During pregnancy and childbirth the mother’s body undergoes many changes, so after childbirth some time for recovery is needed. Each mother’s recovery will be different and depend on her particular pregnancy and childbirth journey, but there are some general principles that might help you plan for your recovery.
Recovery Following Caesarean Section
After a straight-forward caesarean section (i.e. one without any significant medical complications) all Mum’s are recommended to rest for six weeks. This means no driving, and no lifting anything heavier than the new baby. Whilst this rest can be hard to get (especially if there are older siblings around!), this time is really important to allow proper healing of the tissues affected by the caesarean section. If these restrictions are not followed in the first six weeks, it can lead to much worse complications down the track, such as poor wound healing, which can then take much longer to resolve. Whilst rest from lifting and carrying is required, it is typically safe (and encouraged) to do light, pain free walking during this time (once you feel up to it).
After the initial six weeks of rest, you can usually start gentle and pain free abdominal exercises as guided by your physiotherapist. We recommend all women have a check-up with their physiotherapist trained in Women’s Health at the six week (or after) mark to start this process of abdominal and functional re-training, to review their pelvic floor function and pelvic organ position, plan for return to their desired level of physical activity (whatever that may be), and address any concerns they may have.
If there have been complications with your caesarean section, then extra time or precautions may be required to allow you to heal well and fully. Your physiotherapist will be able to guide you through this in consultation with your medical team to ensure you get the best outcome.
Recovery Following Vaginal Delivery
Recovery following a vaginal delivery is really individual and depends on many factors. If you deliver your baby in a hospital, you will usually be visited by the hospital physiotherapists before going home. This visit typically includes information on basic pelvic floor recovery tailored to your condition following delivery. They will also typically assess your abdominal separation, but it is important to keep in mind that this changes (usually improves) a lot in the first few weeks after giving birth.
Once discharged from hospital, it is important to continue with and progress your pelvic floor exercises, and commence gentle, pain free walking as you feel able. Gradual core re-training can also be started in this time following a vaginal delivery. We recommend all women have a check-up with their physiotherapist trained in Women’s Health at the six week (or after) mark to review their pelvic floor function and pelvic organ position, plan for return to their desired level of physical activity (whatever that may be), commence or progress abdominal and functional re-training, and address any concerns they may have.
It is important to recognise that pregnancy and childbirth involve a great deal of physical change, and recovery after pregnancy and childbirth is normal and necessary. What this involves and how long it takes is very different for every mother, so it is important to make sure you do what is right for your body and try not to compare yourself to others.