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Postpartum recovery seems mysterious and far away when you’re pregnant… and it’s not really something that people talk about.
You don’t have any idea what to expect until you’ve been there.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way!
In this series, Making of Mom readers are pulling back the curtain and sharing what they wished they’d known about that most secret of women’s business – labor, delivery, birth, breastfeeding, baby sleep and postpartum recovery!
Because first time moms need to know what to expect – new motherhood pulls no punches.
Postpartum recovery in particular can be a doozy.
What can you do to help yourself have an easier transition into mom life and a better postpartum?
- educate yourself – my favorite prenatal class has a fantastic crash course into postpartum included which will give you everything you need to know about the first few weeks after baby is born. It’s also completely online so you can do it whenever’s convenient for you (and in your PJs!)
- learn from other moms by reading this post!
- make sure you check out our other posts about postpartum recovery – postpartum essentials for an easier recovery, DIY padsicles, and Postpartum Sitz Bath: What Every New Mom Needs to Know.
Here are 21 moms sharing what they wish they’d known about postpartum recovery!
Postpartum Recovery At the Hospital
Don’t forget to ask at your hospital tour if your hospital has a nursery or if they require you to room-in with baby! – C
Many hospitals are going ‘baby friendly’ and doing away with the old-style nurseries where newborns are under the care of nurses while moms catch a break and get some rest.
Rooming in helps get breastfeeding and bonding off to a great start but it also comes with its challenges, especially:
- if you’ve had a c-section
- if you’ve had strong pain meds during or after labor
- if you’ve had a long labor
It’s hard to care for your baby while you’re still recovering yourself.
I got hardly any sleep at hospital – what with baby rooming in plus staff coming in at all hours of the day and night to check both our vitals… I was so glad to get home and be able to properly rest! – H
This was my least favorite part of the hospital experience too: after barely sleeping all night, there were so many checks and tests that me and baby needed to have done before they allowed us to leave… by the time they were finished with that morning’s tests it was visiting hours… I didn’t want visitors, I wanted to sleep! But, I had to breastfeed or pump for my baby… not easy when people are trying to visit.
I wanted to slap all those bloggers with their ‘what to pack in your hospital bag’ lists – no one told me I’d need to pack a month’s worth of clean pjs! Between the sweating, bleeding, leaking milk and peeing myself I needed way more pjs than I brought… M
Postpartum isn’t pretty or glamorous. If in doubt, bring more clean clothes and underwear. Don’t be afraid to wear the hospital gowns too if you want – I preferred that for the first day so I wasn’t making my own clothes messy.
I didn’t realise there’d be so much swelling after birth… I definitely wanted something looser than my yoga pants to go home in! – L
Swelling after birth is no joke – whatever you do, don’t look! It will get back to normal – make sure you keep applying ice for those first days.
Make sure you ask for extra mesh underwear and ice packs before you leave! They’re super helpful! – G
(Or make sure you make padsicles in your third trimester for at home!)
If you’re on any medications leaving hospital, make sure you have detailed instructions on if/when you can wean off them, watch for side effects and stay in contact with your doctor.
I was on high blood pressure medication after my baby’s birth. A week or so later, I noticed that taking them made me feel really funny… my blood pressure had gone back to normal and I was lowering it way too much with the meds. – C
Toileting After Birth
We are definitely heading into way TMI territory here… but you need to know.
My first bowel movement, I felt like my insides were going to fall out… – D
Take the stool softener, ladies. Seriously.
You’ve just spent a lot of time and energy pushing a whole baby out of your body. Between the muscle fatigue and the stretching of ligaments and muscles that went on, not to mention any tearing, you might feel like your whole insides are going to come out.
Stool softener will help. As will:
- positioning (a squatty potty would help immensely.)
- NOT pushing (go very gently.)
- applying counter pressure to your perineum and vulva.
Birth can also affect your ability to hold your pee…
When you need to pee after birth, don’t wait. I found it harder to hold my bladder and wet myself a few times… – J
Another common effect after birth:
It burns and stings to pee – L
That’s why you need a peri bottle to squirt while peeing (it helps sometimes) or a sitz bath that you can submerge your sore bits and pee.
It’s hard to know what’s normal as a first time mom – so make sure you ask your doctor about anything you’re experiencing that’s weird! You might have a UTI or some other kind of infection.
A couple of days after birth and I just couldn’t pee! I felt like I had a blockage or something there. Turns out it was a UTI, probably from the catheter I needed for my epidural. – C
About Postpartum Bleeding
After your baby is born, you’ll have the period to end all periods – it’s called ‘lochia’ and lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks up to about 6 weeks. Yep. That’s a long time. Though by the tail end it’ll be light like spotting.
