When and how to exercise after a c-section

Gentle activity will help you recover from your caesarean section (c-section). Pelvic floor and abdominal exercise can also help. After your 6-8 week postnatal check, you should be able to gradually increase the amount of exercise you do.

While you’re in hospital, your midwife should give you information on exercises that will help you recover from your c-section. They will encourage you to start moving around as soon as you’re able to get out of bed. Gentle walking will help you recover from your surgery.

If you had any complications during pregnancy or birth, or you have any medical problems, get advice from your GP or a physiotherapist before starting any type of exercise.

Find out more about what happens after a c-section.

Pelvic floor exercises

These exercises help to strengthen the muscles that support your womb, bowels and bladder. This may help you manage any problems with leaking urine.  

You may have been doing these exercises during your pregnancy. After your c-section, you can start to exercise your pelvic floor once your catheter has been removed and as soon as you feel ready. 

Speak to your GP if you’re worried about your pelvic floor after your 68 week postnatal check. They may refer you to a specialist in women’s health or gynaecology.

Read more about how to find and exercise your pelvic floor muscles.

Abdominal exercises

These exercises will help to strengthen the muscles in your abdomen (tummy area). This will help you to protect your spine and have good posture. 

  • Lie on your side and slightly bend your knees.
  • Relax your abdominal muscles and breathe in gently.
  • As you breathe out, gently pull in your abdominal muscles.
  • At the same time, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Hold in your abdominal muscles and squeeze your pelvic floor for 10 seconds, then gently release.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Returning to exercise

It’s best to wait until you’ve had your 6-8 week postnatal check with your GP before returning to your pre-pregnancy levels of exercise. If you weren’t very active before your pregnancy, this is a good time to start exercising. Try to build up gradually and stop if you have any pain.  

Once you have recovered from your c-section and no longer have any pain, it’s usually safe to start low-impact exercises, such as swimming, pilates, yoga, gentle jogging and low resistance gym work. 

Your GP may recommend you wait for at least 12 weeks before starting any high-impact exercises, such as aerobics, running and resistance or weight training. Hormones can affect your joints for about 6 months after the birth so start off gently. 

Read more about recovering at home after a c-section.

  1. CSP, RCM (2013). Personal training for your pelvic floor. Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, Royal College of Midwives. www.csp.org.uk/system/files/personal_training_for_your_pelvic_floor.pdf 
  2. NHS. Your post-pregnancy body. www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/support-and-services/your-post-pregnancy-body/ (Page last reviewed: 22/10/2019. Next review due: 22/10/2022)
  3. NICE (2021). Caesarean birth: NICE guideline 192. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng192  
  4. POGP (2018). Exercise and Advice After Pregnancy. Pelvic Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy https://pogp.csp.org.uk/publications/exercise-advice-after-pregnancy
Review dates
Reviewed: 16 July 2021
Next review: 16 July 2024