As a Pilates instructor I just assumed that I would have the ideal birth. I looked after my pregnant body with daily exercise and meditation and I nourished myself from the garden. I hired a Doula to act as my spokesperson and I took the last 3 months off work to prepare myself for the life that lay ahead. My labour came on steadily at home and by the time I got to hospital I was 10 cm dilated and ready to take on the World. I was thrust under hospital lights, inspected by a Doctor who was clearly in a hurry to get his job done and my whole body contracted inwards. What had felt like a very natural, exhilarating and fulfilling start to my birthing experience soon turned into an uncomfortable and seemingly unnecessary medical procedure. I was told with no uncertainty that if I didn’t produce this baby in 1 hour I was going in for a C-section. I knew then and there that my body was not willing to adhere to the schedule of this Doctor and I felt stripped of my right to birth naturally, a process that was coming along just fine in the warm, soft comfort of my home. Even the doula was pushed out of the way while the medical procedures took over and my husband sat helplessly in the corner.
If I had known what I know now about Caesarian births, and the complications that may arise, I would have fought harder for a vaginal birth but under pressure I crumpled. I am not adverse to the idea of C-section when lives are at stake. This is an amazing option of modern medicine and has saved many from heart ache. But I felt forced into this option for the sake of someones schedule and my personal welfare was not considered a priority. A Caesarian is major abdominal surgery. 8 layers of skin, muscles, fascia and organs are interrogated and manipulated to bring baby into the World. With all surgeries come potential complications and there are some careful considerations for your long term health. The post pregnant body takes 9 - 12 months to heal regardless of your birthing process. This is best case scenario. Some take longer due to trauma and many may need to seek expert help from a womens specialist along the way. With abdominals stretched during pregnancy plus the added surgery trauma, you may experience the following both immediately and long term following a C-Section:
- Numbness around the scar, abdominals and pelvis
- Deep pain sensation around the scar, abdominals and pelvis
- Nerve pain in the torso and pelvis
- Painful intercourse
So what can you do after a C-section and when?
- WEEK 1- Rest. Your body has just been through the biggest change ever. And then you ended up with major abdominal surgery. So put your feet up and enjoy your baby moon.
- WEEK 2 - 10 Start to activate your core. This is not exercising. The easiest way to do this is lay on your back with your finger tips resting on the bones on front of your pelvis (ASIS). Imagine a clock on your belly and these bones are 3 and 9. Your pubic bone is 6 and belly button 12. Press your fingers in to the flesh on the inside of 3 and 9 and imagine pulling those 2 bones together. Then 6 and 12 of the clock closer together. You may feel a slight tone deep in your tummy. These are your core muscles Transverse abdominals and pelvic floor. Hold the tone (avoid pushing out or bearing down) and breathe in and out 3-5 times? Now start to rotate your pelvis around clockwise, then anti clockwise keeping your bottom on the floor. Repeat x 10 every single day. It is okay if at first you do not recognise any muscle activation. A C-section leaves scar tissue and it takes time and practice to regain sensation. Its okay if at first you can not breath when you try to connect with those muscles. They need to be retrained for long term deep core health and may take up to 6 months to co-operate. Eventually you should be able to connect with that deep core tone and lift one foot off the ground, still laying on your back. Inhale to prepare - exhale to lift your leg. We are retraining the muscles that contribute to pelvic lumbar stability so your pelvis should stay steady and your spine should be in a comfortable, natural shape. With that in mind, if you can not connect with those deep abdominals (Transverse and pelvic floor) you are definitely not ready for any jumping, running or overhead weights.
- WEEK 10 - 16 you may start some light walking (a perfect opportunity to get baby out and about), a beginner Pilates or beginner yoga class with an instructor who is trained in post pregnancy. Gently massage the scar and surrounding area to help with breakdown of scar tissue. Use a carrier oil and Lavender essential oil for its calming and healing properties.
- WEEK 16 - 24 post pregnancy you can now safely introduce swimming, casual bike riding, barre, deep water walking.
- 6 - 9 months post pregnancy you might be ready to step up the pace with care. Honour your body, listen to her whisper, you are still recovering. I teach my clients that your body will whisper to you before she shouts. learning to listen to the subtle hints that your body is not ready for something will save you from injury most of the time. I’m still encouraging you to walk, ride and swim, with a slight increase in tempo. If you are breastfeeding your ligaments are still lax with relaxin hormone and you may be more likely to injure yourself so I do not recommend jogging for breastfeeding mothers, ever.
- 12 months and beyond - you are probably starting to feel reconnected with your body. If you have followed my advise, you may be ready to get back to the pursuits you enjoyed pre pregnancy including sports, athletics and gym. Remember your body has changed for ever. Creating a human being is a miracle feat. Women who do not rehabilitate with educated, expert care can experience pelvic pain, prolapse, strained ligaments and abdominal separation up to 2 years after they have given birth. It pays to take your time, seek educating, mindful exercise programs, enjoy and appreciate your post pregnant self and know that if you take care you will be able to enjoy your children so much more. Be kind to yourself. There are no gains with pain.
By Katie Crane
Director Encore Pilates and Wellness