major surgery. The doctors are cutting through several layers of skin, muscle, and tissue. They’re moving your organs around to get the baby then sewing it all back together.
If you aren’t careful about getting back into shape afterward, you can end up causing severe damage to your muscles, organs, and more.
After each of my boys were born, I looked around at some of the resources and instructions available to mothers who’ve had a baby, and it really bothered me to find so much misinformation out there about the right way to get back in shape.
Many of the guides I found will actually make your stomach worse and make you more prone to developing Diastasis Recti and other conditions that could need surgery to repair later on. For those of you that haven’t heard of it, diastasis recti is a condition in which the inner abdominal muscles split down the middle leaving a gap several finger widths wide.
Although pregnancy is not the only cause of diastasis recti, it’s most common during and after pregnancy because the baby puts a lot of extra pressure that your body isn’t used to on your abdominal muscles. If your abdominals aren’t strong enough to hold up against the pressure, they split, leaving a gap that your intestines will poke out through.
Most mothers do develop diastasis during their pregnancy but, the majority of them will heal on their own within a couple months of the baby being born. For those cases that don’t heal on their own, it’s critical to give your body adequate time to heal and to use the right types of exercise to close the separation.
You probably haven’t heard that, after a c section, your brain actually loses its connection with your abdominal muscles. Particularly the muscles affected by the incision and the ones around it.
If you don’t use the right exercises and techniques to reestablish that connection, the result is the c section pooch you’re here searching for a way to get rid of!
As you look for ways to get rid of that pooch, you’ll find people outlining exercises like bicycles, crunches, or planks so that you can target your lower abdominal muscles. I can tell you from my own experience, that if you’ve developed diastasis recti, these exercises will only make the condition much worse!
You’ll also find people saying that only surgery can really repair the pooch so your options are:
- Fork over the money for a surgery that you may “need” again in the future if you choose to have more kids.
- Wait until you’re done having kids to get the surgery and spend years disappointed with your body.
- Take care of it yourself by using proper exercise and nutrition.
It is possible to get rid of it and I’ll be outlining a great set of exercises and programs you can start with to get your mummy tummy into the shape you want it in.
I am a big advocate of using a girdle after a baby to help bring your stomach back in. They won’t help you lose the pooch on their own (despite what my mother always told me), but they are an invaluable tool to use along the way.
I used one after every single one of my kids and found it was actually quite painful to go without one because my stomach was so weak. They give you the extra support you need, help your insides come back together, and allow you to heal much quicker.
I’ve tried more than I care to admit in my search to find a good quality one and my favorite is this one here.
How Soon Should You Start Exercising after a C Section
The sooner you start exercising, the better your body will heal. However, when I say
exercise, I don’t mean full out grabbing the weights and jumping into an intense workout or going for a jog.
The first step in your recovery process is just getting to the point where you can walk. This really is going to be a challenge those first couple days.
Numerous studies have shown that women who start walking within a couple hours of a c section or by the next day, heal much faster than those who stay in bed.
Waiting till you “feel better” or feel up to walking, increases the risks of dangerous blood clots as well as infections.
It definitely won’t be easy! You’ll need help and will probably feel like your entire midsection is missing. But, the more you walk, the quicker your body will heal and that connection can be reestablished.
Start with just walking to and from the restroom while you’re in the hospital. Your stay will likely be about three days, then you’ll be sent home with instructions on how to care for your incision and prevent infections
You shouldn’t drive for at least a week after your baby is born and you should avoid stairs for at least two weeks afterward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You shouldn’t be lifting anything heavier than your baby or you risk the incision splitting open.
What Exercises Should You Avoid After a C-Section
The first couple weeks after having a baby, especially after a c section, your body needs rest and time to heal. Trying to get into an intense exercise routine too soon can cause several problems from infections to tearing and many more complications.
The following exercises should be completely avoided for at least three months after your baby is born; longer if you feel it’s necessary. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Crunches & Situps: Have you ever heard someone say they do a hundred crunches or sit-ups a day to get a flat stomach? Though that may work for some people, it won’t work for a mother who just had a baby. These types of exercises work your outer abdominal muscles. You need to start with the inner ones first.
- Bicycles: These will have the same effect as crunches and situps. They’re excellent exercises, provided your inner abdominals are up for the task.
- Full Body Plank Exercises: These exercises put unnecessary pressure on your incision. These should be saved until your body has had adequate time to heal and the incision is fully closed.
- Backbends: These exercises pull your abdominal muscles tight and for women with a c section scar that hasn’t adequately healed, backbends put much more pressure than is safe on the scar.
- Lifting Anything Heavier than Your Baby: Causes unnecessary pressure on the incision that often results in heavy bleeding, tearing, and frequent infections.
- Running & Jumping: The first time I went running after my first son was born, I was in for quite a shock. The entire time I could feel everything in my abdomen flopping around and it was clear things hadn’t moved back into place yet. This is even more extensive after a c section in which the muscles were cut through, organs were moved around and replaced, and it was all sewn back together.
Don’t despair about not being able to get your stomach back after a baby. You can do it; you just need to give yourself time. Spend those first couple months enjoying your baby and incorporating safe, gentle exercises. Once you’ve built up, you can slowly ease into a heavier routine.
After 6 Weeks You Can Incorporate the following Exercises
- Brisk Walking
- Cycling on a flat path
My Recommended Program for Bringing Your Stomach Back in After a C Section
If you’re looking for a program or guide that can give you step by step instructions for getting into shape after a c section or a natural birth, my favorite by far is the MuTu system.
