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Updated: Jan 21, 2021

When is it safe to exercise after having a C section delivery?

Even though the wound is closed, tissue regeneration will still be going on below the surface and like most surgery, 12 weeks is needed to fully rehabilitate. So, with all of the excitement of the new arrival, getting feeding established etc, we must not forget that we are also healing from abdominal surgery so let people do a lot of the non-important stuff!

Remember to look for signs of infection, such as more redness, swelling, new pain or discharge from the scar or generally feeling unwell/having a high temp. You should contact your midwife or GP straight away with these.

To start with

Good breathing techniques are a good place to start.

This will get the diaphragm and pelvic floor moving in sync and set your core system up. You can add in some pelvic floor exercises at the same time.

For example:

Lie down comfortably with knees bent. Rest your hand on your tummy. Take some deep breaths and try to feel your tummy rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. When you get the hang of this, then gently add in a pelvic floor lift (from back passage to vagina) on the exhale and fully release it on the inhale. You can do some sets of 10, 1-2 daily.

Walking around the block is the most obvious way to take in some initial physical exercise. Take someone with you the first few times and ask them to use a baby carrier to protect your scar for a few weeks.

From week two

Then, from week 2 (if recovery is straightforward and no infection present), you can start to include body-weight type exercise such as bridging, knee rolling in lying and squats.

Low impact activity such as walking uphill, cycling or cross trainer can start from about week 6.

Swimming will need to be week 8 -12 depending on how your scar is doing as it will need to be fully healed and sealed over before introducing swimming.

Put on hold

High impact exercise such as running can be considered from 16–20 weeks post C section if recovery has been straightforward, after building up some foundational strength and stability during that time.

Running may have to be put on hold if you have leaking, vaginal heaviness or pain in the scar/lower abdominals or joint pain).

Test yourself

You can test yourself for strength and stability by trying the following (10 reps each with good control). Before re-introducing impact based exercise.

  • balancing on 1 leg (10 secs each)

  • forward bounds

  • Running man

  • single leg squats

  • Single leg calf raises

  • Single leg bridge

  • single leg leg raises on side

If you are struggling to complete these tests, then work on them as an exercise. Also consider doing strength based /low impact postnatal exercise class/program in the interim to allow your body to get ready for the impact.

If you would like a postnatal check to see where you body is at post C section, then get in touch and book a Mummy MOT.


Niamh Burn

Women's Health Physiotherapist

@Maternity Physio

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