Don’t have time to read the whole piece? Check out our key findings below:
- C-section recovery requires patience, and care and you may need expert guidance and support for your early days of recovery.
- A C-section that worsens or causes diastasis recti can leave the core weak and prone to injury, causing a longer recovery time. The good news is you can restore core strength and function postpartum with recovery time and safe and therapeutic exercises.
- Only start exercising after you’ve received the green light to return to intense exercises. Eliminate crunches and moves that lift your shoulders or both legs off the floor from a back-lying position.
- Prevent and relieve new and old adhesions with scar tissue massage.
A Q&A on C-Section Recovery and Diastasis Recti with Every Mother founder, Leah Keller
According to the CDC, close to 32% of women deliver by C-section. Whether planned or due to complications during delivery, a c-section is a normal part of the birthing experience. C-section recovery, however, requires patience and a different level of care than you may be familiar with. This inspired the Every Mother team to create our new Surgical Recovery Path, designed for new mothers looking for expert guidance and support in the earliest days following a cesarean.
To announce the launch of our new path and honor C-Section Awareness Month, we asked our community to submit their questions on C-sections and diastasis recti, and Every Mother founder, Leah Keller, is here with the answers.
How does having a C-section impact diastasis recti, and does it make healing more difficult?
A C-section delivery requires major surgery in which an incision is made to the uterus and *abdomen. The nature of a C-section delivery can worsen and even cause diastasis recti, leaving the core weak and prone to injury with longer downtime for recovery (anywhere from 6-12 weeks). In addition, women often experience discomfort around the incision site and temporary feelings of numbness postpartum, making it difficult to connect to their core and pelvic floor.
All of this is to say, you can fully restore core strength and function postpartum, but during your C-section recovery, you need safe and therapeutic exercises to heal, recover, and gain strength.
*The abdominal muscles are not typically cut during a C-section surgery.
When recovering from a C-Section, when can I begin working out?
When it comes to resuming exercise following a C-section, it’s essential to take your time and only begin once you have received care provider approval. During this downtime, and only if you feel ready, can you start introducing therapeutic exercises that gently engage and strengthen your core and pelvic floor. Postpartum bleeding may play a role in returning to exercise. It should lessen in the weeks following delivery, but if you feel uncomfortable or see an increase in bleeding, take a break and give yourself longer to heal. It is important to listen to your body while recovering from a C-section.
Our EMbody Surgical Recovery Path supports women during the earliest days after a C-section birth (less than 6 weeks postpartum) through healing core activation, stretches, and movements recommended by OB-GYNs. Learn more about Every Mother programming, here.
What exercises should I avoid during C-section recovery?
Once you’ve been given the green light to return to more vigorous exercises, it’s critical to be hyper-vigilant about the fitness routines you choose. Any moves that lift your shoulders or both of your legs off the floor from a back-lying position will hinder core recovery. Eliminate crunches; every forward flexion bulges the abs and stresses the spine. Instead, focus on therapeutic deep core exercises like the EMbody Program’s foundational Core Compressions that build stability and muscle endurance and safely engage the transverse abdominis, your natural corset, and your pelvic floor.
Learn more about the exercises to avoid following a C-section here.
How do I know if I have scar tissue adhesions, and what can I do about the numbness and discomfort?
A scar adhesion is an area around the C-section incision site where one layer of tissue is healing stuck / sealed to another layer when it should glide freely. This can cause feelings of discomfort, including numbness, pain, tingling, and itchiness. If it’s on the surface layer (skin over the muscle), we see this visually as puckering, a “muffin top,” or a C-section shelf. You can also see this on the surface where skin texture is different, and there is a puff. Scar adhesions are not only cosmetic. When they occur in the deeper tissue layers, affecting the muscles and organs, abdominal adhesions can cause functional problems including:
- Back pain
- Bladder frequency
- Pain during intercourse
- And more
The good news is that you can prevent and relieve new and even decades-old adhesions with scar tissue massage.
Does massage really help with C-sections scars? How about old ones?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: It requires consistent and daily care to loosen and soften adhesions.
How can I get rid of my C-section shelf?
C-section shelves can appear more exaggerated when suffering from diastasis recti. Over 60% of childbearing women experience some degree of abdominal separation postpartum, which can contribute to a host of symptoms, including back pain, incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction, and a persistent pooch that doesn’t respond to diet or exercise. This is why it’s important to *self-check after delivery after delivery and during your C-section recovery.
If you do find you suffer from diastasis recti following your C-section, we suggest joining EMbody Reclaim to resolve diastasis recti and restore core strength and function. That therapeutic exercise program paired with scar tissue massage should help to reduce the appearance of puckering, “muffin tops,” or C-section shelves caused by scar tissue adhesions.
*Some OB/GYNs will sew together the lower abs when they finish a C-section, impacting your ability to get an accurate read on your abdominal separation. Ask to see the surgical report following delivery or ask the doctor what she/he did.
How do I reduce postpartum swelling following my C-section?
Postpartum swelling is quite common following a C-section due to the IV being administered during surgery. This can result in far more dramatic swelling than pregnancy alone but is thankfully temporary. Gentle movement like walking, in addition to drinking water, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and massage are a few simple strategies to help reduce swelling.
Check out this article and in-depth guide on tips to reduce swelling following a C-section.
Should I wear a waist trainer during my C-section recovery? What do I need to know about them?
Corsets, belly binders, and splints are powerful tools that can either help or hinder the recovery of core strength and diastasis recti. The science behind how they work is simple: they draw together the abdominals (rectus abdominis) and take chronic stress off the linea alba so you can heal faster (especially when combined with daily Core Compressions). That said, supportive apparel alone will not heal or strengthen abdominals, and following a C-section, it’s important to take certain precautions.
If you had a C-section, wait until the incision site has healed (approximately 6 weeks) before introducing supportive apparel. Make sure to select one that provides firm support, stays in place throughout the day, follows the natural curve of the body, and is adjustable. If you have diastasis recti, we recommend wearing it all day. Start with an hour and work your way up to a full day. And note, if you feel downward pressure on the pelvic floor, pause and set the garment aside for a few weeks while you focus on strengthening your deep core with Core Compressions. You could try wearing a supportive garment again again once your core and pelvic floor muscles are more fully recovered.
Learn more about corsets, binders, and baby-wearing here.
In the end, recovering from a C-section and returning to daily activities following birth may seem daunting. But with support, guidance, and therapeutic exercise, you’ll be on your way to restoring core strength & function and feeling confident and empowered in your skin. Check out our EMbody Surgical Recovery Path to get started.
Every Mother unlocks a scientifically proven method to strengthen the body during pregnancy and rebuild it after birth, regardless of how long it has been since you became a mother. We’re a knowledge circle, a community, and a celebration— of the mother you’ve become, and the woman you’ve been all along. Learn more about the EMbody Program™ here.