8 Rules for Running After a C-Section

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Yep, that’s me at almost 39 weeks trying to flip a 7.5 pound baby to avoid a C-section. Didn’t work.

I kind of think I’m invincible. I’m willing to guess many of you can relate to this feeling.  I live an extremely active lifestyle, running about 50 miles per week, bike commuting 6 miles each way, and walking my dogs at least 3 miles a day.  I was able to run (ok, waddle would be more accurate) throughout pregnancy thanks to encouragement from Salty’s pregnancy posts. I even ran 6 miles the day I went into labor!

So long story short, I was shocked when, at 38 weeks pregnant, my baby turned breech and I was told that unless she turned head-down by delivery day, I would need a C-section.  Me? A C-section? There’s no way! I was going to have a perfect, natural, unmedicated birth and bounce right back into running without barely missing a step!

I tried every home remedy for turning a breech baby that I could think of. I did things like ice on my abdomen, a bunch of different yoga positions, handstands (with my husband supporting me), swimming V-shape in the pool, handstands in the pool, ”magic” creams, and that’s not even everything! I had an external cephalic version (ECV) attempt at 39 weeks which was unsuccessful, not to mention extremely uncomfortable.  You name it, I tried it!

I spent a lot of time in the swimming pool that week, but definitely did not want photo documentation of my 39 week pregnant body in a swimsuit!

I ended up going into labor the day before the dreaded c-section.  I was grateful for that, because I had held out hope she might turn during labor. Seven hours later, she still hadn’t turned and into surgery I went. And when I heard her sneeze, it was all worth it.

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Completely worth it!

But back to running. My OBGYN didn’t give me a timeline for returning to running. He told me something along the lines of: I could return to running when I felt like it.  And I took that liberally. But knowing my slightly obsessive self, I knew I had to set a few objective ground rules for when I could return. The goal of these ground rules was to keep me safe. Here is the list I came up with:

GROUND RULES

1. No running until you have been off Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Motrin (ibuprofen) for at least 2 days. And, knowing myself, I furthered the rule. You can’t be OFF them just because you’re too stubborn to take them! You have to be off both pain meds because you truly do not need them anymore. (This happened at day 12 for me).

2. No running until you have not bled for at least 2 whole days. (This happened early for me, I don’t remember the exact day, but it was somewhere around the 2 week mark).

3. If, at any time, bleeding starts again, STOP physical activity other than walking for 2 days and then try again.

4. No being crazy about pace or mileage. In other words, lose the pride about pace and be ok if it’s 20 minutes per mile; just be grateful to be putting one foot in front of the other.

5. Listen to your body and do not push it beyond its limits. No talking with anyone else or listening to music, so you can completely focus on your body and how you’re feeling.

6. Run alone. Why? So you won’t be tempted to keep up with anyone else. (The exception for me was going out with my husband, who is very patient with me and let me set the pace completely. I figured it was safer to have him around, so someone was there if I collapsed and died or something).

7. Any runs must be geared towards recovery, not training. Active recovery = OK. Training = NOT OK.

8. If you are more sore in the incision area after a run or workout, back off at least 2 days and then gently try again.

You’ll see when reading my training logs that I “mostly” obeyed my ground rules, although I ignored them on a couple occasions, which I certainly paid for!  But for the most part, I think my ground rules worked well to keep me safe and enabled me to recover.

What about you, Salty readers? Did you return to running after a c-section? Did you follow these rules or have others? 

I am a 30-something new mother (pet mother too), marathon and ultramarathon runner, healthcare professional, and outdoor enthusiast. I'm working on completing a marathon in all 50 states. I will be blogging about motherhood, running, and any random running-related rant I might come up with.

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12 comments

  1. I waited 8 weeks post c-section to return to running. I took things slowly and was able to run a marathon when my daughter was nearly 5 months old. For several months after my section I felt discomfort during and after running, but not enough to stop. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. I started taking walks about 3 weeks after each of my c-sections (I’ve had two – never again!!) and then slowly returned to running at about 8-12 weeks. I wore compression shorts/pants exclusively for quite a few months to keep my post-baby belly from bouncing around while I ran and irritating my scars. I felt a lot of pulling and burning from the internal scar tissue at first, too. Messaging the outside scar and under-lying tissue and muscles (after they’re healed) really helped me in my recovery.

    1. Thanks Danielle! Great advice about the compression shorts– I think that would help. I’ll give it a try! I am also relieved to hear that you also had pulling and burning in the scar area– glad to hear that is normal 🙂

  3. Wow, so impressed by how fast you came back. I had a vaginal delivery but complicated by many many stitches and several stitches that tore (due to a cough acquired in the damn hospital) so it was 2.5 weeks before I could walk 1 mile and that mile hurt.

    1. Sounds miserable! I remember that every cough and sneeze hurt in the initial days…… would be horrible to have a cold after multiple stitches down below!

  4. I had my 3rd c-section 3.5 weeks ago and ran a 50 min run at the 3.5week mark. Listen to your body is the key. Walking soon after a c-section speeds up recovery. I also ran my whole pregnancy which I find speeds up recovery as well.

  5. Thank you for this. Just ended a cardio workout and started bleeding again. It’s been 9 weeks since my c-section, but my body still feels very different and tired. Sometimes you just need another person to tell you to slow down. Good advice: Working towards recovery, not training. 👍