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Libby Matthews: Exercising after a Caesarean section

Women's Weekly logo Women's Weekly 9/03/2017

© Provided by Bauer Media Group (NZ) LP Naturopath, author and co-owner of blog Julia and Libby is a first time mum to daughter Maxwell. Over the coming weeks, she'll be sharing her progress as she gets to grips with motherhood, and all the changes it involves.

It's important to respect the fact that, in addition to bringing a new life into the world, if you've just had a C-section, you've experienced major abdominal surgery that's not to be taken lightly. If you don't do anything too physical for eight weeks or more as you recover, that is 100 per cent fine and you shouldn't feel in the slightest guilty.

You need to allow yourself the proper recovery time after delivery, as getting into your old fitness routine too quickly to feel "normal" again can cause damage if you haven't healed properly.

I was very lucky, and two weeks after the birth of my little girl Maxwell, I was able to start taking half hour walks to get a little exercise and manage my stress levels.

Walking in the sunshine was so beneficial to my mental and emotional well being, and wasn't too strenuous on my scar.

When I was given the all clear to start exercising at six weeks I started off with a 40-minute workout at the gym, three times a week.

Getting back into the gym was really, really tough. I was pretty fit throughout my pregnancy, right up to the 40 week mark I was still working out, but nothing can really prepare you for the massive toll having a baby takes on your body. I've lost a lot of strength, but I'm determined to get it back.

It wasn't until last week (nine-weeks post-partum) that I started working my abs again, and I found it really hard. Abs used to be my favourite part of the body to workout, but now I'm struggling to get the strength back there after surgery.

Here is what I'm doing, as I start my fitness regime after my C-section

  • First things first: I got the all clear from my doctor. Make sure you do the same.

  • A daily walk to the shops with the pram, or with Max in the front pack. Not only does this help manage my stress levels getting out into the fresh air, it also means I know I'm getting a little cardio. The journey in total takes about 30 minutes and is a great start if you're recovering from surgery.

  • Gym four times a week. I am a fitness junkie, so this might be too much for everyone. But right now I'm trying to hit the gym four times a week. While there I use the TRX for 20 minutes, followed by stair climbers for 20, then light weights. Some days I am genuinely too tired to complete the circuit but I'll use that time to stretch and do some deep-breathing. It's amazing how much better you feel afterwards.

  • Yoga whenever, wherever. Yoga is great because you can do it pretty much anywhere, and it's not too hard on the body. If you're not up to hitting the gym just yet, I'd recommend doing some simple yoga exercises to build up strength and calm the mind.

  • Balance exercise with food. Breastfeeding is hungry work. I find I need to eat every couple of hours, and I always start off with a big breakfast these days. On my gym days, I eat plenty of protein 30 minutes before my workout, and add an extra litre of water to make sure my milk doesn't dry up. I also carry healthy snacks in my bag for if I suddenly feel shaky or lightheaded.

I hope any C-section mums looking to get back to fitness find these tips helpful.

Till next time,

L x

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