If you aren't already observing a confinement period, it's best to wait at least six weeks before you start exercising. Think of this time as a recovery phase. A caesarean is a major operation, so don't push yourself. Don't do any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting in the first couple of months. But you can begin practising your pelvic floor exercises from day one. Once you feel comfortable with pelvic floor exercises you can begin to work on your lower tummy muscles. It's fine to do these gentle toning exercises in the first six weeks. Your lower tummy muscles are important for strengthening your back. And it's these muscles that can hang over your scar, so you may want to work on tightening them up.
Here's how to do it:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent
- Squeeze in your pelvic floor muscles as you breathe out rather than as you breathe in
- Pull in your belly button in and up at the same time
- Try to hold the squeeze for 10 seconds without holding your breath
After a caesarean, it's easy to get into the habit of stooping, particularly if the stitches in your scar are painful. It's natural to feel vulnerable about your belly after such a major operation. But bear in mind, stooping can also lead to back pain and can make your tummy stick out. In fact, the tissues around your scar will benefit from being gently flexed. Standing up straight and the gentle tummy exercises described above will help your scar knit together more strongly. Gradually increase activity at a pace that suits you, during the first six weeks after having your baby. You could start with a five-minute walk, and, when you feel ready, make your walks a bit longer each time. If your aim is to get your tummy flat again, the best way is to take up aerobic exercises.
Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling, can help you to shed weight in the coming weeks and months. Start slowly. You may only be able to do 10 or 15 minutes of exercise to begin with, but you will gradually get stronger. Yoga can help to strengthen your muscles and provide relief from aches and pains. You can do sit-ups to tone up if you wish, but sit-ups or crunches work on your upper, rather than your lower tummy muscles.
A word of warning: doing too many sit-ups or crunches may mean that you put pressure on your pelvic floor and lower tummy muscles. It's a good idea to join a postnatal exercise group, if there's one in your area. Tell your instructor that you have had a caesarean before you join the group. If you have had any complications after your caesarean, talk to your doctor before you begin exercising again.