8 Things Every New Mum Should Know About Postpartum Recovery
While there’s a wealth of information out there about how to care for your baby after birth, there’s not much information preparing mums for what postpartum recovery will really be like. Even mums who have heard birth stories from their families or friends can end up surprised at what happens with their body postpartum – things that people just tend not to talk about.
So to prepare you for postpartum recovery, we’ve put together this guide detailing what’s happening with your body after birth and some things you may experience. Remember that everyone’s postpartum journey is different, and these are just some of the recovery aspects that we feel aren’t talked about enough. From cramping to bladder control (or lack there of) to dental health, keep reading to learn more about what to expect after birth.
You’ll experience some cramping.
Whether you have a vaginal delivery or C-section, it’s common to experience some cramping in your lower abdomen in the days after birth. During pregnancy, your uterus grows many times its original size, so to get back to its starting size, it takes some contracting. Many mums describe these afterbirth pains as a lot like menstrual cramps. The cramps should start to fade away after a couple days.
Tip: If you’re experiencing discomfort, consult with your doctor about your pain control options. A hot water bottle or heating pad on the abdomen can also do wonders for cramping pains.
You’ll need to rest (we know – it’s easier said than done).
If you have a C-section, remember that it’s major abdominal surgery, so you’ll need to rest as much as possible to allow your body to heal. This also applies to vaginal birth – whether you needed stitches or not, you’ll need to allow your body to heal. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions, take care of any stitches, and soak up all the snuggles with your newborn while you heal.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family while your body is recovering. Whether they come over to help with more strenuous chores or just to watch the baby while you take a nap, it will tremendously help with recovery.
You’ll have some bleeding for between 4-8 weeks.
After birth, whether it’s a vaginal delivery or C-section, you’ll bleed for around 4-8 weeks. This is how your body gets rid of the extra blood and tissue in your uterus that helped your baby grow! This blood is known as lochia and will be bright red and heavy for the first few days (you may notice some blood clots).
Tip: Remember to stock up on your postpartum self-care supplies. This includes lots of pads to help you get through the bleeding phase.
You might experience some incontinence.
Just as it’s common to experience some incontinence during pregnancy when laughing, sneezing, coughing, or strenuous activity, it can continue into postpartum. This is because during childbirth, your pelvic floor muscles may be weakened, causing occasional loss of bladder control. For most women, this is typically short-lived.
Tip: Whether you experience ongoing incontinence or not after birth, it might be beneficial to see a pelvic floor physio to help you regain your pelvic floor strength.
Your first toilet run can be uncomfortable.
Now we’re into the nitty gritty of postpartum – the first bowel movement. Especially if you’ve had stitches following a vaginal birth, you may be very reluctant to use the toilet since everything feels a bit off down there. Plus, many new mums take pain killers, which can cause constipation – not helping the situation.
Tip: Here are some things you can do to make this experience a bit easier (and less scary):
- Drink plenty of water
- Take a stool softener after birth (this is often provided by the hospital)
- When you feel the urge, go (putting it off will only make it worse)
It takes time for your belly to go down.
Movies and Instagram influencers have led us to believe that when you give birth, your pregnancy belly immediately disappears. So when first-time mums look in the mirror after a couple of days postpartum, they’re sometimes shocked to see that their bump is still there. In reality, it takes around six weeks for your uterus to shrink back to its normal size. So remember to just give your body time to adjust to not toting around your little one anymore – you will get there eventually.
You’ll experience some emotional ups and downs.
From overwhelming joy to baby blues back to excitement, you’ll likely be on an emotional rollercoaster after you give birth. During pregnancy, your hormones change drastically and then they crash after birth. As hormones are linked to our emotions, this causes major changes to how we feel on a day-to-day basis.
Reminder: If you feel yourself withdrawing from family and friends, struggling to get out of a depressed mood, or severe anxiety, you should talk to your doctor about postpartum depression and how you can help stabilise your mental health.
You’ll want to keep on top of your dental health.
Did you know pregnancy can impact your dental health? The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can result in an increase in cavities and gum disease. At the same time, your lifestyle changes may also impact your pre-pregnancy brushing and flossing routine.
Tip: Schedule your 6-month dentist exams and cleans ahead of time and try your best to make the appointments.
You’ll get through it!
We get it, postpartum can seem really daunting – especially when there’s no too much information on how to get through it. We hope that by breaking down some of the less-talked-about aspects of postpartum, it helps you mentally and physically prepare for the first few weeks after birth.