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WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER GIVING BIRTH

blog post about what to expect after giving birth postpartum with the planet mama logo and an image of a baby

You spent the last 9 months growing your little one and now you have a little bubba in your arms. Congratulations – and all of a sudden you’ve gone from being pregnant to being postpartum – and a mum! With this transition, whatever your birth experience, comes many questions, new symptoms and new challenges.

We are not going to sugarcoat it: The physical, hormonal and emotional changes and upheaval that you will be going through can be seriously challenging, and the societal pressure to ‘bounce back’ after giving birth can be unrealistic and harmful. 

At Planet Mama, we believe that a happy mum equals a happy baby, and are here to support you with realistic and honest information about your pregnancy journey and beyond. This post aims to prepare you for your postpartum body and what’s normal after childbirth.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RECOVER AFTER GIVING BIRTH?

In short, everyone is different. However, no matter how you gave birth, the first 6-12 weeks are considered a ‘recovery’ period. Even if you had the easiest birth, your body has undergone a huge amount of stress and tissues have been stretched to their max so you need time to recover.

It goes without saying that every body is different and every birth is different, so every new mum will experience different postpartum symptoms and will recover at a different rate.

VAGINAL BIRTH: If you delivered vaginally you’re probably pretty sore and wondering when that will go and your perineum will heal. And this depends on many things, recovery can take anywhere from three weeks if you didn’t tear to 6+ weeks if you had a perineal tear or episiotomy.

C-SECTION BIRTH: Then if you delivered via c-section, it’s not uncommon to be immobile for a while and recovery can be slightly slower as you wait for the scar to knit together. If you had an emergency c-section and were pushing for a while, you may have some pelvic floor and perineum soreness too.

In the following section we’re going to go through some possible symptoms and what you can do to help for each one, and in turn hopefully help your personal recovery journey.

WHAT IS NORMAL IMMEDIATELY AFTER BIRTH?

BLEEDING
It’s usual to bleed after birth, whatever your delivery. This bleeding is known as lochia. It’s a combination of mucous, tissue and blood that your womb sheds as it replaces its lining after you’ve given birth.

Typically it lasts for around 6 weeks but don’t worry if it lasts longer. Bleeding will start off heavy and red to browny red. It will become lighter in colour and flow over time. 

Make sure you speak to your Healthcare Provider about clots, they’re common but large clots can sometimes flag up something more serious.

If you pass a lot of large blood clots or more than a pint of blood in the first 24 hours, seek treatment. The NCT website has a great timeline for what the blood should look like.

GAS IN THE BODY
After either a vaginal or assisted birth it’s not unusual to have excess gas. Especially with a c-section, where quite often new mums experience pain in their shoulders as the gas travels up through the body.

  • GET A ROCKING CHAIR: This is where a rocking chair can come in handy, both mentally and physically. Mentally, the rocking is soothing for your body as it calms the nervous system. Then physically, the movement helps disperse the gas and a calm body helps with this too.
  • EAT FENNEL SEEDS: Additionally, fennel seeds can help alleviate the gas too. You can chew 2-3 seeds after food or make a tea out of the seeds. An added bonus is that fennel seeds can increase milk supply!

FEAR or PAIN URINATING
If you had a vaginal birth you will have damaged the tissues so going to the toilet can be painful. These two tips can help with discomfort:

  • COLD CONDOM TRICK: To help reduce inflammation you can place a non-latex condom, filled with water in the fridge. You can then press the cool condom on the perineum area to help with the pain.
  • CHAMOMILE TEA TRICK: Another good trick is to keep a squirty bottle in the fridge filled half with water and half with chamomile tea. You can then squirt the water concoction when you go to the toilet to dilute the urine.

If you delivered via c-section, never force urinating and try to drink lots of water. You can also place gentle pressure on the incision site if it helps to release discomfort.

FEAR OF GOING FOR A NUMBER TWO
Sometimes the thought of going for a number two after giving birth is terrifying and there is quite a lot of negative chat about the first bowel movements.

