A cesarean section is a fairly common procedure in the United States. Over 30 percent of births are cesarean deliveries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recovery period for a C-section will be more complicated than the recovery from a vaginal birth. While you may be eager to start strength training for strong abs and a flatter belly, doing situps too soon could actually injure your abdominal muscles.
It will likely be six to eight weeks before you can exercise after a C-section. Follow your doctor's instructions for exercise to be sure it is safe for you.
Exercise After C-Section
Before you engage in any sort of exercise after a C-section, it's important that you give your body time to recuperate after the trauma of major surgery. Exercising too soon could slow your recovery and result in an infected or opened incision.
Instead of heading to the gym for strength training, start with light walking until your doctor can check your incision and give you the go-ahead for exercise, usually six to eight weeks postpartum. Besides slowing the healing process, exercising too soon could actually cause injury to your separated abdominal muscles.
Gentle Abdominal Exercises
When you are finally cleared for exercise, start with low-impact ab exercises before moving into a more strenuous workout, like situps and crunches. Seated isometric ab squeezes and pelvic tilts can help strengthen your ab muscles so you're in better shape to attempt crunches after a C-section.
Try sitting up tall and squeezing your belly to your spine. Start with 20 each day, working up to 100 each day. As your abdominal muscles become strengthened, you'll find it easier to do situps after a C-section and other more difficult exercises.
Use Proper Form
When you are finally ready to add situps into your weekly workouts — after eight weeks' recovery and getting approval from your OB — ensure that you use the proper form. After a pregnancy, some of your muscles and tendons may feel tight and sore after periods of inactivity. By performing situps properly, you protect your body.
Start by lying on an exercise mat. Place your hands behind your head or crossed over your chest. When you raise your torso, press the small of your back into the mat and only come halfway up, lifting your shoulder blades off the ground. Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds; then lower back down. Focus on control over reps for the best workout.
Considerations and Alternatives
While your belly may be a problem area directly after a C-section, it's impossible to attempt to spot-reduce an area of your body. If you're going to shrink your midsection, you'll need to lose weight all over your body.
This can be accomplished through a sensible diet with plenty of healthy, low-cal snacks and strength training combined with 30 minutes of daily aerobic activity. Group this plan with situps and other abdominal exercises to see the fruits of your labor in flatter abs and regaining your prebaby body.