I underwent a c section with my first son and life after wasn't so great with my body! After the initial first 2 weeks where everything was hard and painful I suddenly started to feel better and do more, much more! too much! There seemed to be very little information out there for women after a c section, I was wrongly told/miss heard! being told to not do any form of exercise for 6 weeks post op. Wrong! So I carried on with life without addressing my operation site or the separated muscles down each side of my stomach. The end result was the start of a hernia. This was what lead me onto the path of becoming a Pilates instructor. The physiotherapist I visited at hospital recommended that I attended some Pilates classes. This was the best advise I had received and when I happened to see the same physio after having my second c section I thanked her for changing my life.
So here I am 3 years later a fully qualified level 3 instructor qualified in post and pre natal exercise and about to undergo my second c section. I have gained 3 stone 2lbs (I blame christmas) and my stomach has expanded and stretched to a whopping 47 inches. Now then 3 stone you may be thinking is a lot of weight and it is, but here's the thing. I like food! and also my baby was 9Ib 8 and lets be realistic women gain weight when pregnant. Now I do agree that this should not be excessive and being pregnant is not an excuse to eat a packet of biscuits a day, but I do think there is a lot of pressure on women to not gain too much! and even more pressure to loose it the other side.
My gorgeous son Jake was born at the end of January and thankfully is perfect. The first few weeks were very hard and the memories of being post op flooded back, but here's the difference. This time I knew what to do and what not to do, so rehab didn't feel too scary. Being armed with knowledge made me feel under control and gave me a route to get my body back into shape, at a slow controlled and productive pace.
My weight loss and exercise diary
First week - I have only lost 11lbs and 4 inches off my tummy. What!! Im sure the baby weighed more than that.
Straight away I did my pelvic floor exercises. 10 quick contractions and 10 slow 2 - 3 times a day. This was all I did and to be honest was too sleep deprived and sore to do anything else. I can't stress to you how important they are.
Week 2 - I have lost a total of 19lbs and 6 inches. Thats more like it and more like what I expected to loose from just giving birth.
Over this week I have started abdominal hollowing, this is literally waking up my tummy muscles. Drawing your belly button towards your spine and holding for up to 10 breaths 6 - 8 reps 2 - 3 times a day. The great thing is you can do this anywhere and at anytime of the day.
Week 3 - I have lost a total of 21lbs and 8 inches off my stomach.
This week I have increased the abdominal hollowing to 10 reps and introduced heel slides. Heel slides are hard as getting on and off the floor is not easy. laying down with knees bent and feet hip width I practice sliding one heel along the floor and back whilst trying to maintain a contraction in my stomach muscles. twice a day 6 on each leg. Its important that the bent knee stays still and straight. focus on not letting it fall to the outside or wobble.
Week 4 - Total loss 22lb and 9 inches off my stomach.
I am now doing a floor routine twice a day, still taking care getting up and down. I warm up with
4 x Abdominal hollowing
10 x Heel slides (5 on each leg) and have now introduced pelvic tilts.
To do a pelvic tilt lay on the floor with knees bent and hip width apart. Inhale to prepare and as you exhale flatten your lower back to the floor whilst contracting your core and keeping your belly button sucked in. Inhale in this position then return to the start. Over this week I build up to 10 tilts.
Week 5 - Total loss 23lb and 11 inches off my stomach. I have now settled into 1 pound a week loss but my stomach is still shrinking at a good pace.
This week I continue with 2 sessions a day of
4 x Abdominal Hollowing
8 x Pelvic Tilts
10 x Heel Slides, 4 with the heel on the floor and 6 with the leg stretching straight and lifting with the knees level at the end of the slide, then bending the leg as you draw back to the start position.
4 x Knee folds with toe taps. Lying on your back with knees bent, contract your pelvic floor and TVA (read my blog on how to contract your core!) Lift one leg into table top and tap the toe down to the ground drawing back to the knee fold 3 times.
Week 6 - Total weight loss 24lbs and 12 inches off my stomach.
Im starting to feel a bit more human now and less like a blancmange! So this week I see the docs for my 6 week check up. Proof that all these seemingly small insignificant moves work. He is rather surprised that when he checked the muscle separation down my stomach he cant fit a finger between the muscles below my belly button and only one finger above. Now its very important to remember that your doctors sign off for exercise after a c section is very different to a natural birth. It is recommended that you give it a few more weeks ie 8-10 before starting any resistance training or cardio other than walking and I agree. Even working in the fitness industry I will give it till wk 8 before going for a light jog and to most people I would advise waiting until 10.
This week I continue with the previous floor exercises but am now adding in abdominal crunches. Yay
4 x Abdominal hollowing
6 x Pelvic tilts
4 x Plain heel slides
6 x Heel slides with a straight leg lift
2 x Knee folds on each leg, each one with 3 x toe taps
4-6 Abdominal crunches. Lying on the floor with knees bent and arms by your sides inhale to prepare as you exhale take your chin to your chest and lift your upper body flattening your abs downwards reaching your finger tips towards your feet. Hold for an inhale then exhale as you re lower.
Week 7 - Total weight loss 25lb and 12 inches off my stomach
This week its a great feeling to start working on my sides. Until now I simply have not felt strong enough over my wound site.
I repeat wk 6 and also add 6 x Double leg lifts. Lying on your side in a straight line with your feet, hips and shoulders stacked. Start by lifting your top leg a few times whilst maintaining stillness through your middle. then lift both legs together. Remember to contract your core and hold the double leg lift for 1 - 3 breaths
Week 8 - Total weight loss 26lb and 12 inches off my stomach.
Again I repeat the previous week only this week I add a double knee fold. To most this would not seem like a lot but after a c section its a big deal. This position really works the lower abdominal muscles, right where the incision is! This move is to simply lay on your back and lift one leg at a time into a knee fold position and hold both legs up for 3 - 6 breaths. Build up to 6 - 8 breaths.
I have a huge breakthrough at the end of this week and go for my first jog. I'm bracing myself for the heartbreak of how hard it is and it didn't happen! Don't get me wrong I only ran about 2k around the village, but I ran 2k around the village!! Im ecstatic.
Week 9 - I have hit the 2 stone mark and lost 13 inches off my middle. From here on in it's a slow build back to business as usual. It's hard still having 16 pounds to loose and a lot of fitness and strength to regain but more Importantly I am feeling able to get it back.
So here I am at 4 months. My running is up to 7k and I have booked in to do the 10k race for life in 2 months. I still have 12Ibs to loose to get back to my pre pregnancy weight but this morning I got back into my pre pregnancy jeans. This has really surprised me as I still have a fair bit to loose, there is no denying that there is some back fat issues and side bulge, Im fairly sure my thighs are giving the seams a run for their money but Im in them and they're comfy. What an amazingly wonderful feeling. My Pilates is gaining in strength. I am back teaching and loving it.
Life is not far off being ready to close the door on my pregnancy figure, I will keep hold of my new extended scar, the extra wrinkles at the bottom of my stomach and the slab of mummy tummy which sits happily on top of what Im sure is a lovely toned flat stomach. I hold them with a feeling of happiness that they have given me 2 gorgeous sons and with a sense of sadness that I have had to let a bit of my physical self go. I will never get away with not wearing a bra and I am fairly sure that there will always be a pouch of proud skin and fat that sits smugly above my scar.
I wish someone had told me the above after having my first son but I'm also so glad they didn't as it lead me on the path to becoming a Pilates Instructor.