Postpartum Timeline: What You Can Do When After Giving Birth

Wondering what you'll be able to do after the baby makes their grand arrival? Consider this your ultimate postpartum timeline.

While everyone's postpartum experience is unique, the post-delivery recovery timeline is usually fairly predictable. For example, it's always advised to avoid housework, heavy lifting, and other strenuous physical activity immediately after giving birth and during those first days and weeks postpartum. However, some new parents will need a bit more or less time to be ready for various activities like having sex, driving, or starting to take on regular household work after delivery.

You'll be sore, tired, and recovering right after the birth, so aim to ease into your new routine with help from family and friends. Prepare to limit trips up and down the stairs, hold off on doing extensive household chores, and wait to exercise until you've gotten the go-ahead from your doctor. Learn more about what you can do when after giving birth.

woman in wheelchair with new baby leaving hospital
Getty Images

Why Do Activities Need to Be Limited Postpartum?

The postpartum period is sometimes referred to as the "fourth trimester." This is because it is a time of recovery and adjustment to parenthood. "You need sufficient rest for the muscles and ligaments that hold your uterus in place to regain their strength," says Coralie Macqueen, a certified nurse-midwife in private practice in New York City. And in the case of a C-section, a longer period of rest is required for your body to heal from major abdominal surgery.

Most importantly, be gentle and flexible with yourself. Your body is unlikely to snap right back to its pre-pregnancy state. And the emotional whirlwind of new parenthood needs to be processed as well. So, honor when you feel like you need rest and/or to postpone certain things until you're feeling ready. In other words, focus on caring for yourself and your baby and err on the side of slowly easing back into regular life—you don't need to do it all!

As for the specifics? After your baby's born, here's when you can expect to get the green light for nursing, showering, driving, doing household work, and more during your postpartum recovery.

What Can You Do Immediately After Delivery?

If you're feeling up for it, you can likely do the following activities right after giving birth.

Hold your baby

As long as you've had an uncomplicated birth and you're feeling up to it, you'll be able to hold your baby immediately after giving birth. If you've had a C-section birth, your partner might actually be the one holding baby, but you'll still get a chance to steal some snuggles while you get stitched up and prepped for the recovery room.

Breastfeed your baby

While you're enjoying those first sweet snuggles with your baby, if you plan to breastfeed, it's time to try breastfeeding for the first time. Your first milk will be colostrum, also known as first milk; this nutrient-dense milk is packed with antioxidants and antibodies designed to support your newborn and build up their immune system. The first hours after birth is a critical time for establishing a breastfeeding bond. If you choose to use formula, you can feed your baby with a bottle.


Are you wondering how soon you can walk after giving birth? If so, know that the answer varies greatly depending on the type of pain medication you opted for. If you deliver without the use of an epidural, you'll likely be able to walk immediately. If you've used an epidural, it generally takes an hour or so before you'll be able to fully feel your legs, says Dr. Martine Tesone, a Certified Nurse Midwife specialist in Loveland, Colorado.

If you've had a C-section, however, you will need to stay in bed a few hours longer or even wait until the day following your surgery. Walking—at least to the bathroom and back, and possibly farther—shortly after a C-section is encouraged as it helps circulation, improves bowel function, and will speed recovery.

What Can You Do Hours After Delivery?

While you'll want to focus on resting and bonding with your newborn, after a few hours, you'll be able to start doing some additional self-care activities.

Take a shower

Once your epidural wears off and the baby's been checked over thoroughly, you'll likely be transported together from the delivery room to the postpartum recovery room. This is often on a different floor of the maternity ward, and the nursery is typically on this floor as well. Here, you'll be able to enjoy your first postpartum shower. (Just gently pat yourself dry down there!)

Nandini Raghuraman, M.D., MSCI, an OB-GYN at The Women & Infants Center, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says, "This can even be done the day of your delivery if you feel okay standing independently without dizziness or lightheadedness." If you had a C-section, you can typically shower within a day of your surgery; doing so helps reduce the risk of infection. Don't scrub your incision; just let the water run over it.

Use the bathroom on your own

Your first trip to the restroom after giving birth may be a bit more awkward (and uncomfortable) than you expected. That's because you'll be accompanied by your attending nurse, who will ensure you're steady on your feet, help navigate cords, wires, and your hospital gown, and help you get set up with your first postpartum pad and ice pack. This typically happens as soon as your epidural wears off if you had one, or about one to two hours after giving birth.

Following a C-section, however, your first bathroom trip will generally be the morning after your surgery when doctors remove your catheter.

Note that constipation is common after childbirth. Drinking a lot of liquids, moving your body as much as possible (try walking the hospital hallways!), and constipation medication can all help.

Drink alcohol (yes, really)

Hoping to toast your new arrival with a sip of bubbly at the hospital? Go for it, but it's a good idea to wait until after you and your baby have been checked over, and you've tried breastfeeding for the first time. Even then, it's recommended you keep the celebration to one small glass. Dr. Heather Bartos, M.D., an OB-GYN and the founder of Badass Women, Badass Health reminds us that if you're taking narcotics for pain relief, you shouldn't use alcohol at all.

