Recovering from childbirth is no joke. Everyone knows that your postpartum recovery requires some R & R. But did you realize that you can hinder your progress with a few seemingly mundane activities? From one mom to another, here are 10 things not to do after giving birth.
At the end, we’ll also go over a few key questions you might be asking right now.
The first time time I gave birth, I felt like I had been hit by a semi-truck. Everything hurt. I mean, everything. Places that I didn’t even know could hurt, hurt. I was genuinely astounded that the entire world expected me to care for a tiny human during the greatest recovery of my life. While working on approximately zero hours of sleep.
Yet, I survived and (miraculously) so did my baby.
If you’re looking up an article on things to avoid after giving birth, you’re most likely trying not to muck up your recovery. Because you know how imperative it is that your postpartum recovery needs to be quick and efficient. In this article, I’m listing off the physical activities to avoid, but also good practices you should be following as well.
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10 Physical Activities You Should Avoid After Giving Birth
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Cleaning is like a bad wart. It doesn’t go away on its own, no matter how much you’d like it to.
During the first week of your postpartum recovery, just don’t do it. Give your body time to recover. Do not expend all of your energy doing the laundry, scrubbing toilets, or whatever.
Firstly, you’re running off very little sleep. In order to care for your newborn baby, you need to focus every spare minute of your free-time on resting. Not cleaning.
Secondly, the physical activity may be too much for you. Bending over, getting on your knees, and wiping things down vigorously all expend a toll on your recovering muscles.
Generally speaking, after 6 weeks, you should be free to engage in more high-impact exercises, like running, lifting weights, or any cardio. Prior to that, however, we want to give your body time to patch up.
For the same reason, you’ll also want to limit climbing stairs and avoid lifting heavy objects during your postpartum recovery. A good rule of thumb is to avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for at least a week after delivery.
Having said that, very, very light exercise can have it’s benefits.
Light exercise can:
- Boost your mood (yay endorphins!)
- Reduce pain
- Improve your strength
- Boost your energy
By very light exercise, I mean pelvic floor exercises and short walks.
3 Using Tampons
If you had a vaginal delivery, avoid inserting anything into your vagina for the first 6-weeks.
First and foremost, it’ll probably hurt to use a tampon. Words can not express how sore your lady bits will feel after birth. It’s unreal. Imagine scraping an internal or external tear with a tampon. Ouch.
Also consider that your vagina has been massively stretched after giving birth. At this point, pads function much more effectively until the vaginal canal has returned to its normal size.
Using tampons or period cups may also increase your chances of infection.
4 Having The Sex
On the off-chance that you’re tempted to engage in sexy-times during the first 6 weeks of child birth (shudders)…don’t.
There’s a couple reasons to wait on this:
- Postpartum bleeding resolves in about 6 weeks
- Waiting a full six weeks allows any tears or incisions to fully heal
- You’re exhausted.
- Your hormones are usually out of whack. You may experience dryness and muscle pain. Not to mention, the baby blues can put a serious damper on your sex-drive.
Six weeks is a rough guideline. Don’t put a “maximum” for sex after giving birth. Listen to your body! Pay attention to how you’re feeling and make sure you have no pain or discomfort down there.
For some women, that looks like eight weeks. Having said that, I know some women that barely waited a month to renew her love-life. The point is to wait until its physically and emotionally safe.
It’s crucial for you and your partner to be on the same page when it comes to postpartum intimacy. Be honest about how you’re feeling physically and emotionally and encourage your partner to share their feelings and concerns too. You’re in this together, and their support means the world.
Be patient with each other!
This can also be a good time to focus on bonding in ways that might’ve gone by the wayside while sex was on the board. Emotionally, spiritually, and perhaps in alternative physical ways.
When my husband and I first had our child, we pretended that we were dating again. We focused on spending time together (when we weren’t sleeping), cuddling, and holding hands. Maybe some kissing when I remembered to brush my teeth. Overall, it was a gentle period of getting to know each other in the aftermath of a dramatic life-change.
5 Ignoring Your Own Proper Postpartum Care
When you’re so exhausted that you can’t see straight, it’s tempting to let your hygiene and wound care slide.
Alas, you cannot.
Taking care of yourself after giving birth is super important. Here’s what you gotta do to ensure a quick and efficient healing process.
