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What Doctor's don't tell you after a C-section

I have now been through 2 C-sections since writing this blog post and thankfully I've recovered beautifully from both with the appropriate progressions. For those who are new and are just finding me.


First let me say I did NOT want a C-section. I did everything in my power to avoid the first and even the second. I'm a kettlebell fitness strength and conditioning coach who relies on her body to share, teach, educate, and I was under the impression that having to give birth via C-section would and could destroy my body and career. Boy was I wrong! If you're feeing the same way, start by reading this article I wrote many years ago that still applies today!

Many people have asked and here is part of my experience.  I don't claim to be a medical expert but not only have I successfully healed my C-section, my abdominals are no longer numb, and I've successfully helped others who've had multiple C-sections (even some 20 years ago) find their core again.  I do know that I have had to do lots of outside research to help my muscles around my incision as well as my Transverse Abdominis (TVA)

These are some of the things that the doctors DO tell you after a Cesarean:

1. Do not go up and down the stairs for 2 weeks (which I did as soon as I got home)
2. Do not lift anything heavier than the baby for 6 weeks 
3. Take your painkillers (ex. Percocet)
4. After 6-8 weeks you can start exercising again
Good luck!

Here is what they don't tell you after a Cesarean or most abdominal surgeries. I have added my opinions to this:

If you take your painkillers that are encouraged, it WILL slow your bowels down. Not to mention they are already very slow after this major surgery. It can give you a false sense of feeling better and you might REALLY over do it.  If you're breast feeding there are many pediatricians that think it can be harmful to the baby when taking strong painkillers such as Percocet. I feel it can really cause your baby to be sedated and constantly fall asleep during feedings. Let's not forget the highly addictive qualities these narcotics have. The last thing a new mother needs to be dealing with is withdrawal symptoms from this drug.  

You may have pulling pains near the incision even 30 years later.  I have several clients who are in their 50's and had C-sections. To this day they still have mild cramping and pains near the incision every once in awhile.  Now why does this happen?

 Down to the important stuff.  After your abdominal wall is cut open and your muscles are separated to get a large baby out of your stomach, you are sewn up with several layers of stitches.  What they don't tell you is after this surgery your brain loses proper connection with these muscles.  Many women experience numbness and/or a pooch belly because they are never properly taught how to re-establish the communication between the brain and these stomach muscles.  Therefore it's important to do specific exercises to activate these muscles again.  
When you are starting to feel better from the surgery or /and you have been given the clearance to exercise, start with these TVA exercises. Since everyone heals at different speeds you may feel ready to do this as early as 3 weeks. Doing the typical crunches and sit ups will only target your Rectus Abdominis, which will not help at this time.

Some simple exercises to start are:

MINI PLANK and REGULAR PLANK on your knees for 5 - 30 seconds.  Getting on your elbows and knees. Really tucking your pelvis under.  Make sure to squeeze your gluteus and tighten your quads. Even if you can go on your toes for the plank it's better to start small, so that the right muscles are being used and nothing else is taking over. Here is a video clip for this exercise in 3 parts.  Here  is an additional video clip that will really help that is current from Sept 2011.

Here is a super embarrassing video of me teaching this 10 years ago. I have more of an updated AB ACTIVATION video after this. But for laughing purposes go ahead and enjoy this old video of me, which is still effective.

When you're ready to take it to the next level here is more of an updated video. Then eventually you can learn how to push-up properly. 

PELVIC TILTS - lying on your back (you can even do this in bed) tilt your pelvis under while pressing your lower back flat against the ground. Do a little squeeze and hold.  Also take your fingers and press in to your pelvis area where you should be feeling it. This will also help tell the brain to start turning these muscles on.  Do 15-20 reps of these and repeat 2-3 times when your body feels ready.

4 POINT TUMMY VACCUM (read this in Paul Cheks' book, How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy)  Getting on your hands and knees inhale and let your stomach hang to the floor. Then exhale and bring your belly button in to your spine. Hold and repeat 15-20 times.  

