Swimming Postpartum: When Can You Swim After Giving Birth?

Swimming is a great low-impact exercise that can ready the body for running. But most postpartum women must wait about 6 weeks to start swimming after giving birth due to a risk for infection. Read on to learn about how long to wait to swim given your birth experience.

woman swimming
Postnatal swimming does a great job at preparing the body for running.

Giving birth has many surprises. One of them is that you can’t be submerged in water due to the risk for infection. I knew I would have to wait to start running after having a baby—swimming, too? That surprised me. So, when can you swim after giving birth?

Like running, you need to wait at least 6 weeks after giving birth to swim but the reasons why you need to wait are totally different than for running.

Swimming is an amazing cross-training exercise for runners—especially postpartum runners. But for your safety, you can’t dive right in. I connected with OB GYN Dr. Jaclyn van Nes on when you can swim after having a baby plus tips to get started.

Note: I’m a running coach, not a doctor, though I need consult one for this article. Consult yours if you have any questions or concerns about your health.

whitney swimming
Swimming is an amazing cross-training exercise for runners. I do it when I am injured!

Let’s go!

Swimming Postpartum: Benefits and Considerations

Swimming after having a baby is a wonderful low-impact exercise that is easy on your postpartum joints (which are still lax from the presence of the hormone relaxin). Below are some of the mental and physical benefits of swimming post pregnancy.

  1. Boosts mood through the release of endorphins
  2. Improves self-image
  3. Develops your cardiovascular system to prep the body for running again
  4. Recovery is enhanced by the compression of the water
  5. Improves joint health and mobility (also great for running!) (PS: Previnex Joint Health is also great for joints. Save 15% with code TMR15!)
  6. Can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles which are weakened by pregnancy and childbirth and reconnect you to your breath, studies show
  7. Increases energy
  8. Relieves stress
  9. Improves sleep
  10. Contributes to weight loss

These are just some of the benefits of swimming postpartum. However, there are safety considerations when swimming.

“With swimming postpartum, it’s important to wait until all areas have healed before getting in the water,” explains Dr. van Ness.

For this reason, you should not start swimming after childbirth if you are still bleeding (also called lochia which could also mean the cervix is still dilated) and wounds with stitches are not fully closed. Ask your doctor at your 6-week check-up if it is safe to resume swimming.

swimming postpartum pin
When can you swim after giving birth, whether a c section or delivering vaginally? 2 weeks? 5 weeks? Pin the latest advice on postnatal swimming.

Timing: Can I Go Swimming 2 Weeks Postpartum? What About 5 Weeks After a C-section?

No, you cannot go swimming at 2 weeks after giving birth vaginally or via c-section. This is because your body still hasn’t healed and likely still has open wounds and discharge increasing your risk for infection.

When you submerge your body in water, you put your body at risk for germs and microorganisms in the water to infect open sores including vaginal lacerations and a c-section incision. Not pleasant.

“Waiting 6 weeks gives any areas time to fully heal,” notes Dr. van Nes, who says that timeline could longer, as well. “I would always check with my doctor in case of any complications or reasons that this would need to be extended.” 

Therefore, the answer to whether you can swim 5 weeks after c-section is also a no. For most postpartum women, the time you can swim after c section is the 6 week mark.

If you are swimming after birth no stitches – meaning you had a normal vaginal delivery and didn’t tear or need to be cut (called an episiotomy), you may be safe to return to swimming once your discharge (lochia) has stopped. This is usually between 4-6 weeks. By no circumstances should you ever use a tampon for lochia so you can go swimming!!!

Related: Is 6 Weeks Too Soon To Start Running Postpartum?

swimming postpartum pin
When can you swim after giving birth, whether a c section or delivering vaginally? 2 weeks? 5 weeks? Pin the latest advice on postnatal swimming.

5 Tips for Swimming Safely After Giving Birth

After you have gotten clearance from your doctor, nail your postnatal swimming with these tips.

1. Start with your breath.

Swimming can be a great way to restrengthen your core and pelvic floor postpartum. However, it’s possible to hop in the pool and swim without core coordination. During pregnancy and childbirth, our core and pelvic floor changes and moves, which can disconnect our breath.

Practice diaphragmatic breathing before starting postnatal swimming to ensure you are moving efficiently and safely:

  • Sit or lie down comfortably, placing one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, feeling your stomach expand and your ribs press out like an umbrella opening.
  • Hold your breath for 2 seconds.
  • Then exhale slowly for 6 seconds through your mouth.
  • Repeat for 10 breaths.
  • Aim to do this daily.

Related: Running With Diastasis Recti Guide

2. Work on your core strength.

Swimming is an amazing low-impact yet full-body exercise. However, you can still injure yourself since your core has ab separation (known as diastasis recti) which prevents it from functioning as it was intended.

This is a great time to connect with a pelvic floor physical therapist who can give you the right exercises for your body to strengthen and coordinate your core. I do share some postpartum core exercises to help you on your way—but this does not replace the work a pelvic floor therapist can do for you!

Related: When Should I See a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist?

3. Secure pool access and the right gear.

Make sure you secure pool access that is convenient for you and your baby. Some gyms offer childcare. Ensure the childcare quality is up to your standards so you and your baby both feel comfortable.

Also, invest in a bathing suit that fits your postpartum body, plus comfortable goggles, a swim cap, and a good shampoo for swimmers. Resistance to working out postpartum is strong—so remove any roadblocks such as goggles that leak or a bathing suit that gaps in all the wrong places.

4. Create a routine.

Next, outline your goals and set up a routine that supports these goals. Is your goal to swim three times a week for 30 minutes? Then identify times, including back-up plans, to do this. Communicate your goals and plans with your partner so they can support you.

I feel so good after I swim—but admittedly, I hate it. I will create goals that keep me motivated to stay in the water including:

  • Swimming for 30 minutes per session
  • Trying to swim a certain number of laps per session
  • Throwing in a fast freestyle lap every 4 laps to get my heart rate up
  • I never beat myself up for taking breaks—swimming is hard!

Related: How to Find Your Why in Running

5. Give yourself grace.

Remember that your body and your life (!) has endured a lot of changes. Life is also likely unpredictable so if you’re exhausted from being up with your baby, or your baby’s nap didn’t correspond with your swim time—that’s okay!Tomorrow is a new day.

Give yourself grace and embrace progress not perfection. If your goal was to swim three times a week, but you only got in one session, keep moving forward!

Swimming postpartum has amazing benefits for runners.

Related: Can Exercise Help with Postpartum Depression?

Safe Postnatal Swimming is Available

Swimming is a tremendous exercise for building your aerobic capacity and readying the body for running. It helps with recovery, builds strength, and improves endurance. However, like with running postpartum, you can do swimming too soon postpartum.

Many postpartum women will feel ready to swim sooner than they feel ready to run. Once their stitches and wounds are healed, and their postpartum bleeding has stopped, they can talk with their doctor about swimming—and be on their way to feeling like themselves again.

Get More Advice for Exercising Postpartum »

If you’d like assistance with your postpartum running journey, check out my run coaching services and my other free training plans:


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