Postpartum Activity Restrictions: What That Means for Household Chores and Work

I’ve known moms who were returning to work too soon after the baby. That goes for doing household chores after giving birth too. Lucky me, I was in China and was told to rest up.

I’m glad I did, but it was also maddening to watch my mother-in-law clean the opposite way I would have. I kept telling myself that I’d be able to fix it soon enough.

Housework after a c-section is discouraged, and for a good reason. I mean, it’s MAJOR abdominal surgery.

So, hang in there if those piles of laundry and crusty floors are getting you down. I feel you on that.

Also, you should be cautious of participating in certain household work during pregnancy.

Doctors put postpartum activity restrictions in place to avoid having you return with a severe injury. This is especially true if you’ve had a c-section. But having a postpartum timeline to when you can begin postpartum cleaning will help keep things in perspective.

I remember scrubbing my house every day up until I gave birth. Let me tell you…it was exhausting. You’re not supposed to do lots of chores when you’re pregnant.

In fact, the day my water broke with my eldest, I’d been cleaning up after my mother-in-law had gone back to her home. She’d tracked mud in from the front door, which drove me crazy. I scrubbed that up, and then not long after, my water broke all over the place. 

I had to take it easy when I returned from the hospital with my baby. Doctor’s orders. Not that I could have broken them if I had tried. I was in too much pain. One of my friends came over and cooked for me and cleaned everything. What an angel!

Anyway, if you need an excuse to let chores fall by the wayside, now’s your chance. I urge you to embrace this because:

  1. Your baby needs you now more than she ever will.
  2. Your body needs the rest.
  3. You do too much anyway.
  4. Before you know it, you’ll wish someone else would do those darn chores, so please take advantage of the help now!

Safe Return to Household Works: Vaginal Delivery vs. C-section

I know you want to get back to everything you liked doing before you had your baby, such as drinking your wine, having sex, or going to the gym. Of course, I’m sure there are activities you’re less than keen about getting back to, like chores.

But whatever the case, the table below will help you determine at a glance what you can and can’t do or when you should wait. It has been broken down for vaginal delivery and cesarean delivery, so follow the right column.

As always, you should speak with your doctor about your unique situation. Some mamas feel fine after a vaginal delivery and have no tearing or anything. In that case, your doctor may say to go for it. But others may need longer to recover, and that’s ok too.

You need to do what’s best for your body. Don’t push things, or it will take even longer to recover. Focus on your health and wellness, and if you notice any of the warning signs I mentioned, call your doctor immediately. Once you get your postpartum checkout, you should be cleared to do everything, but make sure you ease into things even with that clearance.

Now, check out the chart below, and you’ll see when you can get back to everything!

ActivitiesVaginal DeliveryCesarean Delivery
WalkingAfter 24 hoursAfter 6-8 weeks (you will be encouraged to lightly walk around about 12-24 hours after delivery though walking for exercise should wait until after the postpartum checkup)
Taking StairsAfter 1 weekAfter 3 weeks (if you have stairs in your home, try to limit how often you go up and down them)
Bending overAfter a few days, depending on how you feelAfter 4-6 weeks
Taking a bath/showerLimit baths but go for showers as soon as you can stand. Sitz baths (with 2-3 inches of water) are ok.After 6 weeks for bath; For shower, it can be after 24 hours as long as you cover the incision with waterproof adhesive
Using the bathroomAs soon as you canAbout a day afterward, when they remove your catheter
Light Housework (cooking, washing dishes, clearing the table, etc.)After a few days, but only if you are feeling up for itAfter 6 weeks
Heavy Housework (moving furniture, carpet & refrigerator cleaning, etc.)After 2 weeks, but listen to your bodyAfter 6 weeks, when you have your postpartum checkup
Light exercise (slow walking, sitting using a computer, stretching, etc.)After 24 hoursAfter 6-8 weeks
Intense exercise (hiking, gym workout, bicycling, etc.)After a few days, unless you’ve had vaginal tearingAfter 12 weeks
Lifting weight heavier than babyAfter 6 weeks After 8-12 weeks 
DrivingAfter 1 weekAfter 3-6 weeks
SwimmingAfter 7 days (until the bleeding stops)After 6 weeks (until the bleeding stops)
LaundryAfter 1 week (try not to lift anything heavy)After 1 week (as long as you do not lift a heavy basket or bend)
MoppingAfter 6 weeksAfter 6 weeks
VacuumingAfter 6 weeksAfter 6 weeks
Drinking AlcoholAfter you’ve been checked over at the hospital (and limit it to one drink)After you check out of the hospital (could be a few days; also limit yourself to one drink)
Childcare for other kidsAfter 1 week (as long as you feel up to it)After 1 week (as long as you feel up to it)
Sexual activityAfter 6 weeksAfter 6 weeks
Back to workplaceAfter 3-6 weeksAfter 6-8 weeks
time to go back to daily activities and household chores after delivery (vaginal vs c-section))\

