There are so many little things in life that you take for granted until you become pregnant, like being able to sleep on your stomach, tying your shoes, seeing your feet... Unfortunately, some of those issues — like being able to bend — still pose a problem even when you’re postpartum, and even more so if you’ve had a cesarean section. So if you drop something on the floor and woefully wonder when you can start bending after a C-section, be prepared to wait a while.
Why is bending over after a C-section so critical?
Bending is a big deal after you’ve had a C-section. Why? A C-section is the delivery of your baby through an abdominal incision (otherwise known as a laparotomy), as well as an incision in your uterus. Although a C-section is the most common surgery performed in the United States, (per a PubMed study), it doesn’t come without its fair share of recovery issues, one being bending. In fact, researchers from another study found that one of the main concerns of women who had a C-section was being able to bend.
So when is it safe to bend over after a C-section?
You don’t realize how much bending you do on a daily basis until, welp, you can’t reach past your hips. Knowing when it’s safe to do after a big abdominal surgery is important not just for your own safety, but that of your baby — in case you’re picking up or carrying your little one. “The typical recommendation is two weeks to bend at the waist,” Dr. David M. Kimble, M.D., a board-certified urogynecologist at The Kimble Center explains to Romper. ”But this could be much longer for women experiencing delayed healing or if this is her second C-section.”
Why is bending unsafe after a C-section?
During the first days, maybe even weeks, of the postpartum period, bending over after a C-section isn’t even really possible due to the pain, Dr. Cheruba Prabakar, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN tells Romper. “Due to the pain, you can’t really get out of bed for at least a couple of days after a C-section,” she says. And then, she points out, there’s the issue of being steady (and safe) on your own feet after the surgery. “Since you’re coming out of anesthesia, it’s important to ensure that you don’t feel lightheaded.”
But once you’re feeling a bit better, take it slowly if you try to bend. “The concern with bending is potential strain on the incision and separation of the skin closure and possibly the internal closure,” explains Kimble. “If the internal closure separates, then a hernia can occur.”
What should new moms do if they need to bend and can’t?
You’ll be surprised at how creative you can become if you need to bend over but are still in pain. “It’s always best to lower yourself down first at the knees,” advises Prabakar. “It’s a good idea to get straight to the level of what you need to pick up, and then try to bend a little, instead of bending at the waist.” You can always look for something to steady yourself with (like a chair) to help alleviate the burden of bending. Using your arms as a boost can also help you, particularly if you’re getting in or out of a chair.
And don’t worry if you’re unsure if you can bend or not. Your body will definitely let you know if you’re up for bending. “The primary sign is pain when attempting to bend,” says Kimble. “Other signs would include any drainage from the incision, swelling at the incision, or any bleeding.” If you’re in bed and need to sit up, try rolling onto your side first and then slowly get up. You can always ask your partner or family member to help you with tasks that require bending.
When should postpartum moms be concerned about bending after a C-section?
Although you should be able to safely bend after a C-section, there might be signs that something needs medical attention. “If you’re in a lot of pain, feeling dizzy, or are having bleeding through the bandage, you should speak to your doctor right away,” says Prabakar. Kimble agrees, adding, “If the demands of life force a new mom to bend, continued pain at the incision would be cause for concern. Other signs there might be a problem would be drainage from the incision, and visible skin separation.”
Bending over after a C-section isn’t something that you’re going to automatically be able to do. And that can be tough, especially when you have a newborn who’s going to be in and out of their crib constantly. So be sure to leave on friends and family to help you through those first few days and weeks after surgery, and soon, you’ll be able to bend it like Beckham.
Sung, S., Mahdy, H. “Cesarean Section” 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31536313/
Miovech, S., Knapp, H., Borucki, L., Roncoli, M., Arnold, L., Brooten, D. “Major Concerns of Women After Cesarean Delivery” 1994. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31536313/
Dr. David M. Kimble, M.D., a board-certified urogynecologist at The Kimble Center
Dr. Cheruba Prabakar, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN