Recovering from childbirth, whether by c-section or vaginal delivery, is no easy feat. For some it is easier than others and no two birth stories are the same. Both of my babies were born via c-section and both times it was so different. However, I managed to recover without any issues and was able to begin exercising again right after my doctor gave me the OK at my 6 week postpartum appointment. Here are some tips from my own personal experience that helped me get back up on my feet and working out again.
Get Plenty of Sleep
This may be hard when you have a newborn and I learned the hard way with my firstborn. I didn’t nap when he napped and then was up all night between the feedings and pumping. By the end of my first postpartum week, I was a miserable wreck. With my second I learned that it is imperative to my recovery that I get enough sleep so I napped as often as I could and asked for help when I needed a break. You will be amazed what a 1 hour nap can do for you! Also, you are recovering from major surgery so your body is working extra hard to heal and recover, so catch those zzz’s.
Walk, Walk, Walk
Yes, a c-section is a major abdominal surgery and is not to be taken lightly. You should listen to everything your doctor tells you to do and not climb stairs or lift anything heavier than your baby. However, walking is the key to a quick recovery. My doctor told me to walk every day, beginning with the day after my surgery. The first two days I simply walked for about five minutes around the hospital hallways two-three times per day. I then gradually increased how long I was walking each day. By my third week postpartum, I was consistently walking one hour per day. I would grab my husband in the evenings so that he could push the double stroller and we would just walk and walk. Around week four, I was able to take the double stroller and go by myself, so I didn’t have to depend on anyone else to help me. Obviously you want to avoid any hills or steep areas, but walking at a slow-moderate pace is great. Being a little bit uncomfortable or tired at first is normal, just don’t keep going if you are in serious pain or feel like something is wrong. As always, consult your own physician because like I said before, no two birth stories are the same. My c-sections both went smoothly so I did not have any complications to take into consideration.
Also, some of you may be thinking, how on earth do you do this when you are tired and you have a newborn to look after (or a toddler and a newborn like me!). Trust me, I felt like this every time I put on my running shoes but I forced myself to do it and I never regretted it when I was done. Going on walks helped me with postpartum depression and I recovered faster, rather than dragging it on. Just do it ladies, it’s so hard but so worth it. Don’t make excuses or overthink it, make it a priority.
Eat Nutritious Foods and Drink Plenty of Water
My doctor told me to eat foods high in iron such as spinach, legumes, red meats, etc to help with the blood loss from childbirth. I also tried to stay away from sugar and any foods that would make my energy levels spike and then crash. While I was breastfeeding I was starving all the time so I ate lots of eggs, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, whole wheat toast, quinoa, fresh fruits & veggies and lots of lean meats. I also drank a ton of water. Eating healthy and walking not only helped me recover, but I also lost a lot of the baby weight in those first few weeks with this combination.
4-6 Weeks: Stretches and Slow Exercises
At about 4-5 weeks, I felt really good and I started doing some very light stretches and exercises to help re-engage my pelvic floor muscles. Here is a great video that I used as a reference. I love the slow movements and you can choose the ones you feel comfortable doing (just remember to take it easy and stop if you feel any pain):
6 Week Green Light: Jogging and Ab Workouts
My doctor gave me the green light to resume a normal exercise routine at my 6 week postpartum appointment. I began doing moderate to intense cardio which consisted of jogging and the elliptical trainer. I did cardio 3-5 times per week and started doing ab workouts around 8 weeks. I didn’t feel like I was quite ready to start doing sit ups and ab workout at 6 weeks so I gave myself an extra 2 weeks which was perfect. I also didn’t do the stair master until about 8 weeks just to be extra cautious.
Don’t Give Up
There were days when I was just too tired and skipped walking and that is OK. You don’t have to be perfect all the time, you just have to pick yourself back up again and get back on track as often as possible. Don’t miss a few days and then give up completely, any exercise is better than none at all. Do what you can and don’t compare yourself to other moms. Focus on being healthy before being “thin” because you have kids to raise and a family who needs you energized and well.
Oh, and one last confession – I ended up looking forward to my daily walks because both kids would be still, quiet and happy. I could just focus on the beautiful outdoors for a little before going back home and being non-stop busy with the kids again!
Next week I will post my meal plan when I was on a mission to lose the last few pounds of baby weight as well as how I modified my eating to maintain my milk supply. Stay tuned!