"How to speed up your C-section recovery" - PART 2
With over 2 million google responses to this question it can be easy to get overwhelmed.
In blog #1 of this series I shared the importance of honoring the journey to recovery.
That it takes time and we need to be willing to slow down to be able to speed up. The key is, we just need the right strategy. Something we can have confidence in.
You see I had followed all the rules or what I had been told. You know that list:
1. Don't lift anything heavier than your baby.
2. Just walk and gentle body weight exercise.
3. Go slowly and rest as much a possible.
4. Keep your wound clean and dry.
You name it, I followed it. Until one day I didn't.
When I injured my back I was angry, I was frustrated, I was sad and in so much pain.
Such a tiny medial task of shifting my 1 year old niece a few inches to the right on a couch had set my recovery back months. I remember standing on the step in our lounge creating big mascara smudges on my hubby's t-shirt. I shared with him how scared of was of re-injuring myself. With all my knowledge as a personal trainer and I didn't have an confidence with how to move forward.
Do the people you turn to empower you?
I am so thank you to my husband for encouraging me to seek further help.
I am thank you for a talented physiotherapist who recommended that I seek even more specialist help beyond him.
My next decision was the game changer. Not just for my own journey, but for every person I have trained and worked with since.
It was the kind hearted, straight talking specialist, Vicky Stuart Jones, that changed the course of my recovery journey. I will be forever grateful for the wisdom, knowledge and understanding that she empowered me with.
That decision was a game changer. Not just for my own journey, but for every person I have trained and worked with since.
And it has led me to passionate pursue the dream to lift the level of care of postpartum woman recovering from C-sections.
So how do we know who to trust? Or who we should take a wide berth around?
Lets get practical.
I would encourage you to look for a few things:
- What are their qualifications?
- What experience do they have with C-section recovery?
- The program should have a progressive approach that gently guides your recovery.
- There should be a strong focus on alignment, posture and breathing as foundations.
- There should be a strong focus on listening to your body and not rushing.
- Technique should be important as you want to reduce imbalances in the body so it can be as effective and functional as possible.
- There should be gradual progressive challenges for the body at an appropriate stage for your healing.
- What professionals back and Indorse what they do?
Some of these things can just be a little prompt for questions to ask before you commit to the journey they are offering you.
There are incredible people out there who will empower you on your journey and champion you as you make the changes you need to make.
You need both encouraging people AND people with the knowledge.
So WHERE should I go to know what I should do to recover?
1. Your Doctor/OB/Midwife
Your health care professional should be your first port of call. They know both your medical history, C-section journey and are qualified to diagnose, treat and guide you in this journey.
If it’s anything like my midwife it’s the best of both worlds - they know how you tick, what your body has been through and have knowledge to empower your recovery.
In my case, my midwife knew I was a strong healthy and fit personal trainer with high hopes of bouncing back quickly - boy was I wrong!
She was explicit in the need for me to take it gently. To go slowly and remind myself that I had had major abdominal surgery.
I still remember her taking a photo of my incision within 48 hours of my emergency C-section. She showed it to me to help my brain realize the reality of what my body had just been through. If left to my own devices I would have happily stayed in denial. But this was what I needed.
Whether it’s your Midwife, Doula, OB, Nurse, Surgeon, Doctor - there is wisdom to be gained.
It’s good to remind ourselves that many of these professionals have journeyed with countless women going through C-section recovery.
They’ve seen the pitfalls and the wins - so learn from them.
2. Your C-section Recovery Booklet
Yip that’s right, the one we receive in the hospital. In my case it was the magical booklet I only found 6 months post C-section!
How I wish it hadn’t got lost in the bag with every other piece of advertising and information given to me in the hospital.
Once I read it I was blown away by all the helpful information that would have been helpful at the time. Understanding that it's normal to have a range of emotions including angry and grief are so normal - it was freeing.
So take the time to read through it. I’d encourage you to get your partner to read it too so you’re both on the same page. There will be some real gems in there. It’s been created for C-section women. Practical tips both for physical movement but also emotional and psychological wellbeing too. If anything it may answer some questions or prompt questions you never thought to ask.
