You’ve made it through roughly 40 weeks of pregnancy, conquered the long hours and physical challenges of childbirth, and are officially a mother! This is a day you’ve dreamt of, and also marks a stage filled with uncertainty and discomfort for many women.
The transition from pregnancy to postpartum brings a variety of new symptoms and hurdles, but you don’t have to do it alone. From healing tips and remedies to item checklists and recovery timelines, here’s everything you need to know about postpartum recovery.
How Long Does Recovery Take After Giving Birth?
Consider the first six weeks postpartum a recovery period no matter your specific birth story. Whether labor and delivery was a breeze or a grueling process, your body needs time to heal. Each woman can experience different symptoms and will recover at her own pace.
If you had a vaginal birth, your perineum (the area between the anus and the vagina) will be sore and may take three to six weeks to heal. If you had an episiotomy or perineal tear, expect the full six weeks and don’t be surprised if complete healing takes longer.
And don’t worry, while your vagina may not be exactly the same again after giving birth, it will likely be very close. This area of the body typically heals exceptionally well.
If you delivered by C-section, you’ll likely spend the first few days recovering in the hospital followed by four to six weeks of healing at home. Don’t be surprised if you still experience some perineal pain along the way.
Postpartum Vaginal Bleeding—What’s Normal And What’s Not?
Don’t worry—postpartum bleeding made up of leftover blood and tissue is common up to six weeks after delivery. Expect a flow similar to a heavy period for up to the first 10 days. After that, it will taper off from red to pink, brown, and finally a yellowish color.
During recovery, do not use tampons. If you go through more than one pad in an hour or you’re passing large clots, call your doctor right away to be sure you’re not experiencing a postpartum hemorrhage.
Postpartum Symptoms and Healing Tips
Apply the following tips to help find comfort and speed up your recovery.
Let your perineum heal. For the first 24 hours after giving birth, ice your perineal area. After peeing, spray warm water over the area rather than wiping. You’ll receive a refillable spray bottle at the hospital to help make this easier. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods and try to sleep on your side.
Treat your C-section scar. Gently clean your incision with soap and water each day, pat it dry, and apply antibiotic ointment. Your doctor will tell you if it’s best to keep the area covered or open to air out. Try not to carry anything other than your baby or avoid exercise until your doctor gives you the green light.
Find relief from aches and pains. Take acetaminophen, hot showers, or apply a heating pad to help with back and body aches.
Help your first bowel movement happen naturally. Your first bowel movement after giving birth may take time, but try not to strain or force it as this can agitate perineal tears and C-section scars. Try eating fiber-rich foods, taking stool softeners, and go for walks to help your body stay regular.
Be consistent with Kegels. Kegel exercises do wonders for recovering your vagina, make sex more enjoyable, and fix postpartum urinary incontinence. Get started with Kegel exercises as soon as you feel able and do three sets of 20 every day through the first six weeks.
Take extra care of your breasts. Postpartum brings a slew of foreign symptoms—like sore nipples and achy, leaky breasts. An ice pack, warm compress, and gentle massage throughout the day may help. Also, if you’re nursing, invest in a comfortable nursing bra, let your breasts air out after nursing, and apply lanolin cream to sore or cracked nipples.
Keep up with doctor appointments. Check in with your OB/GYN for your 6 week follow up appointment, and sooner if you have questions or are facing significant challenges physically or emotionally. Call your doctor if you experience tenderness, fever, or pain around an incision or stitches and go to your appointment to have stitches removed if you had a C-section.
Eat well and stay active. While your new bundle of joy will require much of your time and attention, be sure to take care of yourself, too. Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day and drink at least 64 ounces of water. While vigorous exercise is off-limits until you get the ok from your doctor, you may be able to go on light walks to boost your mood and blood circulation.
Postpartum Item Checklist
These are a few items you’ll be glad you have on hand for your postpartum recovery.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol). To help with body aches and perineal pain.
- Maxi pads. Enough to last until postpartum bleeding subsides.
- Cotton underwear. These will be comfortable and easier to pull over a large maxi pad.
- Loose sweatpants. To make dressing and moving easier during healing.
- Ice packs. Icing your perineal area can help reduce swelling and discomfort.
- Heating pad. To be used on sore breasts.
- Squirt bottle. Rinse off your perineal area with warm water before and after peeing.
- Witch hazel pads. These can help ease vaginal pain and postpartum hemorrhoids.
- Lidocaine spray. To help ease hemorrhoid, perineal tear, or episiotomy discomfort.
- Stool softener. This gently helps keep your bowels moving and prevents constipation.
- Nursing bras. Select a few that are comfortable and fit well.
- Nursing pads. If breastfeeding, these will help your bra and clothing from leaks.
- Lanolin cream. Use this as a go-to for sore, cracked nipples.
- Postpartum belly band. These can help shrink your belly down over time and hold things in place.
Having a baby is a life-altering experience and almost every new mom experiences a roller coaster of hormones, sleep deprivation, and adjustment to new life. While baby blues are common, it’s important to understand the warning signs of more extreme postpartum depression.
First, remember this is something many women face and not to feel guilty or ashamed. Postpartum depression is not your fault and you’re not alone. In fact, it affects about 1 in 4 new moms.
If you experience symptoms like feeling persistently sad, hopeless, isolated, worthless, anxious, or irritable for more than two weeks after delivering your baby, talk to your doctor. Your trusted healthcare professional can help you recover and feel like yourself again.
Postpartum Care in Logan, Utah
Bringing a new baby into the world and home with you is an exciting, overwhelming, monumental time. Following these tips will help you better take care of yourself while you take care of your baby. Remember, you’ll get through this, and you’re doing a great job! Enjoy every special stage with your new baby with help from the team at Cache Valley Women’s Center at the Lodge.