I wish I’d known that after birth bleeding lasts forever… ok, not really. But, it felt like it!!!
Your uterus has an open wound that needs to heal where the placenta was attached – that’s why you need to use pads and not insert ANYTHING up there until after your 6 week check up.
I wish I’d known how heavy post birth bleeding was and that it’s normal to pass pretty massive clots.
TMI? Maybe. But, important to know and prepare for!
I wish I’d known that (regardless of what all those health sites say) it’s actually quite normal to have red/pink spotting past the first two weeks.
But it’s still a good idea to call or visit your doctor to make sure – and definitely talk to them if it’s anything heavier.
At Home With a Newborn
You’ve spent the last 9 months hearing smug colleagues and ladies at the grocery store letting you know that your life is about to be over, you’ll never sleep again, and you’re about to learn the real meaning of tired (yeah, thanks.)
But, is that what life is REALLY like as a newborn?
Kinda… but the fact that your baby is finally here makes it all worth it.
Here’s what other moms wished they’d known:
Sleep is so important for your mental health – do whatever you can to get more of it! – S
Easier said than done with a newborn… especially if you’ve already got an older baby, but you need to prioritize your sleep. It’ll make everything else so much more bearable. Forget household chores – sleep.
Make sure you get outside sometimes to see the sun and get fresh air – it’ll help. – I
If you’re feeling exhausted and housebound, getting outside can help you feel fresher.
Baby blues is real. – H
After the big exciting debut of your baby, it doesn’t seem right to feel sad, right? But, those pesky hormones can have you ugly crying out of the blue. It’s ok. It’s normal. It should pass quite quickly – if it doesn’t, speak to your doctor as it may be a sign of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can hit after 6 weeks… I didn’t realise I had it because it came on after my 6 week check up. – D
Hacks That Rock – Multiples Uses for Diapers
When it comes of making your postpartum recovery easier, you don’t really need all those products everyone talks about… though they help!
You can always just hack some newborn diapers instead!
Newborn diapers make great overnight breast pads and are so absorbent! – G
They’re about the right size and shape… and if you’ve got a nice spacious nursing bra, tank or even a tight tank top with a shelf bra, you’ll be able to manage in a pinch!
Frozen diapers work well to soothe sore bits – you can use them on your breasts, or even as padsicles if you want. – A
Just add a little water (or use this padsicles mixture in them) and freeze. Use as needed – they’re a great size and shape to soothe engorged breasts and they’re very absorbent so you could even use them as padsicles.
Your Postpartum Body
Your body has been through a lot with pregnancy… and the recovery takes time. It’ll be a while before you feel properly back to normal. After all it took you 9+ months to get here, now it’s going to take at least a couple of months to get back!
You body won’t feel like your own after giving birth for a while… it just feels weird. – B
One of the weirdest feelings after birth is what your tummy feels like… What once was a big firm bump is now empty and, until everything squishes back to normal, you’ll look about 6 months pregnant.
After birth my stomach felt like jello. – N
Depending on how your baby arrived, you might have to worry about more things during your recovery.
I ended up with an episiotomy… it sure made sneezing, coughing and sitting uncomfortable. – S
My stitches got really itchy after a few days… and then practising kegels made them fall out! – L
One of the biggest third trimester symptoms is swelling but…
The swelling gets worse before it gets better… – K
Especially if you’re on IV fluids during labor. It’ll take a little bit of time for the swelling to go down. But, it’s an amazing feeling when it does! I was so happy to look down and see my feet so slim and svelte looking after months of swollen, elephant feet.
I wish I’d known more about prolapse, diastasis recti and returning to exercise. I was so focused on shedding the baby weight and getting my body back that I ended up with a prolapse from pushing too hard. – V
Make sure you start back gently and carefully with exercise. There are real risks that come with hitting the gym too hard, too soon. Recovery takes longer than you expect.
I started to lose my hair! It was such a shock – it was falling out in what felt like huge quantities every time I had a shower or brushed my hair. – R
Oh no! Your hair has probably never looked thicker and more healthy during pregnancy… unfortunately, all those pregnancy hormones are leaving you now, and so is your hair. It should only be the hair that you didn’t lose during pregnancy that you normally would’ve… but it can feel like much more than that!
After baby, my breathing felt really weird and different. I guess because I had more lung room? – L
If you’re ever concerned about a symptom (like weird breathing), talk to your doctor!
The most important thing to know is this:
Postpartum recovery takes way longer than you think – I didn’t feel properly myself until a year later! – S
Take your time with your recovery – I know there’s lots of pressure to bounce back, lose the baby weight and go back to normal life, but you just made a tiny human from scratch – you’re a superhero! – so be gentle to yourself and your body.
Do you have anything you wish you’d known about postpartum recovery to share? Help out future moms by commenting below!