Congratulations! You have officially given birth and your little miracle has entered the world! Now that you are embarking on your postpartum journey, there are new symptoms and questions that will probably arise.
No matter how you gave birth, the first six weeks after are considered a recovery period. Your body has just gone through something very stressful and needs a chance to regroup. Most postpartum symptoms can ease up within a week, others may last for weeks, while others can stick around for even longer.
For a vaginal birth, recovery can take usually anywhere from three to six weeks, however, it may take longer if you had a perineal tear or an episiotomy. If you had a c-section, you can expect the first three to four days to be spent in the hospital recovering. Once you have returned home, it will take at least four to six weeks until you will begin to feel like your old self again.
Bleeding After Birth
One thing that will happen after you give birth, c-section or vaginal, is postpartum bleeding. This can last for up to six weeks after delivery. The bleed will be much like a very heavy period. It will be made up of leftover blood, mucus, and tissue from your uterus. For the first three to 10 days after birth the bleeding will be at its heaviest. Eventually with time it will reduce and go from red to pink to brown and finally a yellowish-white color.
If you notice that you are bleeding through more than one pad an hour or have very large clots, call your doctor to make sure that it is not a postpartum hemorrhage. During this time it is best to use pads or adult underwear, as tampons are not allowed to be used.
20 Tips to Help with Postpartum Recovery
While the birthing process is different for every woman, we have put together a list of tips to help with postpartum recovery.
- Choose the right hospital for you. Make sure to choose a hospital for the care you will receive and the reviews that you have found. Delivering at a hospital that is more care focused, rather than the best building structure in town may help you have a much more positive birth experience. The education that you receive from your postpartum nurses will also help to set the tone of your recovery.
- Be patient with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a skill that takes time to learn, if it does not come easily but you wish to breastfeed you should try to be patient and keep trying. It is something that needs to be learned and that does not always come naturally. If you are struggling with breastfeeding, contact your OB, a midwife, or a lactation consultant. They can help you with the process and help to correct latching issues and or very sore nipples.
- Help your perineum heal. If you had a vaginal birth your perineum will need a little extra help with healing. Icing your perineum every couple of hours for the first 24 hours after birth can help. Try spraying warm water over the area before and after peeing to keep urine from irritating your tear. Warm sitz baths can also help to ease pain if done for 20 minutes a few times a day. Also, try to avoid long periods of sitting or standing.
- C-section scar. It is important to gently clean your c-section incision once a day with soap and water. Dab it dry with a clean towel and then apply antibiotic ointment. Your doctor will let you know if it is better to keep your wound covered up or to let it air out. For the first weeks of recovery, avoid carrying most things, other than your baby, and put off vigorous exercises until after your doctor has given you the go ahead.
- Sleep when baby sleeps. Postpartum you can feel like you never get to rest yourself, as you are constantly caring for your new child and trying to get the house in order once they are sleeping. The chores around the house can wait, take the time your body needs to heal and rest when the baby sleeps.
- Your needs are important as well. Many new mothers put their needs last. Try and designate one to two family helpers to help you take care of the baby. Having too many people around can also hinder your own resting time. When you have 10 or more family members around baby’s hunger cues can be easily missed. Have your designated helpers work to make your lives easier, allow them to do your laundry, cook your meals, or help do some diaper changes while you rest.
- Limit your visitors. The first few weeks that you have with your baby is precious time that you can’t get back. Use the time to bond as a family. Your baby needs to feel loved and protected and skin to skin can help with this. To help utilize this time the most, ask visitors to wait until you have been home for a few weeks to come and spend time with the baby. Allow yourself some time to recover. When others do come to visit, if they have young children perhaps ask them to leave them at home as your little one’s immune system is still developing.
- Padsicles! You can create your own padsicles out of pads, ice packs, tucks, and then a spray of Dermoplast. These will help to ease the pain and inflammation that you will experience after a vaginal birth.
