What New Moms Can Expect After Giving Birth
“WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME?”
I’m hoping that sentence never has to come out of anyone in our community’s mouth ever again.
It’s not that the postpartum experience is some big secret. I just think that this happens because when you’re not trying to conceive and/or not pregnant – you don’t want to know / don’t really care that much to be having conversations about what happens to your body after childbirth. Once you are pregnant or expecting – most women don’t want to be the asshole that tells you the hard stuff.
If you’ve had sisters or good friends who’ve had babies and who’ve had open conversations with you, you’re probably in a good spot – but just in case, we’re going to give you an overview of what to actually expect (physically) after having a baby in those early postpartum days/weeks/months.
Spoiler alert – it isn’t always pretty but you can do it and we all get through it!
- Afterbirth Pains / Contractions – Definitely didn’t know about this with my first and totally forgot about it again until it happened with my second. After having the baby, you may experience postpartum cramping / what feel like labor contractions again for a few days. This is your uterus contracting and working to shrink back to a normal size after having the baby. After giving birth, your uterus is round, hard, and typically weighs about 2.5 pounds. Within 6 weeks, it will weigh approximately 2 ounces. (Source) In my experience, these hurt worse with my second – but they are tolerable and nothing to be afraid of. You’ll forget about them as soon as they subside.Note: Another thing to mention here – is that after giving birth, your nurse will likely “massage” or press on your uterus every so often and then check your bleeding while you’re in the hospital. This helps assist your uterus in contracting and helps the healthcare team ensure you’re not hemorrhaging post delivery. (Source)
- C-Section Recovery – Whether you have a planned or unplanned C-Section – it’s so important that you remember it’s a major surgery and that you treat yourself accordingly. You’ll likely experience fatigue (from losing blood/the actual surgery), and the incision will be sore. Stay on top of any medications your doctor prescribes, get as much help and support for the days after to help with the baby, rest when you can, use pillows to support your belly when feeding the baby, and drink plenty of water and fluids to help replace any lost during the cesarean. (Source)
- Vaginal Discharge – Everyone’s favorite topic 🙂 After the baby is born, your body will do it’s best to get rid of all the blood and tissue that was inside your uterus – this bleeding is called Lochia. Lochia bleeding typically lasts anywhere from 4-6 weeks, but could be more — up to 12 weeks depending on your delivery. Even if you have a C-Section, your body still needs to shed the blood and tissue in your uterus – so you can still expect it after C-Sections. My bleeding with my first lasted 9 weeks ish – and less than 6 weeks with my second. In the beginning you’ll want to have a lot of coverage – think lots of pads, adult diapers, etc. I highly recommend buying period underwear for when it gets a bit lighter – so you don’t have to wear pads for 6-12 weeks. (Source) We also have a list of postpartum essentials for vaginal birth here and c-section births here.
- Vaginal Tears – if you have a vaginal birth – it’s likely you’re going to tear. Up to 95% of first time moms experience some form of tearing during childbirth. That being said, it’s totally normal and not always as scary as it sounds. If your tear requires it, you may get stitches right after you deliver the baby. If you’ve had an epidural, you likely won’t feel the stitches going in, which is great. I had stitches with both and didn’t feel it either time. 3rd and 4th degree tears can be really painful and take a long time to heal – longer than you’d think. Severe tears into the vagina or rectum can cause pelvic floor dysfunction and prolapse, urinary problems, bowel movement difficulties, and discomfort during intercourse. If you have any of these issues, it’s important to share with your doctor so that they can help you heal as soon as possible. What helped me was staying on top of my Motrin / Tylenol rotation in the days after delivering. Even if I wasn’t in a ton of pain – I took them every 4-6 hours (or whatever my doctor had told me at the time). If I skipped one round of medicine, I definitely could feel it – but as long as I stayed on top of it, I did better and didn’t have as much pain. (Source and Source.)Levels of tears below:1st Degree: Involves tears in the skin around the vaginal opening.
2nd Degree: Tears in the vaginal tissue and into perineal muscle.
