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Bump & Beyond | Postpartum Restrictions

  • Category: Women's Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Sarah Mallonee
Bump & Beyond | Postpartum Restrictions

As a childbirth educator, I get a lot of surprised reactions when I teach parents about recovery for the first few weeks after birth. Many parents research how to take care of their babies and about the labor process, and there is a lot to learn. But it’s also important to learn about recovery from childbirth so you can plan for your recovery. Taking care of yourself is extremely important to a healthy recovery from childbirth. There are some things to you will want to avoid to help your recovery go smoothly.

One thing that often surprises my patients is that you should not drive for two weeks after delivery. All deliveries, whether vaginal or cesarean, involve some blood loss. This blood loss could cause some weakness which could impair your driving ability. It is also not recommended to operate a motor vehicle if you are taking any opioid pain medications for pain management. Many new parents plan to stay close to home during the first few weeks of recovery, but it is common for your newborn to visit the pediatrician a few times during the first weeks at home. You should plan to have someone to take you to these appointments, and you may also find it helpful to stock up on items you will need so that you don’t have to go out as often during this time.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should not take tub baths until you are cleared by your obstetrician. Daily showers are recommended during recovery to prevent infection. You will also want to wear fresh cotton underwear. Soaking in tubs, swimming in pools or using hot tubs or saunas is not recommended due to your increased risk of infection. A sitz bath is appropriate and can be soothing, but that does not involve soaking in a full tub. To take a sitz bath, you use a shallow basin that fits in the toilet that you fill with warm water and plain Epsom salt. Do not use scented Epsom salt for this purpose as the scent can cause irritation. If you do not have a basin, you can sit in your tub but do not fill the tub up like you would for soaking in the bath. You may also choose to cleanse sitting over your toilet with a peri bottle with warm water. The first few weeks of recovery will feel like you are spending a lot of time on your hygiene. I recommend that my new moms empty their bladder and change their pads often so that they heal properly.

For approximately six weeks, it is recommended to avoid putting anything in the vagina. This includes tampons, douches, and refraining from sex. Even if you do not experience a vaginal tear from your delivery, the place where your placenta was attached to the uterus needs to heal. The placenta is the size of a dinner plate, so essentially there is a dinner plate-size wound in your uterus that needs to heal. Your obstetrician will check your healing at your postpartum appointment, so it is important to keep this appointment to make sure you have healed from giving birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that as many as 40% of women do not attend their postpartum visit. I urge everyone to attend your postpartum appointment. Make your health a priority!

Finally, it is best to avoid strenuous activity during recovery. If you have a cesarean delivery, you do not want to put strain on your incision. If you live in a home with stairs, it is best to limit your trips up and down them so that you don’t put extra stress on the incision. If you had a vaginal delivery, your pelvic floor muscles need time to recover. After my own delivery, I saw a pelvic floor physical therapist. She shared that for some women it can be best to avoid activities like running and horseback riding for up to a year after delivery. In the first six weeks, it is best to avoid heaving lifting. You may lift your baby, but ask for assistance with other things such as the car seat. It is also best to not lift any of your older children. After your initial recovery, you may begin exercise, but you will want to pace yourself with your activities.

In short, here are the rules to follow:

  • No driving for 2 weeks
  • You should shower but do NOT take tub baths
  • Nothing in the vagina until you are cleared by your physician (6 weeks)
  • Avoid strenuous activity

Taking care of yourself is important. Take time for yourself when you can. Make your hygiene routine a priority! Get sleep when you can, your sleep may be a bit unconventional in the first few weeks. Make sure you eat well and stay hydrated, you need energy to care for yourself and your newborn. Hopefully knowing about these recommendations before your delivery will help you plan for your first few weeks home.

Extra resources:

Cleveland Clinic

March of Dimes