From dealing with your changing hormones to healing your lady parts, this is everything you need to know about postpartum recovery!
WARNING! This post contains personal, graphic information regarding postpartum recovery. It’s getting real up in here.
I can’t help but laugh when I think about how gnarly postpartum recovery is. Women are so freaking amazing! If there’s ever a time in your life that you’ll feel like a warrior, it’ll be after giving birth.
In case you haven’t thought about it every 5 seconds from the moment you got pregnant, a baby is going to come out of your vagina. This isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds, but it does take a toll on your body.
And as it turns out, it’s that way regardless of how you give birth. (You can read about Leon’s natural birth here!). I talked to a bunch of mom friends with all different birth experiences, and all of them had one thing in common: they were not prepared for postpartum recovery.
So I’m here to give you the ugly details. I hope that you’ll thank me in the future.
The thirst is REAL.
Thought you had unquenchable thirst during pregnancy? HA. Just wait until you have a tiny little nugget attached to your boob all day. You’ll chug water like crazy and somehow still feel like you’re dying.
And the hunger is even worse! Wake up to feed the baby and you’ll need to feed yourself too. Breastfeeding burns something like 500 calories a day, and there’s no doubt you’ll be feeling it. The upside? Your baby basically sucks the fat out of you. Breastfeeding can help you drop that baby weight super fast after pregnancy!
That being said, get yourself a nice tumbler and keep it full of water. And anytime someone offers to bring you food, SAY YES. Even if you aren’t hungry at the moment, you will be soon. And when you can, make an effort to eat well. You’ll feel much better if you’re feeding your body right!
Ditch your pride (and your sexy underwear, for now).
Postpartum recovery is not a time to try to “get back to normal”. It’s a time to be gentle and kind to your body. And the best way to do that is to focus on the physical healing.
Prepare to be humbled, ladies!
I remember those first few days of recovery all too well. I spent all day & night in an adult diaper with thick pads in them. And thank God for them. Because in addition to the postpartum bleeding, I wasn’t able to tell when my bladder was full.
One time in particular, I realized I hadn’t gotten up to pee in a while. Anthony was laying next to me in bed. So I handed over the baby to him and slowly got up to walk to the bathroom. Before I knew it, my diaper was filled with pee.
Oh ladies… let me just tell you! There is no way to cling to your pride when you’re staring into your husbands eyes, peeing your pants.
Thank God for good men who can laugh with you through the weird stuff! Do yourself a favor and fill your partner in on what postpartum recovery is going to look like. It’s not pretty, and its not fun. But when you have the right tools and loving support, it’s a lot easier!
Hormones from Hell
Much like the rest of your body, your hormones don’t go back to normal right after birth.
I’ve always had clear, soft skin for the most part. But in these past few weeks of postpartum recovery, my face has been a nightmare. If its not oily and covered in tiny, rash-like bumps, its completely dried out. This obviously isn’t the end of the world, especially since I’m by myself most of the time. But when you pile that on top of everything else, it can be a tad bit annoying.
And speaking of being alone, the hormones can hit hard when you’re by yourself. For me, I felt the sadness come on anytime Anthony wasn’t home with me. Having help from others is a huge blessing. But there’s nothing like having your partner there with you. Keep in mind that while this is totally normal, you should pay attention to your emotions during this time. It’s common for new moms to develop postpartum depression. And if you do, don’t hesitate to reach out. The best thing you can do for you and your baby is ask for help. After all, you didn’t make this baby on your own!
The most important thing to do to prepare for postpartum recovery is make sure you have a good support system. Have your husband look into taking off work for a week. Ask a friend to set up a free Meal Train for you so you don’t have to worry about cooking at first. And make connections with other local moms who will love and support you. Talking about how you feel helps to keep the loneliness at bay. If you’re a new mommy who needs a friend, please feel free to reach out to me! I would love to connect with you.
Don’t look down!
If I had to choose a least favorite aspect of postpartum recovery, it would be healing from a tear. Ladies, this is where it gets ugly.
My first piece of advice: don’t get a mirror and check out your vag during those first couple weeks of recovery. Or do… I mean, its your vagina. But be prepared that its most likely going to look like a shark attack. And you might not be so glad that you witnessed it.
I know this because I decided to ignore all advice and take a look. Despite the fact that it took two hours for me to push Leon out, my tears were really minor. In fact, one of them was just a shearing, meaning a thin flap of skin was just separated. The other was a urethral tear, so it burned and stung quite a bit when I peed. But I didn’t need stitches for either, so I was really grateful.
Tears to your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus – I hate that word btw) are more painful from what I’ve heard. And if you have any deep muscular tearing, it will take longer to heal and be much more painful. I was very lucky that both of my tears were vaginal. But regardless, the healing process really hurts. And I hate to tell you this, but that’s not the end of it…
To all those baby mamas out there who gave me the heads up about this one, thank you!
For all the rookies like me, prepare to bleed for at least a couple weeks. Some women bleed for up to six weeks, but the first week is definitely the most intense. You might have some large blood clots those first few days, which is just about the weirdest feeling ever. I personally had one the size of an egg* on my first day home. It basically feels like a squishy jellyfish sliding unexpectedly out of your lady parts. I was both fascinated and totally grossed out. *Clots that big are completely normal, as long as they aren’t painful. If you experience clots that are any larger or that cause pain, please call your doctor!!