When can I start doing household work after delivery?

You can start doing household work again 2 weeks after delivery if you’ve had a vaginal delivery. That doesn’t mean when your baby is 2 weeks old, you’ve got to dive right into everything.

If you feel up for it, go for it. 

Vaginal deliveries are a bit easier to recover from. Ideally, you’ll do some postpartum walking and ease yourself into it.

stretching mom with baby

I recommend postpartum walking for those with a c-section, as long as your doctor says that’s ok. For the most part, once they untether you from that catheter, you should be walking a bit more and more each day to get your strength up and recover.

But by no means should you push yourself. 

As for those of you with vaginal delivery, after 2 weeks and an all-clear from the doctor, you can usually get back to those daily tasks around the house. Wiping down the counters, washing the dishes, and simple non-strenuous tasks are the ones to start with.

Anything that requires more effort than that may be too complicated right now. You should listen to your body; stop and rest if you feel any pain.

If you’ve had a c-section, it will likely be about 4 to 6 weeks before you can resume heavy housework. You can go for postpartum walking and take the stairs as long as you’re not doing it excessively.

But for you, avoiding lifting anything heavier than your baby is urgent. Vacuuming after a c-section is not a good idea because it will strain your incision area and may disrupt your recovery. 

In fact, anything that involves bending over or pushing something should not be done by you. Not yet, anyway. I know it’s hard to sit back. But this isn’t laziness. This is about taking proper care of your health.

You can’t be there for your baby without good health; she needs you.

I know not a single person who has ever been criticized for a messy home in the first 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. If the mess bothers anyone who comes in, like your in-laws, they can hush up, grab the vacuum, and mop. 

Friends and family will usually offer to help, but don’t hesitate to ask for assistance when needed. When you get the rest you need, you’ll be better able to power through it soon enough.

How do I know if I’m overdoing it after I give birth?

Glad you asked! There are signs of overdoing after a c-section you should pay attention to. And these are a good reminders of why the doctor has told you to rest and take it easy.

Bleeding is heavier and redder

You’ll notice this if you’ve had a vaginal delivery too. But if you rest up after delivery, your blood flow will begin to lessen. Of course, it’s normal to bleed after having a baby. Day by day, though, that blood should be getting less and less.

Here are some insights on heavy and irregular period issues after a c-section.

You will see bright red blood that gets heavier and heavier if you’re overdoing things. For goodness sake, Cinderella! Hand off the mop and take a nap with that sweet baby!

Vaginal pressure

I had no choice but to climb up a mess of stairs to get to our apartment in China because there was no elevator to our apartment. A very common thing there. After that, I needed to rest. I could feel the pressure in my vagina, and it sucked.

If you’re overdoing it, it will feel like someone kicked you down there. Or like you fell on the balance beam in gymnastics. Yes, ouch. Ouch, ouch, OUCH. 

You feel overwhelmed and tired

There’s a reason your doctor has told you to rest. Your mind and body need it so desperately. Your hormones can’t balance, and your body can’t recover if you push them.

husband helps his depressed wife after baby

Right now, the only thing you should focus on accomplishing is taking care of the baby and getting your rest. Everything else will get done in its own time, I promise!

Surprisingly, drinking after giving birth is fine as long as you’re not breastfeeding. Why not have a little wine to relax? And if you are breastfeeding, a drink will be ok as long as you pump and dump.

I was drinking after giving birth. I fed my baby and then had my drink. Then I pumped and dumped. My husband fed her with the milk I’d pumped previously, and then I took over again. It was so nice to have some wine again. Try it, and ask your doctor if you have concerns about drinking after birth.

