So you just delivered a baby, and you want to go swimming?
You’re in the right place.
Today, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about swimming postpartum.
Specifically, I’ll answer
- How soon can you go swimming after giving birth?
- What should you do if you have stitches? What if you had a c-section?
- Why are there restrictions on swimming after giving birth in the first place?
Let’s get started.
When Can I Go Swimming After Giving Birth?
So when is it ok to go swimming after giving birth?
It is recommended that you wait at least 4-6 weeks postpartum before you go swimming. Some providers will say no swimming until your bleeding has stopped, which can take about 4 weeks or so.
Other providers are more strict and recommend that you wait until your 6-week follow-up visit before swimming.
4-6 weeks is the minimum, even if you are feeling fully recovered sooner than that.
Why Can’t I Go Swimming 2 Weeks Postpartum?
You should not go swimming 2 weeks postpartum due to a very high risk of infection.
Immersing your body underwater opens up the opportunity for bacteria to go inside of your open wounds.
You might have had vaginal lacerations that need to close, an episiotomy that needs to heal, or a c-section incision that is still fresh.
These are all common locations to develop a nasty infection.
Even if you didn’t have any vaginal lacerations or a c-section, you still need to wait for your cervix to close. Otherwise, bacteria can go inside of your uterus and cause an infection known as postpartum endometritis.
These infections can be serious and require hospitalization with antibiotic therapy.
How Long Does It Take For Your Cervix To Close After Birth?
There is no hard and fast rule to this. In general, most providers feel that your cervix has closed once you stop bleeding vaginally. This can take at least 4 weeks.
Don’t forget, your cervix dilates to approximately 10 cm to allow your baby to come out.
Your cervix will need a little time to go back to normal :).
When Can I Swim After A C-Section?
In general, you need to wait for your c-section incision to completely heal before you can go swimming. It can take approximately 6 weeks for the incision to close completely.
If you have any kind of drainage from the incision (which can sometimes be normal), you cannot go for a swim!
To be safe, I absolutely recommend that you wait until your postpartum visit so that your doctor can evaluate your incision.
Because during a c-section, 6 different layers of tissue were opened up to get your baby out. (You can learn all about the layers cut during a c-section in: Muscles Cut During a C-Section.)
Every single one of these layers needs time to heal. If you let water get into your incisions, you are at risk of developing a wound infection.
A wound infection needs to be opened up, sometimes in the operating room, and drained. In these cases, the wound is left open to close on its own.
Yea, that is something you do not want.
Can I Take A Bath Postpartum?
Similarly, you should not bathe postpartum for the same reasons listed above.
Immersing your body underwater increases the risk of a uterine infection and/or a wound infection in any of your incisions/lacerations.
With that said, it is perfectly ok to shower. We recommend you shower the next day after your delivery as long as you had an uncomplicated delivery.
When you shower, just let the warm soapy water wash over your body and incisions. Don’t actively scrub your incisions or laceration.
And yes, you can use soap after delivery.
Just make sure not to put the soap inside your vagina. This will increase your risk of developing bacterial vaginosis (more on that later) and/or endometritis.
Swimming In The Ocean After Birth- Is It Advised?
You should wait 6 weeks at the very least before considering swimming in an ocean after giving birth. Oceans are notorious for harboring many different kinds of bacteria. Do not put yourself at risk.
Just make sure that your doctor evaluates you at your postpartum check-up before considering this.
Can I Go In A Pool After Giving Birth?
Yes, you can go into a pool after giving birth, but only after your risk of developing a postpartum infection has decreased.
If you are going to go swimming, a private pool is probably safer to swim in then a lake or an ocean.
That’s because pools are chlorinated, and are less likely to harbor a lot of bacteria.
With that said, I still recommend that you wait until your doctor says it is safe to go into a pool. (4-6 weeks postpartum).
Is Swimming Good For Post Pregnancy?
Yes. Swimming is a great way to exercise in the postpartum period for several reasons.
- it can improve your cardiovascular endurance,
- improve you muscle tone, and
- it can help you lose fat.
In addition, swimming is a great postpartum exercise because it is a low-impact exercise. This means that it won’t put pressure on your joints.
I have written an entire article about why your joints are very lax in the postpartum period in this article: What are the risks of exercising too soon postpartum?
With that said, swimming is not a weight-bearing exercise. This means that it will not strengthen your bones and joints.
Swimming After Birth With Stitches – Does It Matter?
In general, you should wait until your vaginal lacerations have healed before swimming.
The healing process can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks, although your stitches won’t actually dissolve until 10-12 weeks.
The majority of women who have a vaginal birth will have a vaginal laceration. There are four types of lacerations.
- 1st degree: very superficial scrape in the vaginal tissue, sometimes requiring stitches
- 2nd degree: deeper laceration that requires stitching
- 3rd degree: a laceration that reaches the anal sphincter
- And 4th degree: a laceration that completely tears all the way through from your vagina into your rectum
The vast majority of lacerations are second degree, which does require suturing.
Most lacerations can be closed with one continuous suture. Other times, you may need a couple of running stitches if you have more than one laceration.
The most common sutures used are chromic and vicryl, both of which are dissolvable and do not need to be removed.
Similarly, almost all c-section incisions are closed with stitches that dissolve.
So yes, you can go swimming with stitches in place, but you must make sure that your incisions have healed completely first.
Can I Use Feminine Wash After Giving Birth?
You do not need to use any kind of feminine wash before birth or after birth at all. Your vagina has its own natural way of keeping itself clean.
Using feminine washes and douches of any kind will increase the risk of developing bacterial vaginosis, or postpartum endometritis due to the vaginal bacteria entering your uterus.
This is a condition that results from an imbalance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in your vagina.
In other words, there is an overgrowth of the “bad” bacteria.
You see, your vagina normally has a perfect balance of good and bad bacteria. Placing different types of products in there can disrupt this homeostasis.
Common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include increased vaginal discharge, itchiness, and a fishy vaginal odor.
So do yourself a favor. Stop using feminine washes!
Can I Use A Tampon for Swimming after Childbirth?
I also don’t recommend that you use a tampon when going swimming. Tampons serve as a great home for bacteria to live in- especially if you go underwater with it.
In addition, you should not use any tampons in the immediate postpartum period. Let your cervix close, and your vaginal lacerations heal first.
Final Thoughts On Swimming After A Baby
Swimming is an excellent way to get back into an exercise routine in the postpartum period.
As with all types of exercise and physical activity, it is important that you get an okay from your doctor before starting.
If you had vaginal lacerations, an episiotomy, or a cesarean delivery, you must wait at least 4-6 weeks for these incisions to heal before going underwater.
For the most part, waiting for your lochia to stop (postpartum vaginal bleeding) is a good idea.
It’s also a good idea to incorporate other types of exercise in your postnatal routine which you can find below!
- How to Exercise Your Arms Postpartum
- How To Exercise Your Legs Postpartum
- How To Exercise Your Butt Postpartum
- The Best Pelvic Floor Exercises You Can Do Postpartum
Additionally, you could read my Complete Guide on Getting Fit After Pregnancy for more information on exercise in the postpartum period.
Okay, that’s all for today. Good luck momma!
How long were you told you couldn’t swim for?
Did you develop any postpartum infections?
Comment below and let me know!
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Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. She holds a Master 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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