Did you just deliver your baby and you were given a list of things not to do?
Or are you pregnant and you want to know what things you should prepare for?
This post will cover all of the basic postpartum activity restrictions, and what to expect when you get home.
Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.
Ok, moving on.
Restriction #1: Nothing In The Vagina
After you give birth, the very first thing we tell you is nothing in the vagina for at least 2-6 weeks.
If you had a big tear that required a lot of stitching, then we recommend nothing in the vagina for closer to 6 weeks.
What do we mean by nothing in the vagina?
This means no tampons (a lot of women want to use tampons to cover up postpartum lochia). Tampons can cause abrasions in your vagina which irritates the sensitive areas.
Instead, we recommend using large pads. The pads included in this kit sold on Amazon are loved by postpartum women.
You also don’t want to accidentally leave a tampon in for a long period of time. This can increase your risk of postpartum infections.
Nothing in the vagina also means no intercourse!
Intercourse can also irritate or disrupt the healing process of your vaginal tissue.
I often find that the majority of women don’t even want to resume intercourse by the 6-week postpartum visit.
If you don’t, that is totally normal!
Vaginal Care After Birth
When you are discharged from the hospital, we usually provide you with a few things.
A peri-bottle is a hand-held bottle to squirt fluid onto your perineum. (The perineum is the area from your pubic bone down to your anus).
All of this area will be sore after delivery. By using the peri-bottle you can avoid touching the area with your hands or other abrasive materials.
Just place warm water in the peri-bottle, and squirt the water onto your perineum whenever you want to wash up. This will clean the area and provide some pain relief. The peri-bottle included in this Amazon kit is great!
Sitz baths are another simple way to provide pain relief to your perineum.
To do it, all you have to do is sit in warm water. That’s all.
You can do this in your bathtub, or in a small basin designed for sitz baths.
(*If you do it in the bathtub, and you had a C-section, do not let your incision go under the water.)
Sit in the warm water for 10-15 minutes, and do it up to three times a day.
Do not place anything else in the water.
Lidocaine Spray/Witch Hazel Pads
We may also send you home with lidocaine spray and/or witch hazel pads.
These provide temporary relief of pain and irritation at your perineum.
Lidocaine is an anesthetic medication that can numb the area momentarily.
Witch hazel pads contain other chemicals/ingredients which are also designed to help soothe the area.
However, don’t rely on these too much. It is important to experience some discomfort in the area from time to time as it can help you determine if you’re healing properly.
What If I Had A C-Section?
There are many different indications for a c-section. If your c-section was planned right from the start, then you won’t need any significant vaginal care postpartum.
However, you may have had a c-section after being in labor (i.e you stopped dilating or the baby wasn’t descending). In these situations, you may need vaginal care in addition to routine post-op care.
Your provider can give you more details.
Okay, let’s move on to the next postpartum activity restriction.
Restriction #2: No tub baths or swimming pools
After you deliver, we don’t want you to take tub baths for at least 2 weeks. We also don’t want you to go into a swimming pool either.
Because you run the risk of introducing bacteria into your wounds. Although your wounds are stitched together nicely, water can make its way into tiny crevices.
Water from a bath tub can harbor a lot of bacteria that can make their way into your wounds. Swimming pools can be even worse.
This is especially important if you had a c-section. Do not let your abdominal incision go underwater.
The last thing you want is to get a surgical site infection. These often require us to re-open the wound to clean it out.
And then let it heal on its own, without closing it again!
Please, don’t go swimming until your doctor tells you to.
When Can I Wash Myself After Giving Birth?
We recommend showering the day after your delivery. This is postpartum day 1.
If you really want to shower the day of delivery, that is okay. As long as you feel strong enough to stand on your own and someone else is close by.
You should still be in the hospital during this time, and someone can assist you if you need help.
How Do I Shower After Giving Birth?
When showering, it is okay to let the water wash over your entire body. Even your c-section incision.
Don’t actively scrub the incision or your perineum. Just let the warm water run over these areas. You can also use your peri-bottle for your perineal area.
After you are finished, use a towel to pat dry these areas.
When Can You Use Soap After Delivery?
You can use soap right away. As mentioned before, avoid using the soap directly on your c-section incision or your perineum.
Just let the warm water run over the areas, and pat dry afterward.
Can I Wash My Hair After Giving Birth?
Yes. There is no restrictions on washing your hair in the postpartum period.
There is no risk of infection by washing your hair. Personal hygiene is always important.
Okay, now let’s talk about the third postpartum activity restriction.
Restriction #3: No Heavy Lifting After Birth
The third restriction is heavy lifting. We recommend no heavy lifting for at least 2 weeks postpartum.
By heavy, we mean anything greater than 20 lbs.
