With a bun in the oven, we usually read tons of books, blog posts, and magazine articles on pregnancy and childbirth. We also talk to medical practitioners every now and then to ask them questions and receive important information from them. But... they don't tell us everything. Among other things, they keep silent about so many post-childbirth facts.
"The postpartum period is the least talked about time during the pregnancy cycle, yet it's the most challenging hormonally, physically, and emotionally," says Sherry Ross, M.D., ob/gyn at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica.
Although it's often kept on the DL, childbirth recovery is actually one of the first major tests new moms need to undertake. It's the time when moms have to take care not only of their newborn children but also of themselves — to become a better partner and mother, as well as to bond with a new bundle of joy.
So let us check out what we should know about the so-called "fourth trimester", i.e. the first weeks after giving birth. Even though few people talk about it, it's very important to know these things to heal better and quicker, and just to be ready for some of the challenges a new mom might meet along the way.
20 Pregnancy Belly Won't Come Off Immediately
Most of us want to get back into shape as soon as possible after childbirth. However, it doesn't happen so quickly, and it doesn't even depend on the amount of the mommy's effort. The pregnancy belly just doesn't come off immediately after delivery and it's natural.
So be ready for some people around you to think that you're still pregnant for some time. It's totally fine. And don't rush into physical exercise, striving to get your flat belly back ASAP. "Your body has done something amazing," says certified nurse-midwife Elizabeth Hill-Karbowski, Ph.D. "Don't overdo it right away." And, of course, don't forget to get exercise advice from your practitioner beforehand.
19 Drink Lots Of Water
A few hours after you deliver, you're likely to be asked to go take a first afterbirth pee to remove all the urine from your body. If, for whatever reason, you can't do it, the nurse will put a catheter and, according to some moms, it's not going to be a pleasant experience.
"It hurt," shares a mom on Clarks Condensed. "It honestly hurt worse than any other part of labor and delivery, including when I didn’t have my epidural." Only later she learned that she needed to drink as much water as possible right after delivery. This mom goes on to add, "I did end up drinking a lot of water with my second, and the first pee was a lot less miserable!"
So learn from the mistakes of others and drink lots of water!
18 Epidural Has Unexpected Side-Effects
For many mothers, an epidural is a godsend. It takes away the pain (well, most of the time it does) and makes the labor process a bit more enjoyable. But we should be ready that, along with these advantages, there're also side effects.
Here's a mom on Clarks Condensed describing her experience, "When I first got out of bed, the nurse insisted she help me, and I wasn’t totally sure why. However, as soon as I stood up I understood why she wanted to be close by. I practically stumbled out of bed, and she made sure I didn’t totally fall on the ground. My legs were pretty shaky for a few hours as the epidural wore off."
So if you had an epidural, be careful!
17 Expect A Certain Amount Of Discharge
After we give birth, we're going to have lady-part discharge. And not just some discharge - we're likely to see a lot of it!
This "special" afterbirth discharge is called lochia and it's common regardless of whether you had natural birth or C-section. "It’s a natural shedding of the lining of the uterus," says Dr. Hector O. Chapa, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, "and it goes through different characteristics, going from reddish initially to whitish-pale to transparent."
Usually, lochia goes away on its own in several weeks, but if you have any concerns about it, talk to your caregiver.
16 Diaper Panties, Anyone?
The previous entry logically leads us to this one. Since you're going to have all this discharge, you won't want to wear your nice panties. In fact, don't even take them with you to the hospital. You won't be left without any underwear, because nurses will give you huge disposable granny panties that you'll use and then throw away with no regrets. Who needs extra laundry after childbirth anyway?
What's another advantage of this special hospital underwear? According to Mom.me, it's also incredibly stretchy and it'll easily accommodate the enormous pads and frozen diapers nurses will also give you to keep your sore nether regions a bit more comfortable.
15 Contractions Aren't Over
The baby's here. Phew, these contractions are finally over. Or are they?
