Swimming is a favorite pastime for many, especially during the warmer months, but after you have your baby, your doctor might tell you that you must avoid swimming after a c-section.
I know the struggle too well. My second child was born at the beginning of July, and my parents have a beautiful backyard pool. I brought my oldest over to swim during the weeks following his birth, but I knew that I couldn’t get in the pool after my c-section.
Talk about a serious bummer.
However, the reason behind this recommendation is essential to understand. Here’s what you need to know.
Can I Go Swimming After a C-Section?
The short answer is – No, you can’t go swimming after a c-section. After your surgery, there is a necessary period that it’s not advised for you to take a bath, swim, or use a hot tub after a c-section.
This recommendation is because your body is still an open wound. You know that you have your abdominal incision; it’s impossible to miss that right now. However, what you can easily forget about are the internal wounds you have as well.
In the weeks following your surgery, you will bleed vaginally even though you didn’t have a vaginal birth. The placenta detaches from the uterine walls, leaving a wound roughly the size of a paper plate that bleeds and needs to heal.
So what’s so dangerous?
Any water activities can increase the risk of endometritis, an infection affecting the uterus lining. Bacteria in the water could enter your vagina, travel into your uterus, and cause an infection. That’s life-threatening; uterine infections can be caught too late.
Let’s not forget about your incision along your abdominal wall. Even if it’s healing, there is a chance that bacteria could enter your incision.
Imagine that your healing is going great, and you feel lovely, better than you expected two weeks postpartum. You decide to swim to cool down after a hot summer day, and bacteria enter through your vagina or incision.
Now, you landed back in the hospital and required IV antibiotics and days away from your newborn to try to get the infection under control.
The risks aren’t worth it!
How Long Do I Have to Wait to Go Swimming?
I know how nice it feels for your body to go swimming after childbirth; it eases a lot of aches and pains.
Unfortunately, there is no one hard-set rule for water activities after your surgery.
If you still have lochia present, which is vaginal bleeding after childbirth, it means your uterine lining has not fully healed. It’s recommended that mothers wait until the lochia ceases completely before hopping in the hot tub, pool, or spa.
With my four c-sections, my lochia stopped at different times. I’ve had it stop as early as three weeks and as later as six weeks. That’s normal and no reason to stress, but it can be frustrating if you’re ready to dive into your swimming pool on a hot sunny day.
What About Swimming in a Lake or the Ocean?
Women need to be particularly cautious about taking dipping in the ocean or a lake compared to a swimming pool. It’s not advised to do so until well after you’re healed, typically four to six weeks. It would be best if you spoke to your doctor.
Why is this more dangerous?
Swimming in any natural body of water leaves you vulnerable to a more substantial amount of bacteria. Each year, you can find dozens of examples of people who contract things such as E. coli or Giardia, and those people aren’t a few weeks out from surgery.
If you’re still recovering and your c-section is open, you’re more vulnerable to infections, and swimming in a lake exposes you to a host of bacteria that you don’t want to handle.
Swimming Is Good for Your C-Section Postpartum Phase
You now know that you need to wait to swim, but getting back into the pool can be a great idea once you’re cleared.
Swimming is an ideal exercise for your postpartum body, putting little to no stress on your body or incision.
It would help if you talked to your doctor before making any exercise plans. Most recommend waiting until eight weeks, but gentle and slow laps around the pool can be cleared before this time frame if your doctor says it’s safe.
Swimming is an ideal exercise if your doctor says it’s safe for you to do. Typically, doctors won’t clear you for exercise until six to eight weeks post-surgery, but some make an exception for swimming. Swimming puts minor pressure on your joints but also has the resistance for your muscles. It’s an aerobic exercise, but you have no fast movements to worry about reopening your incision.
Other benefits of gentle exercise post-surgery include:
- Improves blood circulation
- Decreases the risks of blood clots
- Reduces swelling
- Reduces stress
- Increases your energy level
- Reduces constipation
Even if you have your baby in the middle of the summer, you have to avoid swimming after a c-section until your lochia stops. When you stop bleeding, your body and uterine lining are appropriately healed, and you’ll be protected from bacteria. That means you could wait up to six weeks after childbirth to swim. It might seem like a long wait, but getting an infection will make your healing process last longer.
Hey, this is Linda. My biggest accomplishment in life is being a mother of four children. Their current ages range from almost ten years old down to 20 months old.
I’m passionate about writing parenting articles because I understand so well all of the problems and trials you face as a parent. From breastfeeding woes to budgeting problems and behavior problems, along with everything in between, chances are I’ve faced it over the last ten years. Read more about Linda here.