No one told me not to go up stairs.
I’d been home for about a week, finally settling in to a routine with a newborn, and I realized I was finding a few spare moments here and there to research some recovery techniques to help with what was a very astoundingly painful healing process from an unplanned c-section. I was interested in what happened to the core after a c-section. I had pain medication of course, but it really only took the edge off. What I was left with was a nagging reminder every time I stood up to pee (asleep or awake, btw, my husband had to help me up and to the bathroom for quite awhile).
As part of the healing process, I was trying to walk (see more on this below). In order to walk outside in the gorgeous early summer weather, however, my husband, baby, and I had to walk down two flights of stairs. Which we’d been doing for about a week.
And there it was, a bold headline in the first round-up I found about c-section recovery: avoid stairs.
This got me thinking about c-sections. No one tells you anything about how to heal beyond “drink water, take your meds, and try to walk as much as you can.” I hadn’t been told about stairs. Maybe, I thought, that’s because it’s sort of an urban legend. Or, I thought, it’s because no one tells you anything.
Anyway, I went up and down stairs every day, starting from the moment I got home from the hospital. And I am fine. Talk to your doctor (and let me know in the comments!) how real this stair thing is.
So, okay, I thought after I read that, I’m already not scoring 100% on my healing report card because I live on a second floor. But that was out of my control. It certainly wouldn’t help things to move during all of this.
This made me even more motivated to find what I could do that was within my control to heal.
So, here it is! These 7 ways I healed my core after a C-Section are things that I have passed along to a few friends since, so I think it merited some attention here. If you haven’t already, check out My C-Section Recovery Kit, where I round up some of the best products I found to help with the healing process. That post, paired with this one, may be your ultimate c-section guide… thought I’m sure I’ll think of more posts to add in the future on this topic!
I am a hyper-researcher. I’m the kind of gal who will spend hours researching the same five restaurants while planning a trip, who reads millions of reviews before making a purchase, and who needs, for better or worse, to have basically all of the information.
But because I hadn’t planned on having a c-section, I hadn’t planned for having a c-section.
I hadn’t read any helpful articles or learned any techniques to cope with the healing process. And there definitely wasn’t the time, or energy, to do the kind of research I like to do while healing in the hospital. I had to learn almost everything on this list the hard way.
I think that because of this, though, I have come up with a really solid list here. Looking back on my experience, I found there were a solid 7 Ways I Healed My Core After A C-Section. I’ve rounded it all up here for you so that you don’t have to learn the hard way!
7 Ways I Healed My Core After A C-Section
The Early Days
Unlike many things on this list, you can start this almost right away. Well, okay, you’re already breathing, but I’m talking about a certain kind of breath. I did this while pregnant, too, which I found really useful.
This technique engages your deepest core muscles, and does early and good work in getting your mobility back. It’s useful for all births, but does incredible work for c-section mamas.
It’s called connection breath, and involves sending your breath to your low abs, pelvic floor, and into your ribcage. Learn how to do it here.
It will be hard… in fact, you may not be able to actually do it at all for a few days. But it will go far if you are able to practice the technique ahead of time.
While you’re breathing, consider adding some calming and useful postpartum essential oils to the air.
No one told me about the stairs, but I did get a few hints about this one: do not sit straight up when it is time to move.
I’m emphasizing this on the list just in case no one told you about this one! It is very important.
As soon as it’s time to move after your surgery, whether it’s to sit up and hold your baby, to sit up to adjust your position in bed, or sitting up to get up and pee (bless your heart), roll to your side first before sitting up. Do not sit up as though you were doing a sit-up, or as though you were moving like your old self again. This can really contribute to the separation of your abdominal muscles, called diastasis recti.
Rolling to your side can also give you a chance to psych yourself up for moving in those early days. Take a few extra breaths while you’re there to honor your experience.
When you are finally in a sitting up position, and once you get the breath exersizes down, begin to practice drawing your belly toward your spine. Work up to holding it longer and longer.
