The recovery period after having a baby is often not discussed. The focus is on labor and birth and many women are surprised by the recovery time. After pregnancy, your body goes through many changes and healing. Knowing what to expect can help you deal with these changes.
Your body is not only changing physically, but emotionally as well. As in early pregnancy, your body will be going through major hormonal changes. The levels of progesterone and estrogen drop rapidly, as much as 90% in the first few days after birth. This can make you feel irritable and you may cry unexpectedly. This is normal and will get better as your body goes back to normal.
You will be very tired for the first few weeks after having a baby. The exhaustion of delivering your baby combined with lack of sleep when caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. Be sure to get as much rest as you can. Forget the cleaning or laundry and nap with your baby. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, so you can get the rest you need.
You may be surprised to find that you still have your tummy. Most women look about four or five months pregnant right after the baby is born. This belly won’t go away over night. The uterus is still enlarged and the muscles are still loose. You may feel cramping as the uterus shrinks.
Breastfeeding will make your uterus go back to its original size faster. You may notice the cramping increases when you breastfeed in the early days. For some women, this is very mild, but for others it can be quite painful. Don’t be afraid to ask the nurse for a pain reliever, if you need it. Once your uterus shrinks, this pain will go away.
Now is the time you will pay for all those months without a period. You should expect some bleeding for a few weeks. At first, this will be bright red and heavy. Gradually it will become lighter and stop.
Your perineum will be sore, whether you had an episiotomy or not. If you do have stitches, these will need to heal. A peri bottle should be used to squirt warm water on the area to keep it clean and reduce the risk of infection. A sitz bath is often recommended to relieve the pain. I found this to be more irritating, but loved the ice packs. Each woman is different, so try what works for you. An analgesic spray, such as Dermoplast can give relief by cooling and numbing the area.
Many women experience constipation after childbirth. This is very normal. Epidurals and other pain relievers can make this worse. Eat plenty of fiber and drink a lot of water to help constipation. Certain laxatives, such as Colace are safe, even if you are breastfeeding.
You will notice changes in your breasts after the birth of the baby. As your milk comes in, you will experience breast tenderness. A warm shower and expressing milk with a pump can help relieve engorgement. Nurse frequently to help prevent engorgement in the early weeks.
Sore nipples are common in early breastfeeding. Be sure the baby is latched on properly to help prevent some of the soreness. If your nipples get sore, try a breast cream that contains lanolin. Don’t use soap on your nipples in the shower, as this can increase soreness and cracking. Go topless around the house to let the air help heal your nipples. This does get better as you become a pro at breastfeeding.