Pregnancy is an amazing journey and towards the end moms to be start preparing for their labor and birth, as well as the exciting prospect of meeting their new baby. The baby nursery will be prepared and hospital bags packed and ready.
Then once baby has arrived the new mommy will be spending her days caring for her new baby, breastfeeding and bonding. Another important thing to remember and focus on is that the first six weeks after birth is considered a recovery period.
Some moms will recover faster and other moms may take longer. How you give birth will also play a role in your recovery period, your symptoms and how you will need to look after yourself.
Here are some tips for recovering after birth:
Postpartum bleeding is known as lochia. You can expect to bleed anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 weeks after birth. Postpartum bleeding is heavier than a normal period. Your bleeding will be heaviest for the first 3 to 10 days after birth and then it should get lighter.
Postpartum bleeding is made up of blood, mucus and uterus tissue. Your bleeding will turn from red to pink to brown and finally to yellow-ish white.
You will need to stock up on maternity pads which are much more heavy duty than normal sanitary pads. Keep in mind that you should not use tampons for the first 6 weeks after birth – tampons could lead to bacteria in your uterus during this time.
Consider buying some disposable maternity panties for use in the hospital and while you are bleeding heavily at home. You will undoubtedly leak through your maternity pads at some stage and ruin your panties. Having these stretchy disposable panties means firstly that you are comfortable but also that you needn’t worry about stains and extra washing during this time.
If you get large blood clots in your bleeding or your bleeding is excessively heavy so that you are bleeding through a pad in an hour or less contact your doctor immediately as this could postpartum hemorrhage.
After Your C-section
When you have a c-section you won’t be mobile on the day of the birth. You will receive a epidural which means your lower body is numb and you will have a catheter which will be removed the morning after your c-section.
While you won’t be able to move around fast or far in the beginning it is important that you start moving around as soon as possible after your catheter has been removed. This will help your body functions to start working (especially your bowels). It will also help to lower the chances of any post-operation complications like blood clots in your legs.
Many women experience gas and bloating after their c-section which may be uncomfortable and even painful.
You will need to keep your c-section wound clean and dry for the first 10 days – you will probably have a waterproof bandage on it so you can shower. When you go for a checkup after birth your doctor will remove the bandage and check your scar to see if it is healing properly.
Once the bandage is off clean your scar daily and pat it dry afterwards. Check with your doctor whether he advises you leave your scar open or keep it covered.
Your c-section scar will be incredibly sore the first few days and stay tender for a long time after the operation. Your doctor will prescribe you anti-inflammatory medication as well as pain medication to help you manage the pain.
Using a postpartum girdle after a c-section (or even after natural birth too) comes with many benefits, including providing your stomach with support which will help with easing the pain. You can read more about postpartum girdles here.
It is important not to do any lifting after your c-section other than when you need to pick up your baby of course. Refrain from lifting anything other than your baby for the first 6 weeks to give yourself a chance to heal.
After Natural Birth
Giving birth naturally usually means a quicker and easier recovery than giving birth via c-section, however parts of your body will have taken a bashing.
Make sure to look after your perineum (the area between your anus and vagina) properly. For the first 24 hours after birth ice your perineum. Keep a spray bottle handy and fill it with warm water when you need to urinate. Give your vaginal area and perineum a squirt of warm water before and after urinating. This will keep the urine from irritating any torn skin.
Your perineum may have torn during birth requiring stitches or your doctor may have performed an episiotomy (a surgical cut to the perineum) to widen you vagina during an assisted birth, if your baby is in distress or to prevent your perineum from tearing.
Your body may also be achy and sore from pushing. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication and you can also take a hot shower or use heating pads to ease the aching.
Your Uterus and Tummy
Your stomach will take a while to get back to its normal size, so don’t expect a flat stomach after birth. You may even still look pregnant for a while. It will take some time for your uterus to contract back to its normal size. You can also expect some cramping as your uterus contracts. Breastfeeding your baby will help your uterus to contract so you can expect to feel cramps when you breastfeed.
It may take a few weeks to a couple of months for your tummy to start looking normal again. You can expect to have some stretch marks and if you have had a c-section you will have a scar. You can look into ways to reduce your stretch marks, but also remember that your stretch marks are a sign that you have brought life into this world.
Caring For Your Breasts
Whether you are breastfeeding or not your breasts will be tender and achy. Make sure you have a warm compress and an ice pack at hand. You can also gently massage your breasts.
Inquire at the hospital that you are giving birth at whether you can have laser treatment on your nipples if you plan on breastfeeding. This will help prevent your nipples from getting cracked and sore.
Keep nipple cream on hand and give your breasts some air time after breastfeeding. Investing in some nursing bras will also be a good move.
Pooping After Birth
Yes this is most likely going to be a problem no matter how you give birth. If you have had a c-section you will find pushing a poop out very sore and uncomfortable where you were cut. If you gave birth naturally you may be torn and it will hurt down below.