KETTLEBELL SWING - this is an excellent exercise to get the TVA activated.

Sign up for the STEP BY STEP instruction and learn with me in this NEW - "How To Swing a Kettlebell" Class. Perfect for when it's time for you to get moving again slowly and the build your way up. Check it out here

I could go on and on with diet and more exercises. But to keep this relatively short these are some rehab exercises that doctors do not tell you to focus on after a Cesarean.  Why they don't tell you, I don't know.  We just get sewn up and are expected to deal with muscles that don't properly work and are left with a dysfunctional "pooch" belly.  For those who want their stomach to feel and look the same or even better, these are some ways to regain this.  Hope this has answered some of your questions.  There could be a book written about this!  In fact maybe I will have to write one myself. 

But let's not forget the real reason why we go through this.  It's worth every bit of this and more! Here is me all sedated since they pumped me with Morphine, without my knowledge, holding my baby.  Couldn't have been happier in this picture.  Below is first baby.  If you want to see about my second experience visit here

Here is my first baby girl. I think she is 6 months here. Thanks to Kettlebell Training and smart ab activation, my abs were getting ready for ROUND 2 of getting pregnant shortly after this! 

To learn more about the workouts that helped get me back in the best shape of my life after 2 huge babies and C-sections, along with thousands of other women I've had the chance to help, check out my Kettlebell Instructional Videos and Lauren's Playground On Demand workouts. These workouts have helped both women and men get in the best shape of their lives safely! See some of the testimonials for yourself. Read about one of my students who recovered from THREE C-sections who suffered from chronic back pain and now actually teaches this method to others!

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Howie B said…
Nice summary. I can only imagine that your exercise suggestions would be helpful for women who have given birth naturally as well?
Lauren Brooks said…

These exercises most definitely would help any woman who gave birth naturally, due to the stretched out abdomen. But would also help anyone who has a hard time finding there TVA.
Anonymous said…
lauren how do you stay motivated?
Anonymous said…
Sorry Lauren I just wrote under anon in the last post. I was also wondering your hight and weight because most of the chickies that I see kettlebelling are a bit taller and heavier then I am.
Lauren Brooks said…

I am a little under 5'3 and I weigh around close to 110 pounds. No one has ever asked me how I stay motivated. That's a hard questions because there are many days where I am not that motivated. I just know in the long run I am happier and I feel better so I make being healthy a priority in life. I know I am a better person when I am happy therefore the people that surround me will benefit. 8-)
Anonymous said…
THANK YOU for the awesome post Lauren!!!
Lauren Brooks said…

You are very welcome!
Tracy Reifkind said…

I found that KB 2 hand swings were more rehabilitative than walking after my surgery (not until 4 weeks post op), because there is no twisting at all, just straight forward movements. I had to be careful and not use too much weight of course, but walking, with the slight twisting of putting one foot in front of the other was, in my opinion, not as good!

And I had to laugh about the painkillers' constipating side effect! THE most important thing for me after surgery (since I couldn't do anything else!) was to make sure of proper elimination...lots and lots of water....of course I eat alot of veggies too, but water, for me is critical. When I returned to the Docs office 1 week post op, he said, "Now, if you haven't gone to the bathroom yet, you'll want to get som laxatives." Mark and I looked at eachother in disbelief that anyone would go a full week without going #2! We politely assured him (the Doc) that it had not been a problem for me!
Anonymous said…
Where were you a few years ago when we were going though this?

Thanks for taking the time to put this post together.
Anonymous said…
Hi Lauren, I found your blog when I was looking to see if anyone has pain after 5 weeks recovery. Oh I am so much in pain, it is so ridiculous already.

