Performing abdominal exercises as soon as possible after a Cesarean section helps speed your recovery. They can reduce the risk of fluid pooling in your lungs and help strengthen your stomach muscles, making it easier to hold and care for your new baby. However, you will not be able to begin traditional abdominal exercises immediately after a C-section. Consult with your doctor about any post-surgery exercise. You may start with simple breathing exercises and increase the intensity of your exercises as you recover from the surgery.
The First Days
In the first few days after birth, you will be tired and sore. The first exercise you should perform is diaphragmatic breathing. After a Cesarean section, it is common to take shallow breaths because of the discomfort in your abdomen. However, shallow breathing doesn't adequately clear the lungs and can allow fluid to build up, slowing recovery. Hold a pillow against your lower abdomen, supporting your incision, and slowly breath in and out, concentrating on taking deep breaths. Repeat five to 10 times.
After two or three days, add pelvic tilts to your routine. Lay in bed with your feet flat on the mattress and your knees bent. Press your lower back into the mattress and squeeze your glutes together at the same time. Hold for five seconds and release. Again, repeat five to 10 times.
After the first week to 10 days, begin more traditional abdominal exercises, modified for your condition. Continue doing the pelvic tilts, and add pelvic rocks. While flat on your back, bend your knees while keeping your feet flat on the bed. Moving both legs together, lower them to one side of the bed, back to the center, and to the other side. Only your knees should move; your feet should remain still.
Next, perform a modified, or head, sit-up. Lay on your back and place your hands on your lower abdomen. Cross your hands so your wrists are crossed over your navel. Raise your head and pull your chin toward your hands. Hold for several seconds, lower your head and repeat. Perform each exercise five to 10 times.
Once you can comfortably complete the early exercises, add curlups to your routine. Depending on your recovery rate, this may be within the first few weeks of delivery, or it may be around the time of your six week checkup.
To perform curlups, lay with your feet, shoulders and back flat on the mattress. Lace your fingers behind your head and lift your head and shoulders toward the ceiling, breathing out as you do. Lower your head and repeat.
To perform oblique curlsups, start in the same position, but lace fingers together in front of you. Reach toward your left leg, raising your head and shoulders to the left; lower and repeat to the right. Perform each exercise 10 times.
Light exercise should not reopen your incision. Activity speeds healing by improving circulation to the injured area. Pay attention to how you feel. Stop exercising immediately if you feel lightheaded, dizzy or nauseous, or if you experience pain in your pelvis or abdomen.
- "Expecting Fitness: How to Modify and Enjoy Your Exercise Program Throughout Your Pregnancy"; Birgitta Gallo, et al; February 2000
- "Strategies for the C-Section Mom: A Complete Fitness, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Guide"; Mary Beth Knight, et al; August 2010
- Net Wellness; Muscle Separation After Pregnancy; Rachael Dotson; June 2006
- Ohio State University: Exercises After a Cesarean Section; May 2005