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How Weight Training Helped Me Recover From My C-Section

by in Lifestyle on 12th April, 2019

Weight training may be the last thing on your mind after a caesarean section – walking safely to the bathroom or getting out of bed is probably more of a priority for you and rightly so. A caesarean section is a major abdominal operation, carried out to deliver your baby through a cut made in your tummy and womb. Although it is a common surgery in the UK (one in every four or five babies are delivered by c section), it still carries risks and complications so it is important to focus on after-care and recovery.

I want to share my journey of weight training in hope that it will benefit and inspire you.

I delivered my son via emergency c section mid-August of 2017 – I was 22 years old, living in London having just finished my studies at University. My son was born 4 weeks early as he had a low breathing rate – I was induced to speed up the labour but having developed sepsis in between contractions the doctors decided it was best for them to operate immediately for the safety of myself and my unborn child.

Having given birth a month earlier than expected, I hadn’t got around to research what exactly a c section is let alone how to recover from one. I was clueless. Some would say it’s better not to know but being the research fanatic that I was, I researched everything I could whilst I was in HDU (high dependency unit), expressing milk into a syringe with one hand and scrolling through endless articles with my other hand. My son was in ICU (intensive care unit) as he needed some help breathing so I had a lot of time to research in between pumping milk, taking my medication and having my injections every few hours.

However, I was thoroughly disappointed with the quality of research. Yes, I browsed through many pages of what to do and what not to do post c section- which were helpful but the information was quite vague ‘When you go home, you’ll need to take things easy at first’ how easy? What can I and cannot do? How can I recover in the quickest time possible without damaging my body? When can I return to weight training and at what intensity? These are the answers I was looking for but unfortunately did not find any answers.

I followed the vague protocol the nurse gave me of ‘walking a little more every day’ and to not ‘lift anything too heavy’. What is ‘too heavy’ anyway? It took me around 6 weeks to start walking at a regular speed with moderate comfort. I still experienced sciatica pain that I developed during my third trimester so I decided to take matters in my own hands and speak with a personal trainer who was qualified in pre and postnatal exercise. It was through this trainer that I learnt different exercises which were both safe and effective to help my recovery.

I started exercising 3 months postpartum (Please seek medical advice). I eased myself back into working out by making alterations for both cardiovascular training and weight training as advised by fitness professionals.

Cardiovascular Resistance Flexibility Core
Month One Recumbent bike

10 minutes

Low-intensity

Machines only

20 minutes

8-12 rep range

Dynamic & static

5 minutes

N/A
Month Two Recumbent bike

15 minutes

Low-intensity

Machines only

25 minutes

8-10 rep range

Dynamic & static

5 minutes

N/A
Month Three Treadmill

20 minutes

Mid intensity

Machines & non-core impact free weights

25 minutes

8-10 rep range

Dynamic, static & PNF N/A

Switching to a recumbent bike meant that I didn’t put extra pressure on my back whilst cycling. Before a caesarean is carried out, a patient is given an anaesthetic in her spine via an injection. The area of the spinal cord and the surrounding portion is extremely sensitive.  A lot of women experience back pain after a caesarean so a recumbent bike is advised. Similarly, the use of resistance machines as opposed to free weights was crucial in my quest for rehabilitation. There is less risk of injury with machines and it doesn’t impact your core (which should not be impacted or strained shortly after giving birth) – squats, deadlifts and bench press had to wait as these all engage the core. I didn’t do any direct core workouts such as planks or ab curls for three months.

I waited until I was healed to engage in compound and core exercises.

This is where everything had changed for me. After my first session back at the gym, I felt physically and mentally more capable. I didn’t have to struggle walking to baby groups or to the local grocery store. I felt a lot fitter and more independent. I slowly started regaining my lost confidence. I wasn’t as tired from the sleepless nights of feeding my son, if anything I was more alert than ever.

It was truly life-changing. My sciatica pain had gone within a week of training. I have always been a positive person and although I didn’t get postpartum depression, I developed low self-esteem due to the extra weight I had put on during my pregnancy. Weight training helped me overcome battles of low confidence. As I was getting stronger, I realised this is something I really enjoyed and was good at. Through healthy eating and exercise I started to lose the weight and build myself back up mentally. So, when I write about weight training helping me recover after my c section – I don’t mean only physically, but mentally and emotionally too. My weight lifting journey, made me stronger in every aspect of my life. It gave me a new sense of purpose, a new direction.

I will advise you to seek advice from your doctor and a fitness professional before engaging in any form of exercise post birth. This was my journey – a journey to a better me. I hope that weight training also helps you to regain strength making day to day aspects of life more manageable and doable. It is easy to lose yourself once you have a baby – which is the biggest blessing ever BUT try to make time for yourself to work on bettering YOU. Remember to build up the intensity of your workouts at a comfortable pace – DO NOT over train as you could cause more harm than good to your body. Gradually increase the intensity week by week and ease yourself into compound exercises. Don’t be too hard on yourself but as the months go by push yourself through the tiredness – your future, stronger self will thank you for it.

Maryam Akram

Maryam Akram

Maryam Akram is 23 years old of Indian origin. She is a fully-qualified personal trainer and Hatton boxing instructor based in Reading, UK. She offers individualised coaching, in person and online, that supports women to lose weight and develop a healthy, positive relationship with food. She founded her business ‘Lift Everest’ in 2018 to inspire women to lift weights as a means to lose weight and get stronger. She studied Arabic at SOAS, university of London and at An-Najah University in Nablus, Palestine. She enjoys spending her free time with her 18-month-old son, working out in the gym or writing something new!