Are you planning on having a C-section or have you just had one and aren’t sure what to do next? A Cesarean section affects the abdominal muscles because of the layers that must be cut in order to get to the uterus and your baby. There are a bunch of videos online that you could watch but can you really tell what you’re looking at and do we need to traumatize ourselves with those videos?
C-sections require cutting through multiple layers in order to get to your uterus and the baby. Watch this video to see all the layers that are cut during a c-section. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKIfIxdpy5w
Now that you’ve seen how much is really affected, let's talk about recovery.
These tissues take anywhere from 6-12 weeks to heal in optimal conditions which include good sleep, eating enough protein and nutrient dense foods, and staying hydrated. None of that is easy at any point in life so it certainly doesn’t get easier postpartum. Be mindful that taking care of your own body will help you feel better and give more to your family.
Breathing is the first exercise to start with postpartum. Breathing is safe - you’re already doing it! And breathing uses muscles in a gentle way. During this postpartum period, I use breathwork to improve abdominal, pelvic floor and diaphragm mobility and activation because these muscles weren’t able to work to their full capacity at the end of pregnancy. Remember how hard it was to catch your breath the last few weeks or months? Your diaphragm wasn’t able to fully expand to fill your lungs so let’s start there.
Lay in a comfortable position on your back, side or reclined. Gently breathe in and out. As you breathe in, feel where the lungs are expanding. Are your shoulders and chest rising or your belly? Balance out these two areas so you feel your lower ribs expanding under your bra band. It will become one fluid motion as you inhale and exhale.
Once you’ve got that you can add in the pelvic floor and abdominals. As you inhale, you’ll notice that the pelvic floor and abdominals are relaxing and making a bit of space for the diaphragm to press down into the abdomen and allow the lungs to expand and fill with air. As you exhale, gently squeeze the pelvic floor and lower abdominals as if you are trying to lift your bladder up toward your head. This should be gentle without any forced breath or pain.
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Scar massage is a great activity to do once your incision is closed. Typically this takes about 2 weeks. You want to make sure that there is no bleeding or oozing from the incision and scabs are gone before starting. Gently rub Vitamin E oil or an unscented lotion on your incision. It may feel uncomfortable or numb but should not be painful. Use a light pressure initially then over days and weeks that pressure will increase to moderate. Don’t push as hard as you can though. You can massage in any direction - circles, up and down, or side to side. Spend 1-2 minutes per day doing this scar massage.
Congratulations! You’re on the road to recovering your abdominal muscles and healing your body after a Cesarean section.