But my bleeding stopped almost completely after just two weeks, with a little spotting here and there. If you have any major tears, you’ll probably bleed longer. Once your uterus is done bleeding, the tears themselves may also bleed as they heal. Although many factors can effect this, I chalk up my speedy recovery to two major things: padsicles & breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding & Padsicles
Breastfeeding your baby, especially within 15 minutes after birth, causes oxytocin to be released. When this happens, the uterus contracts and starts to shrink. It also helps to slow your bleeding. This continues during postpartum recovery, so you might feel some cramping as you breastfeed. I know its uncomfortable, but just know that its helping you heal!
You’ll also have big hard melons under your shirt when your milk comes in. Which is pretty sweet when you’re like me and have never had any boobs! But if you’re breastfeeding, your nipples are going to be sore as they adjust to being sucked on constantly. I highly suggest reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding before and during this time. It’ll help you to feel encouraged and educated through the process.
As for the padsicles, they are a MUST. Check out my post on how to make them:
Make these frozen pads beforehand and use them every day while you’re healing. Anytime my tear was hurting, they provided some major comfort down there! It can also help with pain from hemorrhoids. I didn’t have any (PRAISE JESUS), but lots of women get them from pushing during labor.
In addition to the padsicles, make sure you use your peri bottle every time you go to the bathroom. You’ll either get one in your birth kit (for home birth or birth center), or the hospital will give you one to take home. Fill it with warm water and use it to clean yourself. And remember to pat yourself dry, NO WIPING! Not that anyone in their right mind would want to wipe such a sensitive area anyway.
Was I hit by a bus?!
I’ve never actually been hit by a bus, but I think postpartum recovery is pretty comparable.
I had a natural childbirth at Celebrate Birth Midwifery here in Lakeland, FL. For some reason, people tend to think that a natural birth is harder on your body than one with interventions. But actually, the opposite is true. Because my body didn’t have any drugs interfering with the process, I was able to enjoy the benefits of endorphins.
Your body’s natural endorphins can be up to 300 times stronger than morphine. I actually felt pretty good for the first few days of postpartum recovery. I was even able to get up and walk around (slowly and carefully) immediately after birth.
That being said, my body had still endured 36 hours of difficult back labor. Eventually the healing came. And with it, the feeling of being hit by a bus. Everything felt very slow, tired, and sore.
When those feelings hit, do all that you can to stay in bed and rest. When you can, take a warm bath with plain epsom salt. It will help you to relax and also help your sore muscles to heal. Just make sure you buy 100% epsom salt with no fragrances or dyes. They can really irritate and enflame your open wounds.
That first poop
According to my husband, ladies don’t talk about poop. Unfortunately for him, just about every woman in my family missed that memo.
So let’s talk poop!
We’ve already discussed that you’re going to be puffy, sore, and a little beat up down there. But have you thought about the fact that you’ll actually have to poop at some point?! It may not seem like a big deal now, but that first poop after birth can be scary.
Just take it slow, be gentle, and don’t push hard. It actually just kinda happens on its own, and wasn’t painful at all in my experience. And remember that staying regular is an important part of postpartum recovery, so don’t fight the process.
Your lovely lady lumps
After hearing all the gory details of postpartum recovery, this part might sound like nothing. But some women have a hard time accepting their after-birth body.
Your uterus will shrink down to the size of a grapefruit right after birth. But it takes a while for all your organs to get back to their correct place. You might feel and see your uterus move around a bit for the weeks to come. Its weird, but its normal.
As for the rest of your body, things may be a little lumpier than you remember.
Two weeks into my postpartum recovery, I had already lost half my pregnancy weight. But when I tried to put on some old clothes, nothing fit. I’m now 5 weeks into recovery, and I still can’t fit into any of the shorts or pants I wore pre-pregnancy. Although it sucks to have to continue to wear maternity clothes, its not the end of the world.
Lovely lady – if you are feeling down about yourself for even one second during postpartum recovery, I want you to read this. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. You’re a goddess of life! You took tiny microscopic beginnings and your body turned them into a HUMAN.
When you look at that body, think about your sweet baby. Your squishy belly with the vibrant stretch marks are signs of the human you held. Your bones and joints have shifted and expanded to make a way for the emergence of life.
If I’m being completely honest, your body may never look or feel the way it did before pregnancy. And you know what? That’s ok. Your new body may be different, but its so amazing. That applies whether you get your abs back right away or hold a little extra weight for a while. Don’t let the world tell you what you need to look like or how quickly you need to “snap back”. Your health, both mentally and physically, are what’s important. Focus on loving yourself and caring for this new baby and new body. And know that women everywhere have been right where you are.
As a first time mama, I know how overwhelming all the information can be. You spend time learning about pregnancy, birth, and how to be a mother. And between all that, you have to figure out how to take care of yourself during postpartum recovery.
But when you can have a realistic look into what to expect, it can help soften the blow. I hope that’s what this does for you. And when you’re juggling sleep deprivation, caring for your baby, and trying to heal your body – I want you to remember that it gets better. You will feel better soon. Life will always be different than it was before, but it will also be infinitely more fulfilling.
Congratulations on bringing a sweet new baby into the world, mama. This is going to be the most beautiful adventure of your life.