Your Guide to Postpartum Recovery: Tips and Tricks
Recovery from natural childbirth can be overwhelming, but knowing what to expect and having a few tips in mind can be invaluable. Find out more here about post-pregnancy care and keeping yourself healthy after you bring your little one into the world.
For many women, the period of postpartum recovery can seem like a light at the end of the tunnel. Pregnancy and childbirth can be challenging, and it may seem like it will all be much easier once you have given birth.
However, recovery after birth is far from an easy process. Your body has spent the better part of a year changing drastically to support the life inside of you; it only makes sense that it will take some more time before things return back to normal.
While you’ve probably received a lot of advice on what to expect during pregnancy, you may have received little about the actual process of postpartum healing. What are some tips and tricks for recovery after giving birth? How can you manage your physical recovery at the same time you are taking care of a little one and trying to keep yourself mentally balanced at the same time?
We know how overwhelming this stage can be — and we are here to help.
In the article below, find the important information you need to prepare yourself for recovering from childbirth. However, remember that the best source of medical information will always be your doctor, so please speak with him or her about your postpartum healing plans and do not take anything presented in this article as medical advice.
What Will My Postpartum Recovery Timeline Look Like?
First things first: When it comes to postpartum healing, every woman’s body is on its own timeline. How fast you heal from childbirth will depend upon individual factors like your preparation for childbirth, your body’s natural healing rate, and the steps you take to help your body during this vulnerable post-birth period.
On average, most women feel close to recovered within six to eight weeks of delivery. Some symptoms ease up within a week after childbirth, while others will continue for weeks and months after your child is born. Whether you deliver by cesarean-section or vaginally will also play a role in how long your recovery from giving birth will take.
If you are worried that healing after delivery is taking too long, please reach out to your doctor. They can evaluate your personal health to determine whether your healing process is right on schedule or if there are other factors interfering with your body’s ability to heal.
Postpartum Healing: Tips for Care After Normal Delivery
While every mother’s recovery from natural childbirth will be different, there are a few tips you may want to incorporate into your everyday routine during the weeks and months after you give birth. As always, please speak with your doctor to determine what is right for your body during this vulnerable postpartum period.
Vaginal and Perineal Post-Labor Care
Whether you deliver vaginally or through a C-section, you will experience a degree of vaginal bleeding and discharge after, sometimes for up to six weeks. This is completely normal — although an inconvenience for a lot of women. You will be advised to wear pads (not tampons) to absorb the discharge (also known as lochia). The bleeding will likely be the heaviest in the first 10 days after delivery and then taper off to light bleeding for about a month after. You may also pass some clots; this is normal, too.
At the same time, you will likely experience some pain and swelling in your perineal area, the area between your vagina and your anus. You might consider using ice packs to ease the discomfort, and you should always clean the area with warm water after going to the bathroom. Using toilet paper can further irritate the area. If needed, use an anesthetic cream or take pain-relieving medication.
Abdominal Post-Labor Care
After you give birth, your uterus will need some time to contract back to its prenatal shape and size. This will often result in cramping over the weeks after delivery, known as “afterpains.” Some of these pains will be sharp, while others will be duller. It can be beneficial to use heating pads and medication to relieve this pain.
You may also experience difficulties urinating and defecating during your post-labor recovery. It’s common to be constipated or have trouble urinating; your perineal area will be sore, and you may delay going to the bathroom to avoid aggravating the pain and irritation that already exists. To induce easier urination and defecation, make sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat high-fiber foods such as black beans and broccoli. If your discomfort in the bathroom lasts for longer than a few days, make sure to talk to your doctor; they may be able to prescribe stool softener or another medication to ease your bowel movements.
Breast Care After Giving Birth
If you are choosing to breastfeed your child while recovering from labor, you may experience sore nipples and breasts in the first few days as you adjust to the new routine. It takes time for you and your child to establish your breastfeeding rapport; you may need to try different positions or consult a lactation expert for help. Make sure you let your nipples air-dry after feeding, and be cautious about using other creams to soothe sore nipples (they can cause infections). Always speak to your lactation specialist and your doctor if you are having difficulties with your breastfeeding routine.
Mental Health Post-Labor Care
There is a lot of physical healing after delivery, but it’s equally important that you pay attention to your mental health after giving birth. There are a lot of hormone changes as your body returns to its pre-pregnancy state, and this can often cause mood swings. “Baby blues” are common after labor and delivery, but they can easily become more serious postpartum depression if left untreated.
Women who choose to place their children for adoption after an unplanned pregnancy often have a more complicated grieving process after child delivery. A birth mother spends nine months growing a tiny human inside of her and, even though she knows her child is in the best home possible, it can still be a tough emotional road. Add to that the physical process of postpartum recovery, and it can be a very difficult time for women in this kind of situation.
Make sure you have a support system who can help you out while you are recovering from childbirth, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Be gentle on yourself during your postpartum body recovery; it takes time. Allow yourself the space to take care of yourself during this crucial period.
Other Important Post-Pregnancy Care After Normal Delivery
There are a few other things you may experience while recovering from labor. While they don’t affect every woman, you should be ready to take certain steps if they do pop up while you are healing after pregnancy:
- Hemorrhoids: Use witch hazel and other creams to alleviate the pain and itching you feel during your bowel movements after child delivery.
- Night sweats: Watch out for a fever (as these combined can be a sign of an infection), but otherwise use cool sheets and towels that you can change out in the middle of the night until your postpartum fluid levels are back to normal.
- Hair loss: While it can be distressing, hair loss is a normal side effect of changing hormone levels. It is only temporary.
- Weight loss: You may wonder how quickly your body recovery after birth will take. Know this: It may take several months to lose your baby weight. Don’t try to force your body into losing weight earlier than is comfortable, and be gentle on yourself. It’s completely normal to take time to return to your pre-pregnancy body; what you see from celebrities and other new moms is not always realistic.
Above anything else, during your postpartum care after delivery, make sure to listen to your body. You will be the one who best knows whether something is normal or not, and it’s important to advocate for yourself to ensure you get the after-labor care you need from your doctor. You should see your doctor for a postpartum checkup within three weeks of labor and then have routine checkups as often as is necessary. Your doctor is there to help you, new mama, but you will be the main person in charge of your postpartum recovery.