Updated: Sep 22
Postpartum. The fourth trimester. Let's get real about the period of time after the birth of your baby. The time full of newborn snuggles and so much more. Postpartum begins the moment your baby is born and ends anywhere up to a year after birth. But what about all of things no one talks about? What about all the changes that will come?
Let's discuss what postpartum is really like for new mothers. A woman's body goes through many changes when she becomes pregnant, and many more changes when it is ready to go back to its unpregnant state. Your body will need time to recover and while most of your focus will be on baby, it's important to take care of yourself too. Yes, there will be newborn snuggles, but there will also be many other things. It's simply a part of the journey to motherhood and that's why we're going to talk about what you can expect.
Photo by Angelia Reed
Also known as lochia, can last up to six weeks even if you had a cesarean birth. Avoiding tampons is ideal and you should seek medical attention if filling a pad within an hour.
During pregnancy a woman's stomach muscles weaken and sometimes separate therefore you should't expect to lift anything heavier than your baby. You may even experience cramping and sharp pains called after-pains. Hormones released after birth help your belly decrease in size although it takes six to eight weeks for your uterus to go back to its original state. This time is for recovering and learning about your new body so it's important to rest and take it easy.
The area between your vagina and rectum, often referred to as the perineum, will need time to recover too. Some women tear during vaginal birth and in certain circumstances a care provider will make a small incision called an episiotomy. Occasionally due to these situations a woman may even need stitches. Many times women don't tear at all and even then they will still have perineum soreness. By icing your perineum every couple hours, spraying warm water over the area during urination, doing your kegel exercises, and taking sitz baths, you can help ease any discomfort and help your body heal.
Another common area for soreness is the breasts and nipples. This usually happens the first few days after giving birth and as a new mom and baby learn to nurse. The discomfort of engorgement may occur as well but should go away once you express milk. You can try using a warm compress or ice pack for any aching. If you experience pain while breastfeeding there is probably an underlying issue that can easily be diagnosed and fixed. Your local Le Leche League is a great place to start looking for help!
We all know about the spontaneous tears, happiness, and mood swings brought on by pregnancy, but did you know postpartum is full of them too? The majority of new mothers feel sad the first few weeks after having a baby due to hormone changes. Many partners feel this way too and it's nothing for either parents to be ashamed of. In fact, talking to someone about the way you feel can make things much better. If you can't seem to shake these feelings after a few weeks it could be postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is more serious than baby blues and still affects many women. If you experience intense feelings of sadness you should call your doctor. With time, things will get better and it's okay to seek help.
Hormonal shifts are also responsible for more symptoms than just baby blues. Have you ever heard of postpartum hair loss? Yes, that's a thing and you can thank your hormones. Many new moms also find that they sweat more. But don't worry, these symptoms wont last forever.
Hemorrhoids and Constipation
Some women develop hemorrhoids during pregnancy and they can also be caused by pushing during birth. Painful gas and constipation may happen a few days following birth as well. It can take time for your first bowel movement after birth but there's no need to rush things. You can try things like eating plenty of fiber rich foods and going for a walk.
Stretch marks happen during pregnancy and even though they may not disappear, they will fade over time.
A c-section is a surgery from which your baby is born through an incision in the belly and uterus. Recovery may look much different as this is a major surgery and the incision on your belly may be sore. Be sure to discuss incision care and recovery with your doctor.
As a birth doula I help many mothers prepare for the postpartum period and I hope I was able to help you too. Thank you so much for taking the time to read about postpartum realness.