I can assure you that you will not want to be drinking immediately after giving birth. Even if you’re a partier. You’ll be totally tuckered out.

How long do you wait to return to work after having a baby?

I haven’t met one mom yet who couldn’t wait to return to work after having a baby. Everyone wanted to stay home. I know that’s not always possible, depending on what you do for a living and where you work. 

You should NEVER go back to work – even to a desk job – without having your doctor clear you first. NEVER!

Even with vaginal delivery, you will have changes in your hormones and all sorts of adjustments in your body that will make you so exhausted you won’t be able to keep your eyes open at times. 

And yes, of course, there’s the matter of taking care of your baby 24/7. You’re going to be pooped, believe me. 

But if you’re feeling up for it and want to get back, you may be able to with your doctor’s approval 3 weeks postpartum. For c-section moms, you will likely need to wait 6 weeks. And even if you had a vaginal delivery, a good rule of thumb is to wait 6 weeks anyway.

This gives you time with the baby and time to adjust mentally and physically to all these changes that have happened in such a short amount of time. 

Can I do all household work after delivery?

No, you can’t. I recommend you try your best to ignore any mess for 6 weeks after your c-section. If you’ve had a vaginal delivery, you may be ok to do those chores before then, but don’t do anything strenuous before getting your postpartum checkup.

Some simple things require minimal efforts, like wiping up the counters in the kitchen or bathroom. Or anything that doesn’t require bending or reaching.

But you really want to take it easy. Because if you overdo things, you’ll need even more time to recover. And you could cause damage from which you may not recover. It’s your chance to rest, and let me tell you, you will kick yourself if you don’t take it now!

So, that’s a big no to:

  • Vacuuming
  • Sweeping
  • Mopping
  • Anything that requires lifting something heavier than the baby
  • Anything that makes you bend at the waist
  • Anything that has you stretching up too high

You can do laundry if someone brings it to the laundry room for you, and you don’t have to bend to get the clothing. You can also fold clothing while lying on the bed and relax if you want to help.

But scrubbing, pushing, and pulling activities are not good right now. Get your strength back first!

Is mopping safe during pregnancy?

This is such a great question too. Because most of us don’t think about getting that rest before the baby comes. I mean, we try, but we get that urge to do nesting, making it hard to relax until the floor sparkles. I remember.

However, when you reach the end of your pregnancy, hand off these chores to your husband, relatives, or friends or hire someone to do it. Your center of gravity changes as you get bigger, and you can fall more easily.

That’s especially true with wet floors. Just please take it easy!

Can I drive myself home after giving birth?

No! Oh no, you can’t do that. And you won’t want to, I promise. It hurts to sit up after a c-section. And my friends that have had vaginal deliveries weren’t exactly feeling so hot while sitting up either.

woman drives a car

You’ve just given birth. You need to rest. You’re tired inside and out, and that’s never a good combination for driving. Especially the first time you bring your baby home in the car seat. 

Plus, even if it feels fine, you may suddenly feel pain sitting like that. Then what will you do? Please make sure your husband, a friend, or a relative gives you and your baby a ride home. Do not drive yourself!

When can you drive after giving birth?

After a vaginal delivery, you can start driving again in a week as long as you’re feeling better. Even then, it may still be uncomfortable because your abs are used when you move your foot from one pedal to the other. 

You don’t notice it before having a baby, but my friend Denise said she couldn’t believe how much it hurt. She planned a visit to some relatives nearby about 2 weeks after giving birth and decided after she drove herself to the store that she couldn’t sit in the car like that for 45 minutes. 

For those who have had a c-section, you should wait for 2 to 3 weeks before driving yourself. You shouldn’t be lifting anything heavier than the baby, and your child’s car seat is much heavier than that.

If you must drive yourself anywhere, please ensure someone has installed your car seat correctly. Take someone along so you don’t overexert yourself. 

Another important shred of advice for c-section mamas is this…your abdominal muscles are so weak right now. They’ve been sliced open, you know. This takes time to heal. It will hurt when you first start driving, and you’ll feel very gingerly about it all. 

It’s really best to wait because it will be harder for you to react if you need to stomp the brakes in an emergency. 

Overall, it’s best to wait for all these activities. If you’re ever unsure, just ask your doctor. But take that time to recover, and you’ll be better able to manage all those chores, work, tasks, driving, baby, and more soon enough!

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