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Increase your swimming workout gradually after a C-section.
The birth of a baby is a joyous time for new mothers. After the initial euphoria wears off and you've settled into a routine, you may turn your thoughts to exercising as a way to stay fit and shed excess baby weight. Swimming is a low-impact workout that can help you ease back into fitness after giving birth. Women who have had a C-section must take some extra precautions to make sure their time in the pool does not hamper healing. Talk to your doctor before you start any exercise program after your C-section to address any concerns.
Swimming is a full-body workout that burns calories and helps tone muscles -- particularly the abs -- both of which are benefits to new mothers. Those who give birth via C-section are usually slower to recover than women who have vaginal deliveries simply because a Cesarean birth is open surgery. Swimming is low impact and thus easy on your body. The water cushions achy joints and does not put excess pressure on your incision.
When to Start?
Within days of having a C-section, some easy walking is advised to speed recovery, explains the American Pregnancy Association. Swimming, however, should be put on the back burner until at least 4 to 6 weeks after a C-section. According to Chrissie Gallagher-Mundy, author of "Cesarean Recovery," women can begin swimming once the flow of lochia, or postpartum discharge, has slowed. Tampon use is discouraged during the first 6 weeks postpartum to reduce the risk of infection. Swimming while using absorbent pads can be uncomfortable and unsanitary. This time frame also allows your incision to stay dry and clean.
Where to Swim
The APA recommends women recovering from a C-section avoid public pools and hot tubs for the first 6 weeks postpartum. You are at risk for infection during this time, as your incision is in the early stages of healing and may not be completely closed. Public pools are more likely to harbor germs and bacteria simply from the large number of people sharing the space. Lakes and other outdoor water sources may pose the same problem. If you receive the go-ahead from your doctor to swim during this period, reduce your risks by swimming in a private pool with a limited number of guests using the facilities.
Take it Slow
Return to swimming with a realistic plan regarding the intensity of your workout. Your body has changed over the past year, and you'll need to start off slow. Walk or do range-of-motion stretches, such as knee bends, shoulder rolls and ankle rotations, for 5 to 10 minutes to prevent injury. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends staying in the 50-percent target-heart-rate range for up to 6 months after giving birth. Subtract your age from 220 to find your maximum heart rate. Then take your pulse for 10 seconds while you're exercising and multiply by six to find your target heart rate. It should be approximately 50 percent of your maximum rate.
Complications can sometimes occur after a C-section, even if you have followed your doctor's instructions exactly. Overstretching in the pool may pull on the stitches of staples that hold your incision closed. Infections can occur. Contact your doctor if you develop a fever higher than 100.4 Fahrenheit, if your vaginal bleeding increases or smells foul or if your incision bleeds or oozes pus.