Keep in mind that the longer you wait to poop the harder it will become to successfully poop. Stay hydrated which will help the process along as well as help you to produce beast milk too. Talk to your doctor about using a stool softener to make this job easier.
Postpartum Hair Loss
During pregnancy you can expect your hair to grow more and to be thicker – this is due to hormonal changes. However after birth this changes and many women experience hair loss after birth, once again due to hormonal changes. This is perfectly normal and should sort itself out with time.
However if you feel your hair loss is excessive ask your doctor about it, it could also be a sign of anemia or postpartum thyroiditis.
Sex After Six Weeks
You should not have sex for the first six weeks after birth. Once you have had your postpartum checkup with your doctor you can get the go ahead but until then rather abstain.
Having sex too early can cause an infection, as well as hamper your recovery.
Keep Your Doctors Appointments
Make sure to see your doctor at the right time and to mention any concerns, aches or pains that you may be having. This will ensure that any complications are identified easily. Your doctor can also help you to cope with any difficulties you may be facing.
Having a new baby is a big deal, so is giving birth. Your body has been through a lot and you will need all the help you can get. Don’t be shy to ask your partner, family and friends to help you if you are taking strain.
You might want to connect with other new moms too, since they will understand exactly what you are going through.
Talk about your feelings and remember that it is not just your physical body going through a lot, your hormones have been on a roller-coaster too. Chances are high you will be in need of emotional support too.
Most moms face a period of baby blues after birth, however as many as 1 in 4 new moms experience postnatal depression. Make sure that you understand the signs of postnatal depression so you can contact a professional if you show these signs.
For more information on recovery after birth you can visit My Postpartum Wellness.
Thanks for sharing this.
These really are very important things to remember and most Mommy’s don’t know what to expect.
I remember everything was just one big surprise to me and I just handled things one day at a time. I wanted to give natural birth but due to complications with my blood pressure, I had to have an emergency C-section four days before JD’s due date.
On the one side I was relieved because at this point my feet were so swollen and painful and I wasn’t feeling well due to pre-eclampsia and I was very emotional.
When you undergo a C-section you must remember that you’re undergoing major surgery and that your body needs to heal. If you take care of yourself afterwards, then you don’t have anything to worry about.
My husband couldn’t wait for the six weeks to be over so that we can resume our sex life. But please keep in mind that the first few times are still very painful and it takes a while before things are back to normal. You have to take it easy and your husband needs to be gentle with you.
I still have discomfort sometimes where my scar is.
I have to go back to my doctor at some point because I have a naval rupture and have been walking with this since my second trimester.
I just didn’t have the time to sort it out. With a new baby, you hardly have time to comb your hair or put on make up some days.
I’ve been postponing this because I’m the one that get’s up at night for JD. My husband is not a light sleeper like me and he doesn’t hear when JD cries or wakes up during the night.
What will happen if I have to go to Hospital and after the operation I’m not allowed to lift anything heavy. I won’t be able to pick JD up for a few weeks. 🙁
I can’t postpone it forever and will have to sort it out at some point. I guess the sooner the better.
Nipple cream is an absolute must when you’re breast feeding and I’ve used nipple shields. They were amazing because you don’t have the problem with baby struggling to latch and it is a lot less painful than baby suckling on your nipples. They are easy to sterilize as well. I just washed them with normal sunlight liquid and hot water and then put them in boiling water (same method that I’ve used for sterilizing baby bottles).
This is an awesome article for newbie mommies.
My experience was totally a put off on having a second child at the time.
I was 7 months 3 weeks into my pregnancy, my water broke at 9.00am Sunday morning, all in a hype I did not wait for further contractions and rushed to the hospital as I was way before time. Only to get there to be told I am dilating at a very slow pace, so they midwives was really nice. I spent the entire Day and night at the hospital and by Monday morning I was only a further 2cm dilated.
The contractions was in process at that point in time, my gynae had started preparing to send me for an emergency C-Section cause baby was going in distress, my pressure was so low and I was on the palpation machine way too long, the excessive pressure by the contractions and forcing that was happening without being properly dilated caused my babies head to start swelling once my gynae picked that up he started to get panicked.
Before I could even get as far as the epidural, one midwife and my gynae came to me and asked to check, next thing I knew was the midwife had her knuckles up against my chest and pressed on, I tore 3 places and was cut once, baby arrived normal birth at 15.28pm Monday afternoon.
That was a total of 30hours 28minutes of labour process for me.
Still feels as though was just yesterday, I remember it all so well. After holding my baby, all was so worth it.
You are one brave woman! When I hear stories like these I am so thankfull that I had a C-section. I had pain the first day after my C-section, but from day two I had the minimum pain. It was just uncomfortable, especially because of the stitches.
