Return to Running After a C-Section

March 10, 2015

It has now been 4.5 months (technically 19 weeks) since I gave birth to Cullen. Throughout my pregnancy, I knew I wanted to get back to running as quickly as possible. Call me crazy, call me being selfish, but running is what I love, and it makes me so happy, and I feel so much better about myself when I do it.

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Racing a half-marathon last summer while pregnant.

Since I had to deliver Cullen via a c-section (which was not part of the plan!), I hadn’t even considered what it would be like to return to running after major abdominal surgery. When I started to do research, I didn’t find a whole lot of information out there. I especially had a hard time finding blogs and personal stories of those who were wanting to get back into shape to run competitively.

During the first month after having Cullen, I literally laid in bed for the first two weeks. I was in too much pain to do anything else. After that I only did short walks occasionally. During one of those walks, I started to feel sore within a mere five minutes of walking, so I turned around and headed home. Later that day I passed a larger blood clot (not large enough to warrant going in), but large enough to know that was a little bit too much. Throughout this month, I was honestly surprised at how little I missed running. (Must have been those crazy hormones!)

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By the fourth week I was itching to do more, so I started walking/running. The first day I tried running, I literally ran maybe 0.25 miles with a lot of walk breaks thrown in between. I would walk a lot (which felt fine) and occasionally turn the walk into a shuffle. I took the next day off, and then walked/ran the following day. This time I ran a total of maybe 0.5 – 0.75 mile. I continued walking/running every other day for the next month. It wasn’t until about 8 weeks postpartum when I ran 3 miles continuously without taking any walk breaks. And then, even on most runs, I would still walk 2 – 3 times.

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One of my better postpartum runs–with my sister when she was here to visit.

During the second and third months postpartum I continued to increase the length of my runs, but pretty much every time I ran, my c-section incision bothered me. It didn’t necessarily hurt, but I could feel it. I would say it was a 1 or 2 on a pain scale of 10, with 10 being excruciating pain. Sometimes the discomfort would go away after I warmed up a bit, but it usually stuck around throughout the run.

I tried icing it (to reduce any inflammation there may be) and doing core exercises (to strengthen the area). These things didn’t seem to make a difference, so I took a week off. When I tried running again, I didn’t feel any better though.

I finally asked friends, a doctor friend, and my own physician. Most non-medical professionals said: lay low, stop running, back off, etc. But the two doctors I consulted said I would be fine to run. I would not be doing any more damage by running (the incision was healing fine) or slow down the progress of it healing. One of the doctors actually encouraged me to keep being active. But the one suggestion that completely healed me was a recommendation to massage the scar to break up any scar tissue. After I started doing this, the discomfort was nearly gone within a few days .

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One of my runs in Minnesota where things started to turn around for me.

It was at 3 – 3.5 months postpartum when things greatly improved for me, and since that time I have building my base back up and plan to hit 50 miles this week. I would normally only increase by 10% each week, but with my history of consistent running, I did increase my mileage more quickly.

13 weeks postpartum – 20 miles

14 weeks postpartum – 30 miles

15 postpartum – 36 miles

16 postpartum – 40 miles

17 postpartum – 25 miles

18 postpartum – 45 miles

This week: 19 weeks postpartum – plan on running 50 miles

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One of the many reasons I run.

I am glad to say I have full recovered from my c-section and am back on the training bandwagon. During those first three months, I was really concerned that I would be dealing with the effects of this ‘major abdominal surgery’ for nearly a year–as some had commented. It seems like everyone’s recovery from their c-section is different, but I wanted to share my experience for others out there. If you have any other questions, please leave a comment or e-mail me!

33 Comments
    1. Very helpful – thank you! I am two weeks postpartum and am dying to run (not for weight loss but for sanity, I love running too). I ran through the second trimester, but had to stop during the third due to a cracked rib. I like the way you did the build up.

    1. Hi ! that was a relief finding this blog regarding running after c-section.. Thanks for sharing… I’m so excited to go back running again, I’m on my 4 months cs post partum and I’m so afraid to go back running but now reading this enlighten and inspired me alot!

    1. So good to hear a positive running and recovery story – most out there were so doom and gloom they had me scared! Went back for the first time today and so glad to read this!

    1. Thank you so much for posting this! I am currently 6.5 weeks pp and hopefully will get the thumbs up from my doctor next week when I’m 7.5 weeks pp to try to run again. I had to stop running near the end of my pregnancy due to preeclampsia but hope I can get back into the grove of it! πŸ™‚

      1. Yeah! I’m glad you found this helpful. If you have any other questions, feel free to e-mail me! I am no expert, but I do enjoy sharing what worked/didn’t work for myself.

    1. Thanks for this. I’m glad for your perspective. I feel like all I read or hear about is how awful it is for up to a year or so. Im almost 5 weeks out from an emergency c section and miss running so much, having to take the extra time away from exercise has been rough! I’m glad to know about massaging the scar; I haven’t done that and I think my description of the pain/uncomfortable awareness of the incision is exactly like how you describe it!! Thanks again, hoping my recovery will continue like yours did.

    1. Thanks for sharing…. it’s really an inspiring story….. now I can also get back to my exercise schedule …….

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I’m actually headed out on my first postpartum run this morning! I’m 6 weeks postpartum and I, too, delivered my son via emergency Cesarean (after being induced at 41 weeks). I’m nervous, but also really excited to start running again. Like you, it makes me feel good. I feel like the best version of myself when I’ve had a good run. The endorphins and the adrenaline give me such a rush! Wish me luck!!