- Try to keep your bowel movements regular. Your first postpartum bowel movement can take time to arrive. Do not force your body to move quicker than it is ready to. Try to eat plenty of fiber-rich foods such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Try to go for walks and use gentle stool softeners to help get things flowing. If you had a perineal tear or a c-section try to avoid straining when using the restroom.
- Relieve aches and pains. If you are achy after delivery try to take some acetaminophen. Hot showers and or a heating pad can also help with overall achiness.
- Keep doing your kegels. Kegels are the best way to get your vagina back into shape! This will also help make your sex life more enjoyable once your doctor gives you the green light! They will also help to resolve postpartum urinary incontinence that can occur regardless of how you delivered your baby. Try to aim for three sets of 20 kegels daily.
- Eat throughout the day. Similar to during pregnancy, try to aim for five smaller meals throughout the day instead of three larger ones. Try to eat a combination of complex carbs and protein. If you are breastfeeding you will notice that you need to add even more calories to your diet than you did during pregnancy. Make sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water every day. By eating well, drinking enough, and avoiding things such as alcohol and caffeine this can help to ease the fatigue that you might feel postpartum.
- Trust yourself and your instincts. You will hear lots of advice from now on about how to raise your child and for a quicker healing process. Pick and choose the advice that works for you. You know what is best for your body and your family, do not forget that.
- Know your body. When you get home, take the time to look at how your body has changed. Use a hand held mirror to look at your c-section incision or your perineum, depending on the type of birth that you had. This will help you to have a baseline idea if something changes or if you experience any problems. This can help you to recognize any increased swelling, tenderness, redness, or drainage from your incision. It will be helpful when trying to explain any issues or concerns to your physician during recovery.
- Accept the help. When friends or family offer to help you with cleaning, meals, or anything to help make your life a little easier after birth take them up on it. Ask your partner to give you one uninterrupted hour a day to yourself. This way you can sleep, bathe, read, or whatever helps calm and relax you for that time. Your partner needs time to bond with your new baby as well, so this is a win-win!
- Set your boundaries and rules early. When you get home set the rules for visiting hours and how many people you would like at a time. You can also ask each visitor to bring groceries or food to help make your lives a little easier while learning your new roles as parents. Don’t worry about how you look when they come over, stay comfortable and embrace the mess around you. They are your friends and family, they shouldn’t care about how the place looks or how messy your hair is. That is unless they want to help you clean up around the house or give you some free time to go enjoy that shower!
- Don’t forget your breasts. If your breasts are achy try using a warm compress or ice pack and a gentle massage. Make sure to invest in a comfortable nursing bra that will help with the ache. If you are breastfeeding, let your breasts air out after each nursing or pumping session. You can even get lanolin cream to help prevent or treat cracked and sore nipples. Make sure to wipe the cream off before your next feeding if it is not safe for baby.
- Keep moving. During your first three- six weeks after delivery exercise is likely off limits. However, taking walks around your house and, after some time has passed, the neighborhood will help with gas and constipation, as well as a speedy recovery. Walking will help to boost circulation and muscle tone while healing. It can also help to boost your mood postpartum.
- Keep your appointments. It is vital to check in with your doctor throughout your postpartum recovery. This will help to ensure that you are healing properly. Your OB can help provide suggestions on being a new mom, they can check in on your emotional well being, and answer any questions that may come up along this new journey of parenthood. If you had a c-section your OB will help to remove your stitches when the time comes.
- Give yourself a break. Try to remember that you just went through a life changing event. Your body is healing and it is going to take some time. If you need to take a moment and have a good cry, then go for it. Becoming a parent is hard work. Learning to breastfeed does not always come easy. You will find yourself struggling from sleep deprivation and feel your hormones shifting back to how they were before the baby came. All of these changes may make you feel crazy and like you are losing your mind, but don’t forget it is only temporary. You will develop your new routine and it will all get easier.
Hang in There
Going through birth, regardless of what type of delivery, is hard on your body. You are stronger than you think! Do not worry about what other people might think or say. You have just created a miracle, enjoy your time bonding with your new addition(s). Parenthood is a beautiful journey, it will get easier as you grow together. Be patient with your body, yourself, and your partner during this learning process.