Although there is understandable worry, the below tips can help dramatically with discomfort:

  • POSITION: Elevate your feet so your knees are higher than your hips, this helps open your bowels so you don’t have to strain. You can do this by placing your feet on a bin or yoga blocks.
  • APPLY PRESSURE: Then you can use a sanitary pad to gently apply pressure to the perineum, and if you had a c-section you can do the same over the site of the incision.
  • USE VIBRATIONS: Try not to hold your breath and try to make a ‘grr’ or ‘shhhh’ sound so the vibrations help move things along.
  • WATER & PRUNE JUICE: Additionally make sure you drink lots of water so your stool is loose and the good out prune juice can help too.

PERINEUM STITCHES
Stitches in your perineum whether from an episiotomy or tear can be painful and uncomfortable, however there are a few things you can do to alleviate discomfort:

  • SUPPORT: Supporting the area with a piece of rolled up toilet paper or pad can really help. Try to keep the stitches clean and dry and treat as you would a wound.
  • MASSAGE: After about 12 weeks it’s recommended to start some perineum massage to help the scar tissue break down and limit adhesions.

TIPS ESPECIALLY FOR AFTER A C-SECTION DELIVERY

GET MOVING GENTLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

  • HOLDING PATTERNS: Try not to get into avoiding pain-holding patterns. As soon as possible try and stand up tall, so you’re not curling up and causing the tissues to shorten as they heal. Take gentle walks with deep breaths.
  • DEEP BELLY BREATHING: This deep breathing is super important as not only does it help with pain, but full, deep belly breaths help the healing of the scar so you don’t get adhesions as it heals.

YOUR INCISION POINT

  • SUPPORT THE INCISION: Support the incision point when you go to the toilet, when you cough, sneeze, laugh etc. 
  • EXHALE AS YOU LIFT: Also when you’re lifting the baby, try to exhale so you don’t push into your abdominal work. Try to get those corset abs (TVA) to support you. Try to not hold your breath as this faulty strategy is not good in the long term.

STITCHES

  • CIRCULATION: Try to allow the air to circulate around the scar as often as possible. 
  • WOUND TREATMENT: Gently clean the scar as you would a normal wound and keep an eye on how it’s healing.
  • ITCHING: It’s normal for the stitches to itch as they go through the healing cycle.

WHEN TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

  1. If you pass a lot of large blood clots or more than a pint of blood in the first 24 hours.
  2. If you feel unbearable pain anywhere in your body.
  3. Incontinence to any degree.
  4. Pressure in the pelvic basin or tissues protruding (prolapse).
  5. Difficulty going about your day to day.

HOW TO HELP YOUR RECOVERY PERIOD AFTER GIVING BIRTH

As well as the above tips & tricks to help with specific symptoms, here are some things that you can do to help with your global recovery.

  1. NUTRITION: I know we talk about it a lot, but good nutrition is key to a speedy recovery. Help the body recover on a cellular level with good protein and plenty of it, good carbs to help with energy depletion and good fats too. Whole grains and lots of fresh veg to help combat inflammation and promote healing.
  2. HYDRATION: Keep hydrated with lots of water to replenish your body. All the fascia in the body is made up mainly of water, so it’s essential to keep levels high. This helps the fibres in the stomach to return their original length so the core can function as it did before; properly transferring load and force through the body. Staying hydrated will also help with bowel movements as it will keep the stool loose.
  3. POSITIVE TOILETING: Elevating your feet so your knees are above the hips really helps with pelvic floor health and recovery as it eliminates straining. This is one of my favourite – albeit odd videos to demonstrate it – we highly recommend a squatty potty!
  4. BREATHING: Full deep breaths to most efficiently oxygenate the body, reduce adhesions (c-section) & reconnect with the deep abs and pelvic floor.
  5. GREAT ALIGNMENT: Opening the front of the body, rolling the shoulders back to help the core work correctly.
  6. MOVE & STRETCH: Gentle stretching and movement daily to relieve aches and pains.
  7. MASSAGE & BODYWORK: to calm the nervous system, reduce stress and cortisol in the body to promote healing.
  8. BE KIND to your mind and body.
  9. EMOTIONS will be all over the place, high and lows.
  10. ASK for help so you can rest.

If you found this useful share with others and let us know! And if you have any questions or we can support you in your journey, please drop us a line hello@planet-mama.co.uk 

Lettie, Founder of Planet Mama x