Can Being Too Fit Make Your C-Section Harder?

Fit mom Chontel Duncan posted about her difficult Cesarean in a recent Instagram post, saying she had a tougher experience because her core is so tight—but is there really a link?

You've probably heard that women who work out regularly throughout pregnancy may have it a bit easier in the delivery room—but can the same be said for women who undergo C-sections?

Not according to Instagram fitness star Chontel Duncan, who recently posted her birth story in a lengthy social media post. Duncan had a C-section, something she really hoped to avoid—and according to the mother, both the experience and the scar it left behind were more extreme because of one surprising factor: Her tight core. 

"They struggled to rip Jeremiah from my tummy as my abs locked him in super tight as I began vomiting during the operation," Duncan posted. "This is why my scar was cut up on my right side because the surgeon had to cut me further and use forceps to successfully get Jeremiah out. Perhaps a downside to a strong core."

It definitely doesn't sound like Duncan had an easy time—but can other six-pack moms expect to have similarly traumatic C-sections? We caught up with Kameelah Phillips, M.D., an OB/GYN at Lenox Hill Hospital, to learn more.

"We don't cut the muscle when we do a C-section. That's always the goal. So if you have really tight muscles—your abdominal muscles specifically—it can be more a little more challenging to work in that confined space, because as I mentioned, we don't cut the muscles, we just sort of retract them laterally or to the side," Dr. Phillips told Fit Pregnancy. "But it doesn't complicate a C-section that much more. By no means would we ever discourage a woman from being healthy, working out or being in shape during delivery as a means of not making a C-section harder for the physician."

Duncan also mentioned that her C-section scar is on the larger side, and that she found herself vomiting during the C-section—but according to Dr. Phillips, those factors were likely not related to her level of fitness. "[The size of the scar] is going to depend on the size of the baby. It's not a small incision, if your baby's head is about nine centimeters, you're going to have at least a nine centimeter scar. If we get in there and we feel that the baby's head is big, we have to extend the incision. That's in an effort to maximize the safety of the delivery," Dr. Phillips said.

As for vomiting during a C-section? That's something women can experience regardless of fitness level, according to Dr. Phillips. "I don't want to say it's common but it's not unexpected. When we are doing a C-section, women get anesthesia. You can have effects from that and one of the most common is nausea and vomiting. The other thing that can happen is when we're delivering a baby, we're putting pressure on the uterus to help guide the baby out. That can cause nausea. When we're repairing the uterus, that manipulation can cause a response that causes nausea and vomiting."

While we definitely feel for Duncan (that C-section experience doesn't sound pleasant!), we also hope other moms won't let her experience deter them from staying as fit and strong as possible throughout pregnancy. There's no need to shoot for her sculpted six-pack, but we've always found Duncan's healthy outlook inspirational, and this news doesn't change that. Dr. Phillips stressed that other factors could have played important roles in the difficulty of Duncan's delivery, besides her excellent abs. 

"Perhaps she didn't have adequate anesthesia," Dr. Phillips explained. "If she felt like she was feeling everything...then maybe the epidural may have not been adequate to help relax the muscles and give her adequate pain relief for the actual delivery.  Epidurals can take away pain during the delivery but women still experience pressure. The pressure of delivery is likely what made her feel a "ripping" sensation, but it is really the doctors weight on her abdomen trying to deliver the baby."