You’ve finally put around 40 weeks or so int your pregnancy and some long hours of childbirth behind you, and you’re officially a mother. Congratulations!
Now comes the transition from pregnancy to postpartum, which brings with it a variety of new symptoms and questions.
Here’s what you need to know about your postpartum body and its recovery from childbirth — ideally read this before you meet your baby so that you are ready.
How long does it take to recover after giving birth?
No matter whether you had a cesarean birth or went the natural route, the first six weeks postpartum are considered a “recovery” period. Even if you you had a relatively easy going pregnancy and had the easiest delivery on record (and especially if you didn’t), your body has been stretched and stressed to the max, and it needs a chance to regroup and recover from all of this.
Keep in mind that every new mom is different, so every woman will recover at a different rate with different postpartum symptoms.
The majority of these ease up within a week, while others (sore nipples, backaches and sometimes perineal pain) may continue for weeks, and still others (like leaky breasts or an achy back) might stick around until your baby is a little older.
If you’ve had a vaginal birth, you’re probably also wondering how long it will take for soreness to go away. Recovery can take anywhere from three weeks if you didn’t tear to six weeks or more if you had a perineal tear or an episiotomy.
If you delivered by C-section, expect to spend the first three to four days postpartum in the hospital recovering; it will take four to six weeks before you’re feeling back to normal. Depending on whether you pushed and for how long, you can also expect to have some perineal pain.
How much bleeding is normal after giving birth?
After you give birth, postpartum bleeding, i.e. lochia — can last for up to six weeks. It will be just like a very, very heavy period made up of leftover blood, tissue from your uterus and mucus. Bleeding is heaviest for the first three to 10 days, then it will taper off — going from red to pink to brown to yellowish-white.
If you spot large clots or you’re bleeding through more than one pad every hour, call your doctor right away. During this time, tampons are off-limits, so you’ll have to rely on pads.
There are a couple of products that we love. First is super absorbent maternity pad made to soak up all the fluids. Pack about 3 packs in for your hospital stay and have some more ready for your home recovery.
We recommend that you invest into some hospital panties.
These can be thrown away when finished. You may need around 2 per day in hospital to keep you hygienically fresh. There are 2 types, the standard mesh:
Or you can opt for the premium hospital panty that is seamless. It can be worn during pregnancy, at hospital for birth and birth recovery and post-partum recovery at home when you don't wish to stretch your normal undies. Whilst we wish our baby belly would be gone, it does take time to reduce back to where it once was, well, sort of.
How can you speed up the postpartum healing process?
The following tips can help you to speed up your postpartum recovery, so you heal — and feel — better:
Help your perineum heal. Ice your perineum every couple of hours for the first 24 hours post-birth. Spray warm water over the area before and after peeing to keep urine from irritating torn skin. Try warm sitz baths for 20 minutes a few times a day to ease pain. Aim to avoid long periods of standing or sitting, and sleep on your side. We love this femme pad that is convenient and just the right fit for your delicates.
Care for your C-section scar. Gently clean your C-section incision with soap and water once a day. Dry with a clean towel, then apply antibiotic ointment. Talk to your doctor about whether it’s better to cover the wound or leave it open to air out. Avoid carrying most things (besides your baby), and hold off on vigorous exercise until you get the OK from your doctor.
Help your tummy heal. Your tummy won't go flat again. But a postpartum recovery belt, which promotes healing, reduces swelling, and may help you lose the baby weight faster. It is most effective when worn straight after birth up to 12 weeks. There is a range to choose from, depending on your preference. Here are just some of the products we love to help you looking your best.
Ease aches and pains. Ease overall achiness with hot showers or a heating pad — or even treat yourself to a massage.
Stay regular. Your first postpartum bowel movement can take time, but don’t force things. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods (whole grains, fruits, veggies), go for walks, and use gentle stool softeners to get and stay regular. Avoid straining, which isn’t good for perineal tears or your C-section scar, if you have either.
Do your Kegels. There’s no better way to get your vagina back in shape, make sex more enjoyable for you and your partner, and resolve postpartum urinary incontinence — no matter how you delivered. So get started with postpartum Kegel exercises as soon as you’re comfortably able, and aim for three sets of 20 every day.
Be kind to your breasts. For achy breasts, try using a warm compress or ice packs and gentle massage. Also be sure to wear a comfortable nursing bra. If you’re breastfeeding, let your breasts air out after every nursing session and apply a lanolin cream to prevent or treat cracked nipples.
We love these breast soothers that can be heated up or cooled down depending on your needs. Designed to reduce swelling, tenderness and soreness in your sensitive breasts and it helps to dilate blocked milk ducts and encourages milk flow.
Keep your doctor appointments. Checking in with your doctor is essential, since it helps ensure that everything is healing as expected. Your OB/GYN can also check in with you emotionally and, if necessary, suggest how to get help to adjust to being a new mom. If you had a C-section, be sure to make your appointment to remove your stitches, as leaving them in for too long can make scars look worse. And of course definitely let your doctor know if you have any symptoms that concern you, like fever, pain or tenderness around an incision.
Eat well to ease fatigue and fight constipation. Just like you did during pregnancy, aim to eat five smaller meals throughout the day instead of three larger ones. Eat a combination of complex carbs and protein for energy, plus plenty of fiber (found in fruits, veggies and whole grains) to help prevent haemorrhoids: Think whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, veggies with hummus, or yogurt with a handful of berries. Drink at least 2litres (about eight glasses) of water every day. And try to skip the alcohol and caffeine, which can affect your moods and make it even more challenging to sleep than it already is with a newborn at home.
Keep moving. Exercise is likely off limits for at least the first few weeks if you've had a C-section, and you won't be immediately back to hard-core pre-pregnancy workout routines if you had a natural birth. But definitely talk to your doctor about when and how you can exercise; you may be able to do more than you think. No matter how you delivered, start by taking walks. Stroll around your house and, eventually, around the neighbourhood (stroller in tow!). Walking helps with gas and constipation and speeds recovery by boosting circulation and muscle tone. Plus it boosts your mood and has been shown to help ease depression-like symptoms.
For a full list of products we love just for post-partum recovery, check out this link HERE.