The MuTu System, designed by Wendy Powell, was created specifically for women to use for postpartum recovery. The exercises included in it are meant to be used both during pregnancy to maintain a strong healthy body and core, as well as afterward to bring everything back together and get rid of that wonderful mummy tummy (mutu).
I actually turned to the MuTu System myself when I discovered that I’d developed diastasis recti for the first time after I had my third son.
There was a gap about four finger widths between my abdominals that steadily got worse for months because I was using the wrong types of exercise. When I finally realized what was going on, I tried to close it on my own.
I was able to narrow the gap a few inches then used Wendy’s MuTu system to close the remaining gap.
The MuTu System is a 12-week program with the first couple weeks being specifically targeted at rebuilding your core, pelvic muscles, and your inner abdominals. It can be used whether your baby was just born or is a couple months old. Even if it’s been years since you had your last baby, you can still use the MuTu system to get abdominal muscles you can be proud of.
Update: As of January the MuTu System has been redesigned to make it easier than ever for postpartum mothers to get back into shape after their baby is born. Each week is split into modules that have downloadable workout videos, worksheets, equipment needed lists, and so much more. You won’t find another program that is structured so well and so easy to follow! See more about this update here.
What Exercises Should You Start With after a C Section
The first goal as you start exercising after a c section, is to reestablish the connection between your brain and your abdominal muscles; particularly your lower abdominals.
- Use Good Posture: It’s very easy to become accustomed to slouching during pregnancy because of all the extra weight in your stomach. Once your baby is born, if you’ve had a C-Section, it can be difficult at first to sit up straight. You may feel like doing so pulls at your stitches, but you don’t need to worry about it. Sitting up straight will help your strengthen your back as well as your abdominals. It will also keep the incision area clear to prevent clots from forming.
Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor!
The pelvic floor muscles support your uterus, small intestine, bladder, and rectum. Performing pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen these muscles and keep all these organs in place. They also help your inner abdominal muscles heal.
If you’re wondering if you really need these exercises since you didn’t have a vaginal delivery, then the answer is an absolute yes! Just going through pregnancy weakens your pelvic floor muscles and puts a lot of additional pressure on them. Especially if you’ve developed diastasis recti, you’ll find that you have urinary incontinence and frequent bladder leakage.
As you start strengthening the inner abdominals, you’ll find that the separation between your abdominal muscles will start to close and you’ll both see and feel a noticeable difference. That connection between your brain and stomach muscles will be firmly reestablished.
If you work on your outer abdominals before building up a strong foundation on the inner ones, you’re stomach will always droop out because the inner muscles aren’t strong enough to hold it in.
These can be done in a standing, sitting, or lying position and are one of the
first types of exercise you should start doing after your baby is born. They can be done within the first week or two.
- Identify the muscles you use to stop urination midstream. (You shouldn’t do them as you’re using the bathroom because that can cause urinary tract infections as well as cause harm to the bladder.)
- Simply take note of the muscles used for this and perform kegels by tightening these muscles for 5- 10 seconds (without holding your breath) then releasing them.
- You can also squeeze these muscles and release for 10-15 quick repetitions.
- Work up to contracting the muscles for 30-60 seconds as you continue to breathe normally.
- Lie on your side with your knees bent and your hand resting on the hip going towards the ceiling.
- Tighten your lower abdominals by breathing in and pulling your belly in towards your spine as you release the breath.
- Raise the knee on top as much as you can while your heels are still touching and hold this position for a few seconds before returning to the starting position.
- Once you’ve mastered these, you can use an exercise loop band around your legs for greater resistance and stronger muscles.
- Lie on your back with your knees raised the same way you would for a situp or crunch.
- Engage your lower abdominals by breathing in then slowly releasing that breath.
- As you release it, pull your belly in towards your spine as tightly as you can.
- Slowly straighten one leg then bring it back in.
- Do the same with the other leg.
- Repeat on each side for several repetitions. You can use a resistance band for additional pressure as you build up to it.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent for a crunch or sit-up.
- Utilize your core by inhaling and pulling your belly button into your spine as much as you can then raise your hips off the floor until there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Hold this position for a couple seconds then lower your hips and repeat
This is by far one of my favorite exercises to strengthen your inner abdominal muscles. If done correctly, this can work wonders on your stomach. It can be done standing, sitting, lying down, or on all fours.
- Start by taking a deep breath in then release it very slowly.
- As you release that breath, pull your belly button in towards your spine as much as you can. Also pull it upwards to tighten those lower abdominal muscles and get rid of the postpartum pooch.
- Work up to holding this in for up to a minute then release it and do it again after a couple seconds of rest.
- Lie on your side with your body in a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Put your lower elbow on the floor at a perpendicular angle from your body and place the other hand on your waist.
- Raise your body up until only your foot and your elbow are touching the floor and there is a straight line from your feet to your shoulders.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds then repeat it with the other side.
- Work up to holding this for 2-3 minutes on each side.
You Can Have the Post Baby Body You’ve Always Wanted
The above exercises will give you exactly what you need to rebuild your core, pelvic muscles, and inner abdominals. Once more time has passed and you’ve been using these for a couple weeks, you can start getting into heavier exercises and focus more on the outer abdominals.
It’s a lengthy process but, remember, it took months to create your sweet little baby, and you should just enjoy him/her and slowly start back into exercise as you feel ready for it.
If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to ask. I do answer all of them!