    1. thank you for this article. i feel so inspired to get back to running. My son is already 7 months old now but i’m still not confident to go back into running. after reading this, i feel more confident. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for this! My son was delivered via emergency c-section 11 days ago and I’m starting to feel more like myself – I’ve only taken short walks at this point but every day I feel less discomfort. I ran until 36 weeks and went to the gym the day my son was born so I had a pretty active pregnancy which I’m hoping will make my recovery easier. Most of the articles and posts I’ve read about exercising post section have been really negative and terrifying so this gives me hope! I’ll be taking it easy until my doctor gives me the green light to exercise again, but I’m excited to run!

    1. Thank you for sharing this!! As a ironman and ultra runner who is scheduling a c-section for 2 weeks from now, I was hearing such disheartening stories of women basically never returning to running after their c-section! I was so pleased and blessed to find your take! It encourages me greatly! Thank you!

    1. Thank you for sharing! I just hit 13 weeks post C-section. I have been running since week 4, but really didn’t start running more than a mile until week 6. My doctor okayed running after week 4, but said to pace myself. I would like to run a half marathon in October (4.5 months PPD). I did notice some “pain” around my incision when I ran 8 miles last weekend. It wasn’t terrible, but enough that it didn’t go unnoticed. I’m not sure if I should take a break or if this is common just keep moving. I assume this gets better as each month passes. How often did massage the scar area? Did you do it throughout months 3, 4, 5, etc.? Thanks!!

      1. I probably massaged it a few times each day, and after a couple weeks it was feeling better.

        1. Thanks! The massaging definitely helped! I just ran a half marathong three weeks ago (4 months PPD).

    1. I m really very encouraged to your experience .. And thank u becz after c section all time I thinking about it bcz its unexpected to me. And all time fear that my scar can open….. I m in depression…. And now 6th month running my baby and my question to you I can anything like hardwork, run, belly dance exxxxtttrrraaa. I can do now or not?????? pls tell me its reaallyyy help me to…

      1. I don’t think your scar could rip open, but you could do some internal damage if you do too much too soon. But if it has been 6 months, everything would be healed by now. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to listen to your body–it will tell you what you can and cannot do. Also, if you are dealing with postpartum depression, please seek help!! It is a very real and serious thing, and there are many professionals out there who can help you!!

    1. Hi there! Thanks for your story! I delivered my son 12 weeks ago and have been slowly trying to get back into things – I was active before pregnancy (triathlons, half marathons etc) and I ran 5 months into my pregnancy but then stopped due to back pain. Now that I’ve been out of the game for a while and had to also deliver with an unplanned c-section I have noticed soreness after my runs on the right side of my uterus (where my doctor said she had seen things up). I ran yesterday and am even sore still today.

      My question is, since it’s not my actual incision site, did you ever experience this or hear of anyone else going through that? Like you, I haven’t found much out there detailing running after a c section.

      Thanks again!
      Amanda

      1. I need a little clarification.. . . .you said “where my doctor said she had ‘seen’ things up.” Do you mean “sewn” things up? If so, even though that’s not on the actual incision site, that would make sense as to why it feels sore. If you could clarify things, then I think I could give you a better suggestion as to what to do. πŸ™‚

    1. thanks so much for posting this- this is the most hopeful post i’ve found online. i just had an emergency c-section 10 days ago which emotionally devastated me- i’m an avid runner- ran heavily throughout my pregnancy – up until the day i delivered and am terrified that it’s going to be a long time till i’m ‘allowed’ to run again. i’ve been walking every day– today i walked on the treadmill for 50 minutes and felt no pain what so ever. i know it’s going to be all walking for some time- but i’m really hopeful i can start doing the super-super short distances at about 4 weeks like you did. my pelvic floor feels completely fine, i’m doing kegels like crazy- i just hope things heal inside okay. i never thought i’d have a c section before or be worried about tearing something internally. when did you start doing abdominal exercises again? do you have any other tips on how to get back into it?

      thank you again for posting this- there really are too few resources for c-section mommies online

      1. I’m so glad you found my post and found it helpful! I promise you will recover, heal, and get back to running!! And when you look back on it, it will feel like it went by in a blink. I should be able to start doing core work (and well as running) when your doctor clears you for exercise, which is usually 4 or 6 weeks postpartum. Just remember to listen to your body and you will be fine. I remember going for a very short walk–probably only 1 mile, about 10 days postpartum and having a larger blood clot later that day, which meant I had overdone it. You are doing just fine 10 days postpartum!!

    1. I too went through an emergency c-section 6 months ago for my beautiful baby girl and been thinking about getting into more vigorous exercise than just walking. There are some days I feel uncomfortable at my incision and so stop myself from running or going to the gym. Can you suggest what sort of massage did you go through? Did you use any ointments on the scar?

      1. No ointment. I just used my fingers to massage the area and break up the scar tissue. One doctor suggested Vitamin E, but that would be to help conceal the scar more.

      1. I didn’t. Recently someone told me to use vitamin E oil, which is common for healing scars. Other than that, I’m not sure what else is out there.

    1. Love this! Thanks you. I do have two questions. If you were breastfeeding how did running effect your milk? And, with breastfeeding again…how did “the girls” do? πŸ™‚

      1. I didn’t notice any change in my milk supply–even with the high mileage. I breastfed Cullen until 14 months with no issues. πŸ™‚ I am so small-chested to begin with, even with a milk supply I never had any issues when running.

    1. Hi! Wondering if you had a specific method for massaging your scar ?
      Before runs/ after runs/ daily etc ?
      Thanks !!

      1. No, no specific method. I did it maybe 2-3 times a day–whenever I could remember.

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