Swimming can provide many health benefits, including strengthening muscles and improving cardiovascular health. The best thing you can do for yourself is follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and avoid too much strenuous activity when recovering from childbirth. If swimming sounds like something you want to try, be sure to consult with your OB first before diving into the water.
With the clearance from your doctor (usually at the 4-6 week mark) and provided you don’t do anything too strenuous, (like jumping off the high dive) swimming postpartum after a c-section is perfectly fine!
Check out this article for more information on when and how often you can go for a dip.
How long after a c section can you swim?
You’ll need to wait at least 2 weeks, but possibly 4 weeks or 6 weeks before you’re healed enough to go for a swim. Your stitches will need to have fully healed after your cesarean, you should not have any lochia discharge anymore, and you should have the okay from your medical provider.
It’s ok to go into the pool or ocean once you’ve checked off these things and you don’t do anything too strenuous. (so no cannonballing!) Healing from a c-section of course depends largely on how your body reacts to the surgery itself, so it’s best to check with your doctor before swimming. Your cervix also needs enough time to close completely again too, despite not having a vaginal birth.
It is important that you take care in order for any infections around the stitches not to occur and also don’t feel embarrassed about asking the lifeguard on duty to watch you in case there are any complications.
How to protect your stitches when swimming
When you go swimming after giving birth, it’s important to take care of your stitches. You should never submerge an open wound or any stitches which have not completely healed.
Consider a one-piece bathing suit or high-rise bottoms so that you don’t have a seam or elastic lines rubbing against your healing incision. This will protect against chafing and rashes, and will help keep your incision safe while you enjoy the benefits of swimming! Many suits that are marketed as ‘tummy tucking’ or ‘shapewear’ may be suitable, since they keep your abdomen bound a bit more securely.
If at all possible, try and wear loose clothing over your swimsuit so that it doesn’t restrict blood flow and cause swelling after being in the water for a long time.
How to prevent swelling and bloating while swimming after a c-section
You can follow these tips for preventing or lessening the symptoms of swelling or bloating:
- Drink lots of fluids before you go into the pool, such as a sports drink, water, or fruit juice.
- Work out at an easy pace in the beginning. If you’re feeling any pain or discomfort, get out of the water right away. Don’t do anything that might cause any damage to your stitches.
- Stop exercising if you start feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or your heart feels like it’s pounding really fast.
- Take a break if you start feeling pain or numbness in your legs.
- Avoid laying on your stomach for long periods of time, which might cause swelling and bloating.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes or anything that might restrict your movement. Wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing can help you avoid bloating and pain after exercising.
How to avoid c-section scar infection in the pool
To take care of your stitches there are a few things you can do to help prevent infection when swimming after a c-section.
- Don’t do anything too strenuous that might cause any damage or re-open your wound and expose open tissue to bacteria.
- Particularly at a public pool, it’s best to shower immediately after exiting the pool to reduce the amount of bacteria on your skin.
- Avoid swallowing the water that’s in the pool by not drinking it or spitting it out while doing laps. Swallowing even small amounts could lead to infections and stomach problems, and your body is already challenged during recovery.
Can I use a tampon for swimming after childbirth?
I get it. You don’t want to bleed into the water. Lochia is the name for vaginal discharge that is similar to menstrual blood that continues after childbirth. You’ll experience the shedding of the inner lining of your uterus within hours or days post-delivery. The vaginal bleeding will be a thing even if you gave birth via c-section.
You should not use tampons in the immediate postpartum period as it may disrupt the closing of your cervix, irritate any stitches, and cause vaginal lacerations to reopen.
Tampons are an excellent breeding ground for bacteria, and infection is absolutely not what you want right now. It’s part of the reason why it is recommended not to put anything into your vaginal canal for 4-6 weeks after birth. (Which is where the no sex rule comes in, too!)
How to avoid cramps and fatigue while swimming after a c-section
While you’re healing after a c-section, there are also some tips for preventing those pesky cramps and fatigue while swimming. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Swimming should be avoided until a minimum of 2 weeks after birth, but your doctor will very likely advise waiting for 4-6 weeks.
- How long you can swim is dependent on how much pain you’re in. If you’re not in too much pain, a 15-minute session is doable. Start small, and work your way up.
- Choose an appropriate swimsuit that will support your postpartum body – the water will help, but supportive swimwear will help with fatigue.
- Don’t forget to take it easy and listen to your body! If you’re tired, rest, don’t push yourself too hard.
After the first few weeks, swimming after a c-section is perfectly safe and may help you make a fast recovery! Just be sure not to do anything that causes unnecessary stress or pain to your abdominal area and continue to listen to your body.
What are the benefits of swimming postpartum?
Swimming is a great workout and provides many health benefits. A mom who has just had a c-section has a few other considerations and a greater risk of infection, but she can absolutely still reap the benefits of gentle exercises.
- It gets your body moving again after surgery – the first exercise you’re asked to do post-surgery is to go walking, often around the hospital ward, but at least to the bathroom. Swimming is a very low impact, supportive exercise that can reduce the risk of blood clots or other complications post-pregnancy.
- It is relaxing – there’s something about the almost weightless feeling that you get in the water. New moms have all sorts of new stressors in those first weeks after baby is born, so a gentle soak can promote a faster recovery.
- It gives you some time for yourself – even if you’re tired from sleepless nights, there’s no better time to do a little water therapy than while your baby naps. (and it gives dad, grandparents and friends a chance to look over your new little one.)
It’s important to talk with your doctor before swimming after a c-section. Swimming can be an excellent workout and provide many health benefits, but there are considerations that you need to take into account first. How long you can swim is dependent on how much pain you’re in, so start small and work your way up as needed. As always when it comes to exercise postpartum, listen to your body! If something feels wrong or uncomfortable for any reason – stop doing it immediately.
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