Proper Care for Perineal Tears or Episiotomies
Whether you tore down there or had an episiotomy during delivery, these lady bits need some extra TLC. I’m sure your doctor already shared these tips (I hope), but here’s a quick recap:
- Perineal bottle: Use a perineal bottle filled with warm water to rinse the area after you’ve done your business. It’s a game-changer, trust me.
- Ice, Ice, Baby: Let me introduce you to your new best friend: the padsicle. A padsicle is basically a heavy menstrual pad, filled with witch hazel, aloe vera, and lavender, and frozen for a couple hours. Padsicles are magical postpartum tools that help reduce swelling and soothe any soreness you’re experiencing down there.
- Warm sitz baths: Treat yourself to warm sitz baths a few times a day. They’ll promote healing and give you a bit of pampering during this recovery phase. The time for a sitz bath is pretty short, so I recommend buying one of these sitz bath bowls for your toilet.
Guidelines for Incision Care (in the case of a C-section)
Alright, if you had a C-section, let’s talk about that incision. Your main priority is to keep it infection-free and avoid anything that may damage your stitches.
Your doctor most likely gave you precise instruction for incision care. However, to recap:
- Keep it clean and dry: Use mild soap and water to clean the incision gently. Pat it dry with a clean towel—no rubbing allowed!
- Watch for infection: Like redness, swelling, or weird discharge. If you see something fishy, call your doc ASAP.
- Be gentle during movement: When you cough, sneeze, or get up from lying down, be kind to your incision area. Use your hands to support it and avoid any unnecessary strain.
Personal Hygiene Tips for Optimal Recovery
Alright, mama, let’s talk hygiene—because that’s going to speed along your healing process and make you feel a million times better.
- Pad power: Postpartum bleeding is no joke, so grab those heavy-duty pads and change ’em often to stay fresh and comfy.
- Wash your hands: Wash your hands like it’s nobody’s business, especially before touching your little one or any healing areas.
- Shower: Let me be the person to give you permission to SHOWER. Grab a swing for your baby if you have to, but shower long and shower often. Or for two minutes in between feedings. WHATEVER. Not only will they make you feel human again, but they’ll also keep everything fresh and clean during your healing journey.
Remember, you’re a warrior, and your postpartum care is essential.
6 Eating Crap Foods
Your body just went through a lot, and it needs all the nourishment it can get. I know the temptation to carb load after giving birth. Especially if you’re breastfeeding. All I wanted when I was breastfeeding was bread and sweets.
But your postpartum body needs better than that! A healthy diet speeds up your recovery time, boosts your mood, and gives your body the fuel it needs to produce milk…and poop. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Here’s a few things to limit/avoid altogether:
- Caffeine: Too much caffeine can mess with your sleep and make you feel jittery. Studies also show that caffeine can also affect your baby if you’re nursing. You do not want a newborn with the jitters.
- Sugary treats
- High-mercury fish
- Processed and fast foods
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7 Sitting or Standing for Long Periods
I know this is easier said than done when you either a., work retail, or b,, have a baby that will not sleep unless being held.
Take breaks, switch positions, and don’t stay in one spot for too long. Your body needs to move and groove to decrease the chance of pesky complications. If you’re forced to sitting for a while, consider buying a pillow for your derriere.
While swimming is a great low-impact way to exercise and a fabulous activity to try with your baby, you should probably avoid it during your first six weeks postpartum. You will want to wait until your vaginal wounds have healed in order to avoid infection.
You’ll also experience a decent amount of bleeding postpartum. Since you’re not using tampons (see above), you’ll want to wait to hit the pool until after your bleeding is done.
When you’ve had a vaginal birth, you just need to wait until the narcotics are out of your system and you’ve had some rest. After that, if you’re feeling adequately rested and sober, go for it.
If you had a cesarean, you’ll want to avoid driving for at least two weeks. Think about the requirements of driving a car. You’ll need to pick up a car seat and put it in the car. You’ll have to twist around to buckle your seatbelt in. Finally, you’ll need to press on the brakes (thereby engaging your abdominal muscles). It’s not a great activity for healing.
10 Not Pooping
I desperately want to write a whole article on how to poop after birth. It’s seriously an ordeal in of itself.