Anyhow, I can't believe that no one told you that you were getting morphine! I am a RN and you are suppose to tell a patient what they are giving you. What if you were allergic? Geez... I knew because I had a PCA pump that I had to press myself to get it. They ever had a yellow sign on the box that said, "DO NOT PRESS FOR PATIENT!". If a nurse even thought about pressing it, she would be in serious trouble. I am a trooper so they ended up disconnecting it because I got up 9 hours after surgery. Furthermore, the nurses and doctors were constantly doing teaching when I was there. Even though I am a RN I don't know everything, but I do know about medication administration and teaching the patient.

So sorry that no one told you this.

I am so sure you are over it, because this was written over a year ago.
stacy said…
Wear an tummy wrap or belly band after birth whether c-section or vaginal birth. Ask the nurse for one. The hospital usually have in stock for new moms. Be sure to wrap tight enough around your waist so it will aid in closing or minimizing abdominal separation as a result of the pregnancy. Our moms, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers did this. But somehow our women of today are not passed down this advice anymore.
Mike Massie said…
Having a C-section was incredibly hard on my wife. It took her a very long time to recover, and made it difficult for her to bond with our son in those first few weeks.

I'll be passing on these tips to her. She says her stomach just isn't the same after having the surgery.

I had a hernia repair years ago, took maybe a 1/2 inch incision. I remember how hard it was to recover from that small incision, I can only imagine what it's like recovering from a C-section, especially after carrying a baby for nine months.
Thanks for this! My daughter is 4.5 weeks old and I am ready to tentatively start exercising again. I am a group x instructor and I just keep thinking that the doctors are overly cautious out of fear. We know our bodies best, right?
Anonymous said…
Hi Lauren, I had a c- section and my baby is 7 weeks old. I really feel sad seeing my sagging tummy. Although I have almost lost my pregnancy weight without any trouble I feel depressed seeing my bloated belly. Can I ever get back in shape?
Anonymous said…
Soooo happy I found this read!!! Tried going on my elliptical 5 months after c-section and although the rest of my body was loving being active again, my incision started hurting for a few days so I quickly stopped all exercise. Now I know why my tummy feels numb!! I really wish the dr would have forewarned the pooch and numbness. As well, sending me home with a guide to safe, simple exercises would have been comfort. Isn't North America going through some sort of obesity problem? All doctors should really be more mindful and encourage exercise...ESPECIALLY after major surgery. Ppl with broken bones get the benefit of physio after, it just makes since to implement the same thing after a major surgery. More and more women are having c-sections, I bet your book would be a best seller! Especially coming from someone who has been there..DO IT! :)
Rebekah said…
Hi! So glad to have found your blog! I have a question - I had a c-section 13 weeks ago. I started working out slowly, walking and running some. I had rectus diastasis pretty bad this pregnancy which already gives me a pooch and then having the c-section on top of that, I feel like I still look pregnant. Anyway, I had been doing core exercises, like the ones you mentioned and afterward I notice I'm sore, but almost in a painful way. I wasn't sure if this was normal since I was ripped open... or if I was doing too much. Do you remember what soreness felt like afterward? Thanks!
I wish someone had told me this 4 years ago! I didn't have any issues with breastfeeding while taking the painkillers nor withdrawal issues, thank goodness. But I still have issues with muscles in my belly. I hope it's not too late to start these!
Mayapandit said…
wow, i really love your blog, and they fill me up with motivation. Though I m from a different country but still i get motivated from your blog, and the exercises which you share are absolutely awesome, and it really helps in getting good abs