3. Qualified and experienced experts
When returning to exercise after C-section it’s important that you are looking for people who are qualified. People who are experienced with working with women that have been through a C-section before.
From the outside our incision can seem healed. And with our bodies starting to feel stronger, we can forget that our incision is still a work in progress at the deeper levels. Our bodies are still vulnerable.
Therefore the importance of seeking out qualified professionals. Your body deserves it.
Once your vaginal bleeding has finished after giving birth, I’d encourage you to see a women's health physiotherapist - or Pelvic Floor Specialist.
I know here in New Zealand you can see one through the public health care system or you can pay yourself and see one privately. It’s almost like getting a warrant of fitness postpartum.
I remember sitting in the waiting room feeling rather nervous about what it would be like, I’d never been to one before.
And yet it was invaluable.
You can ask all those weird and random questions that you may be too embarrassed to ask others. I was also able to make sure I was actually engaging my pelvic floor correctly and how to tweak it to make it more effective, so it gave me confidence. They respect what the woman's body has gone through and will guide in your next step.
For those of you who may be in lockdown or have restrictions because of Covid19, that really sucks, I’m so sorry! Seeing someone face to face might not be possible just yet, but it would be worth seeing if you can do a zoom call to begin, to help boost your confidence.
4. Other C-Section Mamas
Hearing wisdom from other women who have walked the C-section journey is invaluable! You realize you’re not alone and others have faced some of these things you’re going through.
That’s why we’re championing the Birthmark Sisterhood. Doing the journey together.
But a word of caution - be aware that some wisdom you receive. Though it is well meaning, may actually be detrimental to your recovery. What’s right for one person's journey may not be right for others. I am also part of a few Facebook groups that support mums in their C-section recovery. I love the support and some of the awesome advice that is given, it’s like a tribe of women who have been trying to solve so many challenges in their recovery so discovering hacks along the way to help.
But it has also been rather scary seeing some of the well meaning fitness advice that is given on how to strengthen your body and core post C-section.
Here's a few examples of conversations I've seen between some c-section mamas online:
Question: “What should I do to strengthen my core?”
Answer: Plank plank plank as much as you can”
Question: “When can I start running, doing Crossfit or lifting weights etc?”
Answer: “I felt fine at 3 weeks and haven’t had any issues, so you should be fine”.
Though this advice was given with the best intentions they don’t realize that some of this advice could do more harm than good. So please, when seeking medical advice, turn to a medical professional.
4. Online Trainers? Influencers?
With online training growing in influence, I’ve noticed that “C-section workouts” are becoming more popular on YouTube.
My concern is there are so many mamas in desperate need of help and guidance - that some may find themselves trying to do exercises that could actually hurt their recovery. Or even cause more damage.
The more c-section mamas I talk to, the more common these stories are. Women returning to exercise too soon following programs or trainers who don’t understand the important limitations that need to be worked around. Leaving them injured or even re-opening their incision. I know too well the pitfalls of doing things our bodies are not truly ready for.
Yet exercise doesn't need to be harmful. So seek out qualified and experienced people.
5. Friends and family
Whether you have a loving, supportive family or people who just don’t get it. The reality is unless they have had a C-section they won't fully understand - but that’s ok. The key is finding those ones that have compassion and empathy towards your journey. Those who will hear what your needs are and step up and help.
So when is the right time to begin exercise after your C-section? And what exercises should I do? What is safe? Where should I begin?
I look forward to sharing these insights in the coming blog posts of this series.
But before I go:
It’s time to take action mama!
I want you to ask yourself: WHO is someone in your world that you could reach out to that could help you start taking steps to heal well?
- Is there someone local in your town or city?
- Or is that person online?
Whoever it is I want you to reach out this week sometime - it may be a phone call to ask for some advice, or an email enquiry or maybe it’s booking an appointment.
And hey if you’re not sure and you’re still feeling stuck then click here and drop me a line. Maybe I can help point you in the right direction or to someone who could.