Your C-Section and How Physiotherapy Can Help!

Posted March 29, 2022
Caitlin Williams
Physiotherapist
BKin(Hon), MSc(PT), MScCl(Manip Ther), DPT, FCAMPT

Whether a planned or emergency cesarean birth, women have lots of questions about what recovery looks like and when they can return to exercise.  The good news is that we are here to help! 

Recovery after a cesarean (c-section) birth varies for each individual but on average, recovery from the surgery takes between six to eight weeks.  This does not mean you will be running hill sprints after 8 weeks!  Although most women begin to feel better around four weeks, it is important to remember that c-section is MAJOR abdominal surgery and it is important to take care of yourself. 

After your c-section, your surgeon will provide you with your post-operative restrictions, a.k.a the do’s and don’ts once you are home.  These restrictions are in place to prevent you from pulling at your incision and straining your abdominal muscles. Some post-operative instructions could include: 

To Do’s:

  • Walk within the first 24hrs of your surgery.  This helps to reduce the risk of blood clots and get your bowels moving! 
  • ASK FOR HELP!! This is very important during the first 2 weeks when you feel the most uncomfortable.  This may be a partner, parent or family member. Have them bring the baby to you, help with meal prep and house chores and most importantly be there for emotional support (abdominal surgery and being a caregiver is tough work!)

The Don’ts:

  • No lifting more than the weight of your baby for the first 3-4 weeks
  • No driving form 3-6 weeks
  • No high impact exercise or running for the first 6 – 8 weeks
  • No bathing or swimming for 6 weeks or until the incision is fully healed
  • Light housework for the first 6 weeks (no vacuuming)

How long before I can exercise after a c-section?

Provided there are no complications, most people are cleared by the obstetrician for exercise around 8 weeks after delivery.  Again, while you may be feeling more like yourself around the four week mark, remember to stick to your post-op guidelines! This is to ensure proper healing.

So what can you do?

Walking is great to do after your c-section.  This should be your ‘go-to’ form of exercise for the first few weeks.  Starting with a low to moderate intensity for 5 – 15 minutes daily and increasing your tolerance as your body allows.  This is also a great time to get working with a physiotherapist on gentle movement exercises, assess your abdominal wall muscles, and your c-section scar.  The wonderful thing is this can all be done via telehealth appointments with your physiotherapist.  So there is no need to worry about lifting that heavy car seat in the early phases or organizing childcare. 

When can I get going on HIIT classes, CrossFit, running, etc? 

It is recommended that you wait for 12 weeks from delivery to start high impact training. Even if you were physically active throughout your pregnancy, remember that your body has changed over the last few months, including recovering from surgery.  In order to return to these forms of exercise, you will have to retrain your body’s tolerance to strength training and cardiovascular fitness. With the help of your physiotherapist, a slow and steady progression of your exercises will ensure that you get back into these forms of exercise safely and limit the risk of any injury.  

In summary, whether you are wishing to return to running, start strength training again or even wanting to begin exercising more regularly, it is important to listen to your body throughout each and every stage of recovery.  Move at a pace which you are comfortable with, think of how you are feeling that day (some days may be easier than others) and check in with what your body is asking for at that moment.  Every person’s c-section journey is unique and different.  By working with your physiotherapist, we can assure a guided and safe return for you and your baby to your activities!  

If you have any further questions, reach out to us at info@eloraphysiotherapy.com.  We will be happy to help and are here for you!