Not exactly. In fact, you'll be feeling like you still have contractions for some time after delivery. But don't be scared of it - it's completely normal. "The muscles undergo separation, and they have to go back to normal," says Hector O. Chapa, MD, explaining that these afterbirth contractions are just your uterus getting back to its pre-pregnancy size. Probably, they won't be as painful as when you were in labor, but they might make you feel kinda weird.
Be prepared to feel more of it, while nursing your little one, because breastfeeding can actually trigger those contractions.
14 Sweating Is Normal, But Fever Isn't
According to a study, about one-third of women experience very warm flashes while they're still pregnant and approximately 29% continue to have them postpartum. Usually, the flashes get better about two weeks after delivery but, just like everything else happening at this period, it's very individual and depends on the woman's health and multiple other factors.
Even though it's a common occurrence, you should still pay a lot of attention to it. Importantly, if you experience these flashes, night sweats or chills, make sure that you don't also have a fever. In case you do, talk to your healthcare provider immediately and check yourself for an infection.
13 Everything We Need To Know About Uterine Massage
While you're still in the hospital, a nurse will come to you to check on you and give you a so-called uterine massage. But don't expect it to be something you can experience at a spa. Massage is just a nice word in this case. Since you've just had a human being coming out of your uterus, it won't be as pleasant as you think. Just imagine someone pushing on your tired uterus to make sure that blood is flowing properly and contractions are taking place.
According to a mom sharing her experience on S. Mommy, it will hurt. A lot. But keep in mind that it's good for you because it'll help you heal, especially if you had a C-section.
12 Even The Hospital Discharge Will Be A Challenge
You're exhausted and the only thing you want is to go home with your baby. Not so fast. Even such a simple thing as hospital discharge isn't as easy as it seems after childbirth.
First, both of you have to complete certain tests. Your little one needs to pee and poop a few times, as well as endure a number of foot pricks from the nurses trying to ensure your bundle of joy is healthy. Then you need to show that you know exactly how to breastfeed and take care of yourself. And, of course, there're mountains of paperwork without which our society just can't exist these days.
And also, be prepared that the process might take even longer if at the moment you're finally ready to leave your baby suddenly poops or wants to eat.
11 Afterbirth Is An Emotionally Tough Time
Everyone talks about baby blues, but no one mentions another side of the postnatal emotional roller-coaster. Your mood is likely to not only drop to the lowest possible, but it may also swing to unimaginable heights.
A mom shares on Mom.me, "It’s totally awesome. It might be that you survived your first night at home or saw your baby smile (don’t let anyone tell you it’s just gas), and suddenly you get this rush of pride and joy that’s hard to describe and impossible to beat."
Whether it's because of hormones, or because you have this wonderful feeling of "I did it!" or because you just love your bundle of joy a little bit too much, just be ready to experience your own little heaven on earth.
10 Going Number 2 Will Be No Easy Task
For a lot of new moms, the first "number 2" toilet visit after childbirth is the toughest thing in the world, yet no one talks about it in the hospital.
According to a mom from Mom.me, "Going poop after having a baby is almost as difficult as having the baby itself." The same mom goes on to add, "I just kept thinking, Why didn’t anyone tell me? I would have eaten more bran."
Seriously, why don't they warn about it and allow us to endure all this pain without even being mentally prepared to it? Don't we deserve to know the whole truth?
9 Tummy Issues
Since postpartum pooping brings so much discomfort, new moms tend to experience constipation, as well. Often it's caused by the pain and discomfort, and in other cases, it's also about a mommy being afraid of tearing stitches.
This issue usually resolves by itself after some time, but you can facilitate the process if you drink more water and eat more high-fiber foods (such as grains, legumes, fruits, and veggies). If it doesn't improve with this kind of nutrition, you might also need to take a stool softener prescribed by your doctor.
Just don't worry too much about it. This stage shall eventually pass and you'll poop in peace again.
8 Soreness And Discomforts
Obviously, you're going to feel sore down there for some time after childbirth, especially if you had any tears or if you needed an episiotomy to be done during delivery. To relieve this soreness and keep your lady parts comfier, you should sit on a pillow. It's also advised to have a sitz bath, which is sitting in warm water covering only your buttocks and hips. Ice packs and anesthetic sprays will also help you during this uneasy time.
