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.
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Also published on Medium.