Anonymous said…
I just had my 3rd c section. I hope this works!
Nice Post and awesome information for woman after pregnancy how will be recover your all the stretch thanks for sharing such a nice post....
Unknown said…
I just found your blog. I mean just ,only because I was looking for info on surgeries . I have had 2 c sections ,partial hysterectomy , then ovaries taken out and cut from rib cage down. as well as 2 horizontal cuts on top of the C-sections. I have a what I call a flab roll. My husband and I were playing around doing sit ups and push ups. Both military . I became extremely depressed I can not do sit ups only six. I have MS and survived 3 ops for cancer in the uterus. I am so motivated now to do a sit up. I have just found your blog . I am starting in the morning with your planks. slow but sure to help my flab go away. any suggestions for my success. Thank you. I mentioned I have MS (17yrs)now doing well mobility wise. Muscle fatigue fast. samantha
Unknown said…
45yr old with MS 5 different belly surgeries,2 C-sections,2 for hysterectomy Ovaries out second time cut vertical for severe cyst . I am lucky to be able to do 6 sit ups. trying to get health back up. going into remission (MS attack)legs fatigue quick 20 mins. looking for help to feel better. Always been fit 6 yrs military. Have drive but not knowledge with out pushing to the limit (military way)need exercise to build and stabilize .Balance like a drunk person,but no drinking. Please assist. I will video tape to show results. Desperate. PT is not what I need as they say I do not need rehabilitation , I need strength building. Please thank you Sami
HayleySarah said…
Amazing, really working for me, thanks so much for writing this post :)
Unknown said…
Hi there... im 16 months pp and ive tried sit ups etc and I end up in so much pain (even if its only 10) I was wondering which of these methods would be the best to help with a really bad muffin top? I put on over 25kgs whilst pregnant and after the c-section I havent been able to lose any... im only 20 and would love to have my body back lol thankyou for all this info.
One last thing. Being 16 months pp is it too late to try these things?
elizabeth said…
I was happy I came across your blog post I just 2nd c section 2 months ago and am ready to.get these.muscles working year all my baby weight last time
Deanne said…
What are some exercises that you progressed to after these? I had my c section 1 month ago and feel like I can do a little more...not sure how far to push it though. I've also been walking and just started slow jogging today. Is it wise to do any other ab exercises like regular crunches or use an exercise ball for core exercises? Also, how long did you wait to lift or do any time of interval training with bodyweight exercises and jumping?
Lauren said…
I had a c-section 7 weeks ago I've just started weight training is this safe as I don't want to do anything that's goin to set me back?
mrose said…
i had my c-section 4 mons ago and i did not take the doctors advise to wear my binder cause for me its useless since i had a "bikini-cut". i just finished my antibiotics and did not drink my pain killer (mefenamic) i constantly went up and down our house to eat, wash the feeding bottles etc. well i guess it will depend on how far can you do all these things as long as you know your limitations right?
ive been searching thru the internet and wonders if i can do sit ups already since its been 4mons.. and i've been riding a motorcycle (back ride) 2mons right after my c-section to go to work..
this is a nice exercise suggestions and i will try this. thanks a lot :)
Unknown said…
I'm 2 weeks 4 days since my first c section & besides a little pulling pain on the side of my scar (doctor said it's probably a ligament tear) I feel great. I want to go running so badly and get to the gym.
chinnas said…
Doctors need to inform us about what to do. i starting marching for my school 4 mths after and i remained with a slight swelling under my cut. i'm a single mother and i'm on my own. we need all the help we can get.