Besides, you'll also probably feel a moderate amount of pain in the body for some time, just because childbirth was a huge stress for all your organs. And we're not even going to talk about your girls (for now)...
7 Leaks Are Also Possible
Urinary incontinence is common after childbirth, both for those mothers who had a natural birth and for those who had a C-section. "Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, resulting in uncomfortable pelvic pressure and unwanted leakage of urine," says Sherry Ross, M.D.
However, it's not a lifelong curse, of course, and you're going to heal sooner or later. To make it sooner, you can use Kegel exercises. According to Ross, "Kegels are a simple and effective way to whip those muscles back into shape."
It's best if you start doing these exercises even before delivery, but it's also helpful to start postpartum.
6 A C-Section Isn't The Most Painless Option
In some cases, a C-section is a must, but a certain number of mothers choose it because they think it's going to be less painful than enduring the whole labor process. However, they forget about post-surgical recovery.
A mom on S. Mommy shares that she "barely made it through her first post-op shower" and she adds that standing up straight was also extremely difficult, "because it pulls on the stitches." It took her weeks to recover from the surgery and finally feel okay.
This isn't the case for all women, because some recover from C-section pretty quickly. But you still should be aware of the possibility. It's major surgery, after all.
5 Breastfeeding Won't Be An Easy Task
Speaking about breastfeeding, it's not as easy as it looks either. "The pain from breastfeeding is hard to get used to," explains Sherry Ross, M.D. "Between the blisters, nipple cream that doesn't really help, and simultaneous pain from uterine cramping, the entire experience can be toe-curling."
Besides, it can also be hard to get your little one to nurse. So if you have any issues with it, don't hesitate to talk to your caregiver. Remember that it's completely normal to experience problems while breastfeeding, especially if you're a first-time mom. This is why there are lactation consultants in the world, after all!
4 Periods Will Take Time To Resume
The time when your period is going to begin again is individual. For some women, it starts about 6 or 8 weeks after delivery, while for others it takes a few months. It's highly likely that periods will resume later, if you're breastfeeding, according to Health.
Whenever your "strawberry days" begin, be ready to see that they became different from what you were used to before pregnancy. Irregularity, heavier discharge, increased or decreased cramps - you can expect any kind of changes. After all, your whole reproductive system was under huge stress recently, so it can't just get back to normal in a snap.
3 Don't Forget About Birth Control
Even though some people will tell you otherwise, if you still don't have your period resumed, you shouldn't consider it to be natural birth control. Science says that you can still get pregnant during this time. So if you don't want to have another baby so soon, be sure to use contraception, such as condoms, pills, patches, implants, or shots.
Besides, keep in mind that it's not recommended to get pregnant again shortly after delivery. Wait for at least 12 to 18 months after childbirth before thinking of another baby, because conceiving a new child before that is linked to a number of pregnancy complications.
2 Let The Hunger Games Begin
Be prepared to feel hungry like a wolf after delivering your child. Besides, since you've lost a lot of energy and, probably, you couldn't take a decent meal during labor, know that your first postpartum meal will be the most delicious food ever. Of course, if it's not hospital food, so while you're there ask your partner, mom, or friend, to bring you a huge portion of delicious takeout.
According to a mom from Mom.me, it's a good idea to prepare in advance and freeze some good meals for yourself while you're still pregnant because you will have neither time nor energy to cook something with a newborn in your arms. If you haven't prepared, use the help of your friends or relatives. After all, "the only thing that tastes better than a home cooked meal is one you didn’t have to cook!"
1 There Will Be A Lot Of Questions
Giving birth to a brand new human being is a huge thing. Of course, it's something that happens every day all over the world, but for you it's huge. Your whole life will change after it and you'll keep on experiencing something new every day when you're home with your little one. You'll have this or that kind of discharge, this or that kind of pain or discomfort, and you'll have tons of questions about what you should do, how you should breastfeed and how you should go on with your life.
When these questions arise, don't hesitate to bring them to your caregiver. Believe me, they're used to answering them.