The first poop after giving birth is terrifying, I’m not going to lie. You’re afraid that it’ll hurt. You’ll worry that your stitches will tear. But once its done, it’ll be extremely…well, relieving. And you’ll realize that it ain’t no thang.
BUT YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET CONSTIPATED.
It is essential that you poop soon after birth. Take your stool softeners as directed by your doctor. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. Drink lots of water. That way, when your poop does arrive, it’ll slide out without any issues.
I also recommend preparing for the poop ahead of time. Make sure you have some flushable wet wipes on hand (ha) before the act.
Recovering from Delivery: Postpartum Care FAQ
What are some signs that I am overexerting myself during postpartum exercise?
Your body will send you some signals if you’re pushing it too hard. Watch out for these signs: extreme fatigue, dizziness, (increased) heavy bleeding, or increased pain. If you experience any of these, take a break. No need to be a superhero, remember, you’re healing!
Why is it important to drink water after giving birth?
Girl, hydration is your secret weapon during postpartum recovery! Staying hydrated helps your body heal, boosts your energy, and helps with breastfeeding.
In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends drinking about 16 cups of water a day if you’re breastfeeding.
How can I find time to rest with a newborn?
Finding time to rest with a newborn is like trying to catch a unicorn. Rest when your baby rests. Forget the dishes and laundry for a while and catch some Zs. If you’re struggling, ask for help from friends or family.
When can I take my newborn on outings?
Generally, after the first few weeks, it’s okay to venture out. Try to stay away from crowded places during flu season and use that hand sanitizer like it’s gold. You’re the best judge—trust your instincts and protect that precious bundle.
When should I have visitors after giving birth?
That completely, 100% depends on you, your partner, and your baby. Some babies will take everything in stride. Others can not stand interruptions or deviations to their routine. My second daughter was like that.
Remember, mama, it’s okay to set some boundaries. Don’t be afraid to limit visits or ask for help with chores instead. Some will only see visitors after the first six weeks. Others will have them after a few days. We’ve done both. Once again, that’s all up to you.
What are the key benefits of postpartum check-ups, and how often should I have them?
Look, do not skimp out on these visits. They’re just as important as your baby’s check ups. Usually, you’ll have one around 6 weeks after birth, but don’t hesitate to schedule one sooner if you need it.
I think every mom needs to take it a step further and seek out pelvic floor therapy.
Are there any warning signs that I should see my doctor after giving birth?
I went in to see my doctor for a couple reasons. It was embarrassing and an inconvenience at the time, but I’m glad I did. Likewise, you should too.
Here’s a couple signs you’ll want to keep an eye out for:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding that soaks more than one pad per hour
- Large clots (like, really large. Quarter to a golf ball-sized. Yes, that does happen.)
- Chest pain or difficulty breathing
- You’re noticing signs of postpartum depression
- Severe headaches
- Lower belly pain that is getting worse
- Odd-looking vaginal discharge (may be leftover placenta)
- Strong odors (like, it smells like death or spoiled meat)
- Your incision site or stitches are red, filled with pus, or swollen
These are just a few things to look out for. If you’re getting the sense that something is wrong, please contact your doctor or at least call the nurse’s line!
Conclusion: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Recovering from childbirth takes time. Take it easy during these first weeks and give your body time to heal. Give yourself time to bond with your sweet baby. Focus on proper care, hygiene, and nutrition. Limit your activity to gentle walks and kegels.
Most important, communicate with your loved ones. Tell them how you’re doing. Specifically tell them what you need during this time.
The postpartum period can be incredibly lonely. I remember crying alone while the rest of my family seemed to enjoy life without a tiny human suckling on them every half hour. It was probably my darkest hour, and I was ashamed to speak of it because I felt like I didn’t have the right to complain.
This is not what you want to do. If you need reassurance, ask for it. If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask it.
The first 6 weeks of your baby’s life are hard, but they are also the first defining moments of your journey through motherhood. You’re going to have a ton of moments where you feel like you can’t do it. Or rather, like you’re doing everything wrong.
You’re not. I promise. Give yourself some grace and try to cherish the sweet moments as much as you can. And don’t be ashamed of your weakest moments.
I hope these tips (anti-tips?) helped. While you’re here, check out my articles on infant sleep and other fun new mom stuff you’ll want to know.
Good luck, Mama!