Having a baby is a natural process for your body and you may not have many restrictions on your normal activities. Your doctor will tell you the best level of activity for you based on your condition and how well you are healing. The key is to take is slowly for the first week or so.
✔ avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby; get help with lifting and carrying
✔ avoid straining or doing heavy housework for at least 3 weeks
✔ limit stair climbing to 1 flight twice per day for the first week—up once and down once each day is a good rule
✔ begin postpartum exercises only as directed by your doctor; short walks are nice, especially outside
✔ avoid intercourse until all vaginal discharge has stopped, you have healed completely, which usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks, and your doctor says it’s OK
You can go outside. You can ride in a car when you can sit comfortably. Your doctor will tell you when you can drive (about 2 weeks) and go back to work (about 4-6 weeks, depending on the type of work you do).
Walking will be all the exercise you need when you first get home. Getting some exercise is important. Exercise increases your energy level and your sense of well-being, and helps blood circulation and muscle tone. Usually, you can begin mild strengthening exercises, such as walking, for your back and abdomen at 3 to 6 weeks. You will get the most out of walking if you use good posture.
Vigorous exercise, such as aerobics, should wait until after your 6 weeks check-up. It is important to check with your doctor before you begin any exercises. He will tell you how much and how often you can exercise based on how well you are healing and how much rest you are getting. Soon you’ll graduate from walking to jogging. If you get a baby jogger, both you and baby will enjoy the excuse to get outside.
At first, your abdomen will feel soft and flabby. It may take several weeks for the muscle tone to return. Special exercises for the abdomen will help these muscles regain their tone and strength. Your abdominal muscles may separate during pregnancy especially if you had a big baby. This painless separation is called diastasis recti. These muscles usually heal back together during the first 6 weeks. Allow these muscles to heal before you begin exercises that strengthen these muscles.
You were probably doing Kegels while you were pregnant and you should keep doing them after your baby is born. Pelvic muscles are just like any other muscle—exercise makes them stronger. Kegel exercises include tightening and relaxing of the pelvic muscles. Kegels can help strengthen the perineum muscles which support the organs in the pelvis (uterus, bowel, bladder).
First you have to figure out which muscles to exercise. To identify these muscles, alternately start and stop urinating while using the toilet. However, when you do Kegel exercises, don’t do them while you’re urinating. Do Kegel exercises lying, sitting, standing, walking, and driving to make the pelvic muscles the strongest.
Kegel Exercise: Tighten the perineal muscles slowly a small amount at a time, like an elevator going up 10 floors. The release the muscles slowly—one “floor” at a time. Repeat. Start off with 5-10 times and then work up to 20-30 each time. Do the exercises 3 times a day—morning, afternoon and evening. Try to maintain a regular schedule each day such as after meals, in the shower, or just before bedtime.
Try not to squeeze your buttocks or abdomen while you tighten up as this puts pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. Keep the muscles of your abdomen, thighs and hips relaxed.
Think about your perineal muscles when you are lifting, sneezing, coughing or laughing and do Kegels then, too. After a while it will become a habit and you won’t have to think about it.
More about Self Care After Vaginal Birth
Introduction to Self-care After Vaginal Birth
Preventive Self Care
Physical Changes and Healing
Activities and Healthy Exercise
Nutrition and Diet
Family Planning and Birth Control
Normal “Baby Blues” or Postpartum Depression
Your Postpartum Check-Up
Get as Much Rest as You Can
When to Call Your Doctor