Vaginal tearing during childbirth is one of the most common injuries, if not the most common injury, associated with delivering a baby.
And in fact, most of the generic advice we get after childbirth, is probably geared for folks with a first or mild second degree tear.
Take 2 weeks rest. Take it pretty easy the first 6 weeks. Gradually incorporate more movement and activity as comfort allows.
But for some folks with a 2nd degree tear, and certainly for folks who experienced a 3rd or 4th degree tear, recovery is likely going to follow a different timeline.
2nd degree tears involve damage to the pelvic floor muscles and 3rd and 4th tears extend into the anal sphincter.
You will likely need more than 2 weeks of rest if you experienced a higher degree tear. It may be more like 6-8 weeks (or longer) until you feel ready to start adding in exercise-like movement.
For anyone with a higher degree tear, pelvic floor physical therapy will be an essential component of a full recovery and return to exercise.
If you have a higher degree tear, you’re more likely to experience uncomfortable and inconvenient short or long term pelvic floor symptoms- pelvic floor PTs can help nip some of these symptoms in the bud.
These providers can assess your scar, massage away scar tissue and help you restore full pelvic floor function.
Return to exercise will start with core and pelvic floor exercises, just as if you had an uncomplicated birth. But if you had a 3rd and 4th degree tear, you might require special cueing to get your anal sphincter muscle working properly again- and for this, you’ll want professional assessment and support.
If you begin exercising and experience incontinence- unintentional release of urine, poop or gas- you probably need more time to heal, and perhaps additional (or different) professional guidance.
If you’re return to exercise takes more than the standard 6 weeks- I urge you to be patient with yourself. These extra weeks are a blip against the active years you have ahead of you.
As you return to exercise after pregnancy, here are a few more things to consider:
Exercise After Pregnancy: A Guide to Fitness in the Fourth Trimester
5 Things You Should Know About Your Remarkable, Resilient Postpartum Body
8 Key Considerations to Guide Your Postpartum Return to Running
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Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.
Certified Prenatal & Postnatal Coach, Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitnesses Specialist.