What Can You Do One Day After Delivery?

You will likely be feeling mighty sore and tired but you can still start doing a few more things one day postpartum.

Take a bath (with the doctor's okay)

If you've had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, there's a good chance you'll get the all-clear to take a warm bath just one day postpartum. But if you're a c-section parent, this luxury will, unfortunately, be off-limits for several weeks to come. "After a cesarean section, you may be advised to wait until after your six-week postpartum visit before taking a full bath," says Dr. Tesone. However, showering is still an option.

Leave the hospital

Unless you've had a C-section, you should be able to leave the hospital approximately 24 hours after giving birth, assuming both you and your baby have been cleared by your doctors. The C-section recovery timeline has you staying for approximately two to four days.

What Can You Do One Week After Delivery?

After a week, you'll be feeling much more like yourself, but you've still got a lot of healing to go. However, there are new things you can resume doing.

Drive a car

Wait a week to drive a car after a vaginal birth, says Robert Atlas, M.D., an OB-GYN at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "You use your abs to move your foot from the gas to the brake." If you've had a C-section, expect to wait two to three weeks before getting behind the wheel.

"After a C-section, you won't be able to lift anything more than your baby's weight, so lifting a car seat is not feasible," says Dr. Tesone. "In addition, you won't have the abdominal muscles to press down on the brake pedal in an emergency."

Care for other children

If you can swing it, it's best to wait until at least one week postpartum before resuming full-time childcare duties for your other kids. This allows you time to heal, establish a feeding routine, and promote bonding time with your new baby.

What Can You Do Two Weeks After Delivery?

After 2 weeks, you'll be feeling a lot better but your body is still healing. Be sure to stay well-fed and get as much rest and support as you can. Accept help when offered and ask for assistance when needed!

Resume light exercise

If you haven't already and you're feeling up for it, you should be able to resume a light workout schedule—think walks and stretches—about two weeks postpartum. Just remember to take it slow and avoid trying new or intense workouts right now.

Take on light household chores

Similarly, you should be able to resume day-to-day tasks around the house without much trouble around two weeks after delivery. "But always listen to your body," notes Dr. Raghuraman. "If there is any discomfort, immediately stop and rest."

However, if you've had a C-section, the 2-week mark will be the time you'll go back to the doctor for a wound check to make sure your incision is healing well. Only after this will your doctor clear you for any increased activity. So, hold off on doing the dishes or laundry if you can!

What Can You Do Three Weeks After Delivery?

After three weeks postpartum, you can start resuming many of your normal activities. However, it's still important to take it easy.

Expect less bleeding

Wondering if you'll ever stop bleeding? Dr. Bartos says most people start to see a much lighter flow by the end of the third week. However, it's not abnormal to go a few weeks longer than that or even for the flow to trickle off and start up again a few times.

Take on more household work

By three weeks, you can start doing more household work. However, don't overdo it. Instead, lean on your support system as much as possible. Listen to your body and if you need a break, take one!

What Can You Do Six Weeks After Delivery?

While you're likely still adjusting to the 24-hour demands of parenting, by six weeks postpartum your body's physical recovery from pregnancy and delivery is typically in good shape. So, you'll likely get the go-ahead from your doctor to resume most activities.

Enjoy sexual activity

At your 6-week postpartum doctor's visit, you'll likely be cleared for sexual activity. But don't sweat it if you're not in the mood yet. You're in control here, and just because you've reached this milestone doesn't mean you need to be intimate again right away. However, if you feel ready, go for it! Everyone's situation is different, so you get to you decide when you feel truly ready. And remember, you can start slow, and "sex" doesn't have to include penetration!

Start taking birth control again

You're potentially fertile even with a newborn in your arms, even if you're breastfeeding, so be sure to use birth control. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best pill to take if you're breastfeeding. Since your breastfeeding routine is likely well established by now, it's safe to start taking a mini-pill at six weeks postpartum, which is a progesterone-only form of birth control. The mini pill is effective at preventing pregnancy without causing your milk supply to suffer.

Do Kegel exercises

We know there are surely many other priorities on your to-do list as a new parent, but there's no time like the present to start working on those pelvic floor muscles. But it's advisable to wait until the 6-week mark to ensure that any vaginal tears/repairs have fully healed, says Dr. Raghuraman.

Going to the gym

Whether you delivered vaginally or by C-section, skip intense gym workouts for six weeks to give your body time to finish most of its healing. While it may not seem like it right now, you will get back to your pre-baby and pre-pregnancy exercise routines (if that's your goal), so there is no need to rush things. Take it slow.

Key Takeaways

While there are general guidelines on what you can do when postpartum, remember that each new parent recovers from childbirth on their own timeline. So, listen to your doctor and your body—and go at whatever pace feels right to you.

Listen to Parents' "That New Mom Life" podcast for expert advice on breastfeeding, the emotional highs and lows of parenthood, sleepless nights, and more!

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles