What is Postpartum Recovery?
“Postpartum recovery” is a broad term, so I find it helpful to break it into phases. Keep in mind that C-section recovery takes a few weeks longer than a vaginal delivery.
Weeks 1 to 2: Your pelvic floor is at its weakest, your uterus is still high in your abdomen (so you still have a “bump”), and you are likely dealing with wound recovery and significant fluctuations in hormone levels. For C-section moms, you are learning how to take care of your surgical wound and promote healing.
Weeks 2 to 6: Your uterus has assumed its normal position, although it will take a few more weeks to return to pre-pregnancy size. Your wounds are healing, and lochia (post-birth “period” bleeding) is slowing down or has stopped completely if closer to the sixth week.
Weeks 6 to 12: Your diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation) will close up, and your core strength and pelvic floor will start returning to normal. Diastasis recti occurs in most, if not all, pregnancies, and ideally your core “learns” how to keep the front wall of your abdomen together during this phase of the postpartum period. For severe cases of diastasis recti that do not resolve naturally, additional treatment is required. For C-section patients, wound recovery and healing extend to the sixth week (or more) of postpartum.
Week 12 and beyond: The pelvic floor muscles will continue their journey of healing throughout the first year postpartum, but most (if not all) activities can now be done with confidence and without symptoms. You can run or jump without peeing, you can have sex when the mood strikes, and you can feel strong and pain-free.
What serves new moms most during this time is:
- Finding the balance of doing the right exercises, at the right intensity, and at the right times
- Avoiding the extremes of either over-exercising or being too sedentary
- Getting additional support from health care providers when needed
Whether you had a vaginal birth or a cesarean, you’ll want to get the green light from your doctor before attempting any type of postnatal exercise and follow their instructions throughout the recovery process.
Let’s look at exercises for each phase in detail.