The morning I went home after giving birth via cesarean section, I felt grody in a way that my hot shower in the hospital hadn't been able to fix. In the haze of feedings and naps, I desperately wanted to soak in the tub, but it wasn't safe take a bath after my C-section yet. I had to wait until I healed, per Parents (and my medical advisors), but how long would that be?
While postpartum showers are okay to take as soon as Mom is feeling strong enough to stand, Jennifer Conti, M.D., a practicing OB-GYN and clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University tells Romper via email that Mom will have to wait a bit longer before she can fill up the tub. "In general, two weeks is a good marker for when it's likely safe to submerge your healing wound in bath water," says Dr. Conti.
This is because submerging the vagina and the incision site in non-sterile water any earlier can put new moms at risk for infection, whether they delivered vaginally or via C-Section, Dr. Wayne Furr, a board-certified OB-GYN practicing at Lone Tree OB-GYN & Midwives in the Denver metropolitan area explains to Romper.
"With vaginal deliveries, as well as C-sections, the cervix, usually closed tightly during most of pregnancy and when not pregnant, provides a potent barrier against infection in the uterus by its water tight design," Dr. Furr says. "If the protector (the cervix) has been opened, or dilated, its protective abilities have been compromised," he adds.
Besides safeguarding against introducing bacteria to the uterus, holding off on that soak helps keep the danger of a skin infection at bay. "The biggest concern with a soaking a larger incision like a C-section wound is making sure the skin layer has healed over to prevent skin infection," says Dr. Conti. She tells Romper that moms are fine to take a soak after that. While you can go by the two-week mark Conti recommends, keep in mind that every body heals differently and it could take longer for the skin to be ready for a safe soak. MedlinePlus, a health resource produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, suggested that it may not occur before three weeks.
Hemorrhoids, those painful, annoying swollen veins in the anus or lower rectum that often result from straining to poop, are another reason why new mothers might be interested in a warm bath in the early postpartum weeks after a C-section. Dr Furr says those seeking relief from hemorrhoid pain can sit in a shallow herbal soak called a Sitz bath (using two to three inches of water a tub or using a basin). "Although warm water is usually preferred, cold water is better for pain reduction," he explains.
Still, after patients get the all-clear from their doctor to take a bath postpartum, Dr. Furr says they should not scrub or rub the C-section incision, even after the annoying, lint-collecting adhesive strips used across their abdomen to keep the gauze in place are gone.
"The Steri-Strips are meant to stay on for several days and even up to a week. The general rule of thumb is that when they start to fray and lift at the edges, they are fine to come off entirely," Dr. Conti tells Romper. Once the skin has healed over, vitamin E oil or soothing ointments like Aquaphor can feel nice on any dry, itchy skin," she adds. (After all that wishing for a bath, I nervously pulled mine off in the shower after a few weeks postpartum. Whomp.)
The good news is, between recovering from surgery and getting acclimated to an infant, those postpartum weeks can fly by. Before you realize, it will be okay to safely resume many of the activities you were doing do before your C-section — including indulging in a decadent bubble bath.