New mothers are keen to drop the weight they’ve gained post-pregnancy, but most are unsure about when they can start exercising again. Women who’ve had C-sections need to take extra care as it is major surgery. Most doctors recommend little activity for the first six weeks after, as the body needs to heal during this time.
In my view, a return to exercise post-C-section depends largely on your activity levels before and during your pregnancy. Before starting any kind of workout, do a self-test for rectus diastasis – separation of ab muscles because of pressure on the belly – to establish the extent of the abdominal separation. If you have a separation of more than 2.5 fingers, see a physiotherapist or your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.
Ideally, after a C-section, you should start with restorative exercises and pay attention to how your body feels during and especially after exercise.
Begin with TVA (Transverse abdominal muscle)activation, abdominal breathing, and pelvic floor exercises. Your TVA and pelvic floor muscles are severely stretched after a C-section, and exercising them will help correct any post-pregnancy abdominal separation and ultimately lead to a flatter tummy.
You could try this move to tone your tummy:
- Lie on your back and bend your knees.
- Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as you breathe out.
- Pull your stomach in and up at the same time. Hold this position for a few seconds, without holding your breath.
Increase activity gradually, at a pace that suits you. After eight weeks, and once you’ve been cleared by your doctor, you can start some mild aerobics, which will also help bring your tummy size down. Brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling will help you to shed the baby weight. Start with 10-15 minutes, and work your way up from there. Don’t push yourself as the effects of pregnancy hormones are said to affect your joints for up to six months after birth, so avoid high-impact activities like:
- Crunches, sit-ups, leg raises and front planks.
- Running, jumping, step-ups.
- Heavy overhead presses.
- Heavily weighted exercises.
- Anything with direct downward pressure on the pelvic floor, such as a barbell back squat.
Remember, there are no fixed rules as every woman takes her own time to heal. So only move in ways that make you feel safe and energized.