kenzielynn said…
Is there a certain time frame to start this? I had my first c section almost 9 years ago and my third c section 15 months it too late to start now?
Jan said…
I had a friend who had a lot of damage to her abdomen muscles after baing shot, yes with a gun. At least 7 yrs later with hard work she was able to get a flat abdomen. So I'm pretty confidentt yrs after a c-section getting those muscles back into shape is possible.
Jenandjuice said…
Hi. I'm 6 weeks out from my 2nd csec and was just told I can't do any of my "real" workouts for 9 months to a year. He said walking and swimming were fine but to wait 9 months to take a spin class and a year for boxing and boot camp etc... Any workout recommendations or thoughts? I'm curious about hiking, lunges, squats etc... And why is spinning bad? This makes no sense. It would seem to be a good choice. Thank you for you time!
fiza said…
Hi. this article is a great help. i havent had a csection. infact i had a myomectomy for multiple fibroids. its been ten months and i am still not sure what exercises i can do because my recovery has been pretty slow. I have put on 7 kgs in laast ten months due to the still prevailing hormonal issues and my inability to workout consistently. can you please guide me as to what to do. I am really stuck..

thanks for the great article
Unknown said…
OKay, I totally get the working out aspect but how in the world do you work a muscle that you can't feel (numbness) even after 3 years post C-section?!!
I know exactly how to work those muscles but I have seen no change. The pooch feels tighter but it's still a pooch and I still can't feel it.
I've had 3 C-sections and each time, I was cut differently (location wise). I'm numb from my bellybutton to my woman parts..
I get into a regular workout reg and after months, I don't see any results. I am at my limit with people telling me you can work those muscles out.. bc, in my opinion, you can't get the feeing back (if it hasn't returned by the end of 2 years).
After my second c-section, I worked out and did regain some feeling but now, it's gone.
Trust me when I say, I WORK MYSELF BEYOND MY PAIN LEVEL and get no results.
I'm a single mom.. Who in their right mind is going to want to see this nasty pooch?! Yuck! I don't even want to look at it!
Angelic said…
I'm recovering from my second cesarean. I'm in my third week to be exact. Both times up and walking around within 24 hours. I've been off of my pain medication for 2 weeks. Ivey is breastfed and I was almost certain that she was having trouble passing bowls because of them. Well my question after rambling is, I have the definition of my abdominal muscles back already. I'm sure they are not strong but I have bounced back pretty fast. I want to slowly start working out again. My skin on the left side is numb. Do you suppose I should wait until I can feel again? Also, I had a strong core but the stomach would bulge when I was not flexing. How can I tighten the muscles?
Ellen said…
I had a c/s and there isn't much out there about how to get back into shape and what exercises to do specific to recovery from this type of surgery. Thank you for this article and definitely write your book!
Anonymous said…
I've had two natural births and just recently had to have a c section for my twins. I'm an all natural mama so needless to say the c section was a last resort and I hated it even though it went perfectly and my boys are perfect. I'm only 5 weeks postpartum but I can tell that my body is out of balance even though I'm healing just fine. I can't wait to start workout out, get back to some sort of balance. I have my postpartum checkup in a couple days so hoping to hear all good things.
Lauren Brooks said…
You're very welcome Ellen! I'm glad this is helpful for you. Please keep me posted!
Unknown said…
Hey its ur twin Lauren. lol Same name... I actually had twins in 2013. I attempted to run for the first time since c section because Ive gained alot of weight. So I did. Next day I pulled my pelvic muscle while laying around in bed. I also felt a pull when I was in a car. Getting up out of it the tension returned. So Im wondering if that was old rustyness from finally getting up to jogging. I find your facts helpful. As a Hispanic we tend to believe that our insides dont heal for a long while. I suppose Ill begin an online journal and Ill later post aink here. I think baby steps will help. I do believe in being able to get rid of that pouch. Guess I have to prove it though. As far as writing a book. I think its needed out there. Ill write one too after I go through my own self study? If women keep journals about after the c section it would help alot of us see the things that we face. To view the problem from a bigger view point. Why dont they have follow up doctor visits with physicians after these surgeries. Its obviously needed.
Hi Lauren,
Thank you so much for posting this! I wish my OB had been kind enough to share these facts with me. All she had to say was "you will never have a flat belly again. Let it go."
Well, all that comment did was set me off on a hunt for proper exercises to find a way to have the figure I had before I gave birth. Nobody tells me I can't!!!
Anyway, I wanted to know if there is a way to tell if your TVA and your brain have re-established their connection?

I've been doing the exercises you recommend from 6 weeks PP to present (he's almost 3 months old now) and while I no longer feel pain down there when moving certain ways, there still is a bit of numbness right below the center of the incision scar.
And thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story and exercises!

Love, Catherine
Anonymous said…
Thanks for finally writing about >"What Doctor's don't tell you after a C-section" <Loved it!
Unknown said…
I've had 6 C sections and I've lost over30 something pounds but that stomach is still sagging and i don't like it but it's only been 3 weeks and 2 day's since my baby been born.

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