When can I run after a caesarean?

If you’re reading this right now, chances are we have two things in common: we’re both mums and we both want to run. And you know what? We’re both superheroes too.

That’s right – bonafide superheroes.

This is because as well as making a baby, carrying that little bundle of love around for nine months and going through the joys of delivering said bundle to the world, we’re also trying to make time, source childcare and find the energy to pull on our trainers and get running.

While it’s hard to be a running mummy at any time, stepping into those trainers when you’ve just had a baby can feel like the biggest challenge of all.

First steps

It’s 8pm and I’m shuffling down the dimly lit hallway of the postnatal ward in our local hospital. I catch the faint reflection of myself in the window, gloriously decked out in medical-grade, post-surgery granny pants and wonder if I will make it to the toilets in one go.

At this point, running really wasn’t on my mind; instead I was focused on making it to the loo and back to my beautiful new son without falling over. On reflection though, this was the first step on my way back to running.

Sometime later when I was back at home and had settled into motherhood, I decided to take a gentle stroll around the block. I’d read pages and pages of information on caesareans, but nothing prepared me for the feeling of that first walk. It was almost as if someone had cut me in half and replaced my entire mid-section with jelly. It felt as if I had no core strength at all.

I’d had a complicated, but ultimately natural, delivery with my daughter eight years previously. While regaining my fitness had been a slow and steady process, I could already tell that recovering from a caesarean would present its own set of challenges.

Build a good foundation

Everyone recovers from surgery differently and at their own pace. Here is what helped me get back into running.

*Always follow advice from your healthcare professional

  • Walk as soon as you are told it is safe to do so after your caesarean. It is so tempting to stay in bed, but standing up and walking around really does kickstart your recovery process. Most midwives will encourage you to stand up – they may seem mean, but they have your best interests at heart!
  • After a Caesarean, you will have varying amounts of lochia (blood loss) for up to eight weeks. Be observant of how much you are losing each day and reduce your movement if this blood loss increases.
  • All new mums are advised to wait for their six to eight week check up before commencing an exercise routine and Mum’s who have had a C-Section are advised to wait twelve weeks. . When I felt ready and it was safe for me to do so, I started some very gentle core exercises. These included pelvic floor exercises and deep breathing to start with, followed by heel slides and heel taps. If you are unfamiliar with these exercises, have a look for videos online which explain how they can be done safely and effectively.
  • When you feel ready and have been advised it is safe, start to go on gentle walks. Be mindful of your body, your blood loss and how you feel as you walk and determine how far is right for you. I started with a gentle 10-minute stroll and gradually built up to half an hour. Be particularly mindful if you are using a baby sling.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you were a runner previously, it can be frustrating to go on small, slow walks. Just remember that you are rebuilding a strong foundation for your body – if you skip this bit, you’re likely to end up with an injury.
  • Think carefully about your diet and ensure you include good quality protein sources to help aid your recovery. It’s also worth taking a good quality probiotic after a caesarean to counteract the effect of antibiotics on your gut.

Looking ahead

Once you are comfortably heading out for brisk 30-minute plus walks, it’s time to reintroduce your beloved (or possibly feared!) trainers. For some mums, just the thought of hitting the pavement is enough motivation to get back to running. For others, a goal such as completing a parkrun or finishing a race, can help. I’m definitely a goal based runner, so a few months post cesarean I entered my first race – a half-marathon – that would fall almost exactly seven months after my caesarean.

About the author

Kelly is a mum of two, sometimes ultra-runner and multimedia journalist. She’s also a qualified REPS personal trainer and loves running in the mountains, her crazy dog and paddle boarding.

Want to be spotted at races? Buy our Run Mummy Run kit here.

If you enjoyed this article you might like to read How to fit running in as a mum and Nine reasons you should give buggy running a go

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