You may want to continue (or start!) the use of a body pillow during this time. They can twist around and support the parts of your body that need it.
Work Up To:
Walking and Exercise
Walk, walk, walk as soon as you can.
I mention this in My C-Section Recovery Kit, but as soon as you can walk, walk! Start by walking the hospital corridors, and keep it going when you get home. As soon as you can walk, I advise talking to your doctor about incorporating heel slides into your time in bed. This can help your abdominal muscles find each other again, and get strong!
If you don’t already have supportive walking shoes, I suggest ordering some (these are my favorite). You may also want to consider using shoe inserts or even some walking sticks for extra support (especially if you’re walking on your own, which can be a peaceful experience for some me-time). I found letting the stroller bear some of my weight was incredibly helpful.
I had planned to practice bekung, or Malaysian belly binding, prior to my c-section. I wasn’t sure if I could still do it until my doula said that she thought c-section mothers may see even more benefit from doing it.
This technique involves binding your belly with a long fabric strip in order to create more support. I began to think of it as a way of creating a sort of spine on the front of my body with a series of knotted fabric. The idea is not to focus on getting it corset-tight, or to use it to achieve a degree of thinness. This is just to help your muscles heal, and heal back together (avoiding diastasis recti, and other complications).
Every morning I would lotion up my belly, just as my docent taught me, with a balm that she made for me. You can find lots of good DIY ideas for this on Pinterest. Then I would take the time to thoughtfully wrap myself with the kind of pressure that felt right to me, and I would wear it for most of the day. I didn’t sleep in it, but some women find that to be the most helpful.
I was consistent with this, taking time each morning to get it properly adjusted (and, boy, is there a learning curve!) On days that I missed, my back ached.
My doula taught me how to do it, but here is a helpful guide that I also consulted.
One thing of note is that there is a finite time to practice bekung. Though it’s incredibly helpful in the beginning to get your body some extra support, and coax that core back together, at a certain point it will prevent your muscles from doing their own work in healing. I wrapped for about 2.5 months, and after that I stopped. Talk to your doula, doctor, midwife, and/or do your own research to find what is right for you. Listen to your body!
I talk about this a bit in My C-Section Recovery Kit but just in case you missed it, I wanted to touch (no pun intended) on it here.
Before you can do any of this, your incision has to become a scar. This means that you need to be patient (more on this in a second). Focus on your breath work, binding, rest, and moving mindfully. Then, once all of the stitches have been absorbed (or removed, as the case may be), gradually begin to explore how it feels with your hands.
Scar tissue builds up not only at the visible scar, but around it. As soon as you are able, massage your scar. I suggest using this scar cream, especially if you’re interested in fading the scar as much as possible, but any lubrication will help this process feel more gentle.
I also suggest taking this time to reflect on and honor your birth experience.
After any birth, with a combination of exhaustion, the amount of hydration it takes to nurse, and the new hormones, your gut might be rebelling. Gut health means hydration, probiotics, fermented foods, and also eating healthy. Gut health can impact not only the operation of your digestion system, but your brain as well. The same hormones that regulate your mood (and mood swings) live in your gut (and sometimes in larger amounts).
(By the way, it was hard to choose which gut health article to link to from Goop, so if you’re interested in getting started learning more, I suggest clicking around that site… it’s an easy, light way to learn more before moving on to other research).
(Plus, did you know Gwyneth had a c-section? Well, now you do).
Anyway, I strongly recommend this book as a gut-healing resource to have on hand.
And I touch on my favorite postnatal supplements in this post, which gives a nod to my favorite probiotics.
More than anything during this time, I recommend being patient with yourself.
You won’t walk far at first.
Scar massage won’t be comfortable at first.
You may struggle.
But you will get there.
I’ve made several worksheets to help with reflection on this time. Consider my gratitude worksheet as a way of cultivating the joys around you.