After the stitches were removed I was totally fine. I actually started cleaning the floors and hanging washing on the line until my mother in law told me to stop doing that because it can be harmfull to my body.
We should rember that eventhough we feel fine our bodies are still recovering and we have to follow the doctor’s orders and take it easy. I is so easy to damage our bodies without even realizing.
My husband and I attended a private antenatal class as he travels a lot and could not attend weekly classes at our hospital. This turned out to be one of the best decisions we made! This particular group of midwives gave a very indepth preparation covering most lossible eventualities. So when my delivery started to go wrong and I needed an emergancy c-section I knew exactly what to expect and so did my husband. The hospital staff could focus entirely on their jobs without needing to explain too many things and the whole procedure went very smoothly. After the birth our ante-natal midwife came in to offer breast feeding support and is still available to offer advice… which is often needed!
It made a huge difference to my peace of mind that I was mentally prepared for the whole experience.
A couple of pieces of advice still resonate for me. Trust your medical team. By all means have a preferred birth plan but trust your team to make the best decisions for you and your baby in that moment rather than trying to slavishly adhere to a plan.
And use breastmilk for just about anything from sore eyes to blocked noses…
I had two c sections. My first hospital experience with baby number one was like going to a fancy hotel and being catered for in all ways after baby came. My second one was a total nightmare where i just walked out after the second day. Same hospital, just the second time around they were renovating the maternity section and because i knew what first class treatment i got the first time around i didn’t check everything for when the second baby arrived. Total nightmare on Elm Street. Just a word of caution. Double check everything before baby’s birth. Love this article. Very informative and well researched!
Thank you for this article.
I just had my second baby 3 weeks ago via c-section.
And I can not believe how different this time around was.
First my experience during the operation. This was a planned c-section and I was so nervous. I was nauseous during the procedure. I was on a drip for longer due to not eating for 12 hours.
But I got up and moved around just after they washed me and removed the catheter. I was sore but wanted to move.
But my worse time was at home the first week. My feet was so swollen I could not walk. And this was a first.
My cut was sore, but docter explained this could be due to scar tissue that was cut away and where the stitches was tied up on a knot at the ends.
Today I feel fine, lost all the excess water and baby fat. Breastfeeding like a pro. But I am still recovering. Uterus still contracting during feeds and I still get slight pains near my cut.
The only new experience for me was the swollen feet. And its a very unpleasant way of celebrating motherhood.
Congratulations on your newborn! Good luck with the process of recovering and the challenges with the little one.
Thank you ?
I had postpartum depression in such a way that I had to take anti depressants. It was a very difficult decision for me, because I had to choose between breastfeeding my girl and taking anti depressants.
My postpartum depression caused me to cry all the time, to have nightmares and I did not have energy for anything at all. During that time I could not think clearly or make rational decisions.
I wanted to breastfeed my girl for as long as possible so I kept hoping that I will start feeling better without medication. However, when she was seven months old, my husband and I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of stopping breastfeeding and starting medication. We came to the conclusion that what will be best for my girl will be an emotional stable mother rather than breast milk.
I started medication and within about one week I already felt a whole lot better, although I know that usually these types of medication can take a month or longer to start working.
I never regret this decision. I started to enjoy life again and I could enjoy my little girl so much more.
One tends to forget about all these points after your first pregnancy! Thank you for the reminder. I nearly had a c-section with my first child but ended up getting an episiotomy instead (some may call it a “butt cesarian.”)
One of the nurses in my ward suggested an ancient, yellow, thick liquid. I can’t remember the medical name for it, but boy did it help! I placed a little bit on a maternity pad and it surely soothed the stitches. Lukewarm, saltwater also did the trick.
As I read through the post and comments I am thankful for one thing. Nothing is permanent and that everything will be OK in the end, if it is not OK it is not the end.
You go through traumatic ordeals during pregnancy, labour and even as your baby grows into a toddler etc.
You forget about the challenges as you hold your precious gift in your hands. Suddenly everything was worth it.
One can relate to nearly every point.
I write on pregnancy-related topics frequently and I really liked the information and tone of this content. Really helpful.
I will soon be having my third c-section and found that my experience second time round was a lot better than my first.
My first was an emergency c-section and it took me longer to recover. I remember not being able to get onto my bed once I got home and my mother in law having to lift my very heavy legs to help me get onto the bed.
Second time round I was able to climb the stairs in our home and found myself able to be more mobile as soon as I was home. Though I eased into recovery, I felt more energised.
Thanks for sharing these tips, as my due date (or c-section date) draws closer, I get anxious as to life after the big cut and life with 2 other little ones at home. I actually forgot about it all.
Your articles are always informative and always answer the important questions! Thank you!
This was very helpful. I have been anxious about all this as I am being induced at 38 weeks and I am currently 35 weeks 6days.
How exciting Thuliswa, only a few more weeks to go!
Thank you loved reading this