Today, we are handing our blog over to Debbie from Misfit Mama’s…
Hi there! And welcome to today’s blog post all about the “C” word…
I personally avoided reading anything about Caesarean sections when pregnant with my first child 6 years ago, as I was convinced I would have a natural birth! (lucky for me that I did) but if I hadn’t, I’d have been clueless as to what was involved. (Perhaps that was my plan!) Importantly this information is really useful for your recovery, which is where I’m coming from here today…
So perhaps you are pregnant now and have your heart set on a physiological birth or perhaps you have your reasons for planning a C-section? Either way, knowledge is power and today’s blog will better prepare you for recovery from a C-section and go some way to hopefully answer some of your ‘why’ questions. For those of you in recovery from a C-section right now, or perhaps wondering, why, even months later you can no longer feel any sensation in your abdominal region or pelvic floor muscles read on. I hope you find it useful.
5 FAQ ABOUT C-SECTIONS
Sometimes, for many reasons, women have to, or choose to, deliver their baby via c-section. Some women elect to have a section, and others go through the stages of labour and then deliver their baby via emergency section. Just over 26% of all births in England were delivered by section (2013-2014).
So, What is a C-section?
Well, it’s an incision made horizontally, just above your pubic hair line. Contrary to popular belief, your abdominal muscles AREN’T actually cut with this incision, it’s just the outer coating of the muscle, together with the cling film type structure in between the 6-pack muscles that is.
The incision is made on the outside of your body horizontally, and then your surgeon gently peels your Linea Alba apart (vertically) to gain access. The Linea Alba runs vertically down your stomach, and separates your six pack muscles in half, above and below your belly button. The outside incision is then sutured back together, but the inside cling film/Linea Alba is not.
I know I’m having a c-section, so I don’t need to do pelvic floor exercises, right?
If you elect to have a section, there’s a misconception that your pelvic floor will be fine. You might think that because your body won’t be going through the stages of labour, your pelvic floor won’t be affected.
This is where you’re wrong! Pregnancy itself puts tremendous pressure on your pelvic floor, as the weight of your developing baby gets bigger and bigger, and therefore weakens these muscles. So, it’s still very important that you strengthen your pelvic floor during and after pregnancy, even if you elect to have a section.
I specifically teach these pelvic floor exercises in my pregnancy classes. (Women often perform them incorrectly!) Remember, like any other muscle in the body these muscles also need to RELAX. So it is equally important you learn to ‘switch off’ your pelvic floor muscles… Think about it, how else do you expect to get a baby out of there?
If you’ve gone through the stages of labour, and after several unsuccessful attempts of trying to deliver naturally, you then have a section, think about what muscles have been stressed throughout this ordeal? That’s right – the abdominals and the pelvic floor!
You may have been trying for hours, pushing and pushing and putting a immense amount of pressure on these areas. Put simply, it’s your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles which helped you deliver your baby.
When can I return to exercise following a C-section?
You will need to have had your Doctor’s Check up before your return to exercise after a c-section, which, depending on your Doctor’s Practice/Surgery could be 8 weeks, 10 weeks or even 12 weeks, so give them a call to see what their guidelines are.
I believe postnatal women should return to exercise following a c-section, when they feel ready. It’s major surgery after all, and your body will need time to heal!
If your scar is healing well and you’re cleared to exercise by your doctor, you can return to my classes between 10-12 weeks post delivery.
What is recovery like after a C-section?
After a c-section, your recovery time is longer than a natural birth. You may have a loss of sensation, feel somewhat disconnected from your core, and experience numbness in your abdominals, especially around the scar area. The scar tissue itself may reduce your ability to do certain movements completely pain-free. Any adhesions at the site of scar can also cause discomfort too. A specialist massage therapist may be able to help you with this.
Your pelvic floor may take a little while to activate consciously too, but keep sending the signal from your brain to these muscles, and eventually, it will switch back on. If it doesn’t there may be some nerve damage so do speak with your GP.
What exercise is safe after a C-section?
Postnatal-specific Pilates-based or core exercise is probably THE best form of exercise for any new mum to be doing, regardless of the type of delivery. Pelvic floor & re-learning to breath properly (now that your diaphragm is no longer being pushed into your rib cage) should make up the initial focus of any postnatal recovery program especially if you’ve had your baby via section.
Your core muscles (pelvic floor, diaphragm, back muscles & deep abdominals) work in a synergistic, timed manner and need a balanced amount of strength to function optimally. If one of these core muscles isn’t working properly then your core is compromised and is unable to do it’s job properly.
This is why I always pre-screen my clients with detailed questions about the condition of their pelvic floor and abdominal area, and perform a ‘Rec Check’ to see if a separation is still existent in their abdominals. I then set basic re-activation and re-education exercises to either the pelvic floor or abdominals to help the muscles return to their original strength and fire properly.
Unfortunately, there is no quick-fix cure for strengthening the abdominals following a section. It can take months of training, careful instruction and lots of homework but we all in the same boat in class! As the saying goes it takes 9 months to make a baby and about the same to recover and strengthen.
If your abdominals aren’t assessed and addressed early following the correct procedures and using the correct techniques, then they may stay in a weakened state leading to poor posture, pelvic discomfort and lower back pain.
No matter how you give birth your pelvic floor and abdominals will be weakened and gaining the right information about how to workout safely puts you in the driving seat on the path back to full fitness and perhaps stronger than you started! So before you hit the gym, run that 10k or return to heavy weights get your foundations in place first by strengthening from within and fire up the inner you!
I hope this blog has proved useful? As always, any questions please ask! You can find me here!
P.S. To plan and prepare your body for a physiological birth & join our pregnancy community of mamas, find a class near you here. Our baby friendly Core Pilates is ideal for all mums post birth but especially post C-section. It’s a popular course which often sells out so do book early.
Debra Seery is an advanced level pregnancy, postnatal fitness and wellbeing instructor, with a specialism in core restoration. Her classes are sought after by new mums struggling with pelvic girdle pain, diastasis recti (abdominal separation), or pelvic floor dysfunction, including low level prolapse.. She also works with other health care professionals to provide a circle of care and support that works best for you. Keep in touch with her on Facebook.