3rd Degree: Tears through the perineal muscle and into the anal sphincter.
4th Degree: Tears through the anal sphincter and into the lining of the rectum.
- Breast Engorgement – This is when your breasts swell as they fill with milk, which usually happens a few days after giving birth. Your breasts will probably feel tender and sore. The discomfort usually goes away once you start breastfeeding regularly. If you’re not breastfeeding, it may last until your breasts stop making milk, usually within a few days. (Source.)
- Hemorrhoids. I was the most afraid of hemorrhoids before delivering my first. I ended up getting them and they were actually…I’m sorry to say it, horrible. Hemorrhoids are painful, swollen veins in and around the anus that may hurt or bleed. Hemorrhoids are common during and after pregnancy. For me – these hurt worst than my stitches / perineum soreness. Call your doctor if you get these and make sure you follow their recommendations to heal them as soon as possible. I also made sure to take stool softeners and drink lots of water so that going #2 didn’t make them worse. If it makes you feel better, I didn’t get them with my second and my recovery was 10x better. Not everyone will get these. Hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky ones! (Source.)
- Hormone Changes – THIS IS THE ONE YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO THE MOST (in my opinion) :)The postpartum hormone drop is considered the single largest sudden hormone change in the shortest amount of time for any human being, at any point of their life cycle. When we’re pregnant, our estrogen and progesterone increase to the level of something like taking a hundred birth-control pills a day. By about three days postpartum you’re essentially back to a baseline that is close to non-pregnant. So that is a HUGE, fast drop. I personally (and know many other moms) who have a really hard time emotionally on day 3-4 after delivery. The lowest I ever felt in my life was day four after delivering my first. The only thing that helped was my cousin (who’d had a baby right before me) texted me and told me if I was feeling horrible that day, she did too and it was okay. SO, this is that message for you now. If you feel this – it is NORMAL and it will pass. It’s also important to remember that if you feel low / are struggling after this huge hormone drop that you talk to your doctor. You can learn more about baby blues, postpartum depression, etc. in my post here. (Source.)
- You’re going to be super TIRED and probably on edge. This is obvious but I wasn’t prepared for how exhausted I would be. You have to feed the baby every 2-4 hours – and feeding them can take 30-45 minutes. I know everyone talks about how tiring it is to have a newborn – but I never really processed that I would have to be awake every few hours around the clock until it happened. Knowing that it’s a short window and you will sleep again helped for me when I had my second. Breathe, know it won’t last long, and get as much help from others as you can / take alone time as often as you can.
A few other posts we have on postpartum:
Preparing for Postpartum and the 4th Trimester
Postpartum Care Essentials for Vaginal Birth
Postpartum Care Essentials for C-Section Birth
Body Image after Baby
All About: Postpartum Anxiety
All About: Postpartum Depression
All Postpartum Posts on MFM
All Breastfeeding / Formula Feeding Posts of MFM
When should I call my healthcare provider after delivery?
In my opinion, women have great intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, do the safe thing and make the call. Below is a list you can reference as well:
- A fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or severe chills.
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
- Bright red bleeding that continues beyond the third day.
- Passing of large blood clots (larger than a plum).
- Pain, burning or trouble urinating.
- Severe cramping or abdominal pain that is not relieved by pain medication.
- Increased redness, swelling, bruising or pain on your perineum, or separation of your stitches.
- Increase in the amount of vaginal discharge or bleeding in which you need to use more than one sanitary pad per hour.
- Blurred vision.
- Severe headaches or fainting.
- Increased pain, redness, drainage or separation of abdominal incision (cesarean delivery)
- Severe pain, swelling, or redness, of one extremity more than the other.
- Warm, red painful areas on your breast.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Any signs of postpartum depression such as: being unable to cope with everyday situations, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, feeling anxious, panicked or scared most of the day
What did I miss? Anything else you experienced that you would add to the list of things new moms should expect?
What New Moms Can Expect After Giving Birth
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What New Moms Can Expect After Giving Birth