Many people have asked, here is my experience. I don't claim to be an expert since I have only been through one C-section, hopefully that will be the last. 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
Here is what they don't tell you after a Cesarean. and 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:
PLANK on your knees for 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. Plank Exercise video clip and here is an additional video clip that will really help that is current from Sept 2011. http://kbellqueen.blogspot.com/2011/09/mini-plank-for-optimal-core-activation.html
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.
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