This is especially important if you had a C-section. Lifting anything heavy, or over-exerting yourself can put increased pressure on your incisions.
In theory, this can disrupt the healing process, and may even cause your stitches to break open.
I go over this in more detail in the post on exercising too soon postpartum.
How Much Activity Is OK Postpartum?
So how much activity is ok postpartum?
The most important thing to know is that in general, we want you to be active after you deliver.
We DO NOT want you to be in bed all day. Bedrest is rarely ever used, and usually not recommended.
So, if you had an uncomplicated delivery, we want you to get up and walk around on postpartum day 1.
You will get stronger and stronger as the days go by. You should be able to do a little more each day. Just take it slow and listen to your body.
Do You Really Have To Wait 6 Weeks After Giving Birth To Exercise?
Not always. It depends on the type of delivery you had, the type of exercise you want to do, and how active you were before delivery.
Some women can start to do low impact exercise after 1-2 weeks. Other women may not feel ready for at least 6 weeks.
Whatever type of activity you engage in, make sure you avoid any exercise that requires a great deal of core strength, especially in the immediate postpartum period.
But as always, check with your doctor for personalized recommendations.
Guidelines for Physical Activity After Delivery
The American College of OBGYN states that women can resume physical activity a few days after delivery.
Once you feel ready for it, you can start by doing 10-minute sessions of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. This includes things like brisk walking, cycling, etc.
You can also start adding strengthening exercises like the ones we describe here.
If you lift weights, here is a general timeline of what to expect for getting back to your gym routine.
Any Additional Restrictions I Should Know About?
You may have had a postpartum complication that might require more restrictions.
These complications might include
To learn more about these complications, check out my post on The Most Common Postpartum Complications You Should Be Aware of.
Always check with your provider for any additional activity restrictions you may have.
When Can I Start Doing Household Work After Delivery?
In general, it is safe to wait at least 2 weeks before resuming household work if you had a vaginal delivery.
Every woman is different and may feel ready to do household work such as vacuuming after a week or so.
As always, listen to your body.
If you had a C-section, it is best to wait a little longer, probably 3-4 weeks. You should have a 1-2-week follow-up visit with your provider to check the status of your incision. At that point, your provider can give you more information.
How Soon Can I Work After Giving Birth?
It depends on what you do for work. If your work is not physically demanding, you can return to work in a couple of weeks.
If your work is strenuous or requires you to be on your feet, lifting things, or moving around, then it is best to wait at least 6 weeks.
Your OBGYN is the best person to answer this question for you.
Why Can’t I Drive After Having A Baby?
You may have also been told to not drive for 2 weeks after delivery.
The reason is three-fold:
- Driving activates muscles that will be sore after delivery; these include the muscles of your abdomen and your perineum. This will be especially difficult for you if you had a c-section.
- Many women will be on pain medications after delivery. Driving is a big no-no with pain medications in your system.
- Driving often requires a lot of concentration. The postpartum period may be a time where you are fatigued and sleep-deprived.
If none of these situations pertain to you, you may be able to drive sooner than 2 weeks.
Always check with your provider for more information.
Other Postpartum Healing Tips
Lastly, let’s go over a few other words of wisdom. These tips will help make your postpartum healing process a little easier.
Make sure that you avoid constipation at all costs. Your rectum will already be sore and weakened from your pregnancy.
This can cause your veins to dilate leading to hemorrhoids.
Be sure to drink plenty of water, and eat a lot of fiber-rich foods to keep your bowel movements regular. If you are taking narcotic pain medication, be sure to add Colace to your regimen which could be bought on Amazon. This medication helps to soften your stool.
I’ve already discussed how important walking is for you. Do it as early as you feel ready and as often as you reasonably can.
I discuss the benefits of walking in the postpartum period in my post Getting Fit After Pregnancy.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pregnancy and childbirth are big risk factors for developing a weak pelvic floor.
I have an entire post on the best pelvic floor exercises you can do in the postpartum period.
Get Plenty of Rest
Your baby will wake up many times throughout the night for feedings. This means you will not have a normal sleep schedule.
Do your best to take naps and rest whenever you can.
If your baby is napping, maybe you should nap too!
Also, do not be afraid to ask family and other loved ones for help.
Giving birth is a miraculous thing. But as awesome as it is, you must also take care of yourself.
Do not lift heavy objects, do not go underwater, and do not irritate your perineum in the postpartum period.
Once you heal up, you can continue crushing your life as you always do!
To learn more about safe exercises in the postpartum period, check out my Guide to Getting Fit after Pregnancy.
How quickly did you recover?
Did you think these restrictions were too strict?
Comment below and let me know!
Posts Related to Exercising After Childbirth
- Learn What Muscles Are Cut During A C-Section
- Risks of Exercising Too Soon
- Exercises To Avoid Immediately Postpartum
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Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
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