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After the Hospital: Postpartum Recovery

You’ve put a grueling 40 weeks into pregnancy, and your little one is finally here! There’s no doubt you read tons of books and articles in preparation for being pregnant—you researched what to expect when you’re expecting, different symptoms you might experience, and how to deal with them. Now it’s time to focus on the transition into postpartum life, which brings an entirely new set of questions and symptoms to worry about. Here’s everything you need to know. 

Postpartum Recovery

Regardless of how you chose to deliver your new baby, the six weeks following delivery are considered your recovery period. Even if you had the easiest delivery possible, your body has been seriously stretched and stressed out, so it will need time to recover. Remember, though, just like every pregnancy is different, every woman’s postpartum recovery will look a little different. 

The good news? The majority of physical postpartum symptoms ease up within a week. The not-as-great news? Others like sore nipples, backaches, and perineal pain could last several weeks. Leaking breasts or backaches have been known to last until your baby is a little older. 

If you delivered vaginally, recovery of your perineum could be 3-6 weeks—three if you didn’t tear, but more if you had a tear or an episiotomy. An incredibly common and understandable question most women ask, is whether or not their vagina will ever be the same after birth. The answer is that it won’t be exactly the same, but it’s likely it will return almost to normal. 

If you delivered by c-section, expect to spend your first 3-4 days postpartum in the hospital. It might be 4-6 weeks before you feel back to normal. Also, depending on whether you pushed and for how long, you can expect to have some perineal pain for a bit. 

Vaginal Bleeding After Birth

Postpartum bleeding, or lochia, can last for up to six weeks. It’ll be just like a really heavy period—your body is flushing out all of the leftover blood, tissue, and mucus from your uterus. Typically it will be heaviest for the first 3-10 days, but then should taper off, changing from a red/pink color to a yellowish-white. 

If you spot large clots, or you’re consistently bleeding through more than one pad every hour, call your doctor. Hopefully they’ll be able to rule out postpartum hemorrhage or begin treatment. Remember—tampons are off limits during this time! That might be frustrating, but the upside is you’ll be able to better tell how much you’re bleeding, and if you need to worry. 

Postpartum Recovery Tips

To help your perineum heal, ice it every few hours for the first 24 hours after you’ve given birth. Spray warm water over the area before and after peeing to keep urine from irritating any skin that might have torn during delivery. Try taking warm baths for 20 minutes at a time, a few times a day, to ease the pain. Avoid long periods of standing or sitting, and try sleeping on your side. 

If you had a c-section, be sure to care for your scar as it heals. Gently clean it with soap and water once a day, and dry it with a clean towel before applying antibiotic ointment. Your doctor will let you know if you should leave it covered or let it air out. Try to avoid carrying anything but your baby! That extends to exercise as well—no weight lifting, running, or any kind of vigorous exercise until your doctor says it’s okay. 

For general aches and pains, acetaminophen is your best friend. You can also try taking hot showers or using a heating pad on achy spots. Or, possibly the best suggestion, treat yourself to a massage! 

Kegel exercises work wonders after delivery—just make sure you wait until you’re comfortably able to do them. There’s no better way to get your vagina back in shape, which will lead to more enjoyable sex for you and your partner, as well as resolve postpartum urinary incontinence. Once you can, aim for three sets of 20 every day. 

If your breasts are sore, the first thing you should do is make sure you have a comfortable nursing bra. You can use a warm compress (or ice packs, whichever feels better) and gentle massage to ease the pain. If you’re breastfeeding, let your breasts air out after every nursing session, and apply a lanolin cream to prevent or treat dry, cracked nipples. 

Keep up with your doctor appointments! This is crucial to a smooth, worry-free recovery. Your doctor will make sure everything is healing like it should, and can keep tabs on how you’re doing emotionally as well. If you’re struggling with being a new mom, they can suggest how to get help adjusting. Also remember to make your appointment to get your stitches out if you had a c-section birth, as leaving them in too long can lengthen the healing process. If you experience fever, pain, or tenderness around your incision, tell your doctor. 

Postpartum Depression

Nearly every new mom faces a bout of the baby blues. You’re on a roller coaster of hormones, you’re most likely sleep-deprived, and adjusting to having a baby is not easy. If you’re feeling persistently hopeless, sad, isolated, irritable, worthless, or anxious for more than two weeks postpartum, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. 

You are not alone. Postpartum depression affects up to 1 in 4 women and does not reflect your abilities as a mother in the slightest. Don’t feel ashamed, but do seek professional help—for your own well being and for your baby’s. This is an incredible time for your family, but don’t forget to take time for you! You’ve been through a lot, and it’s essential that you take care of yourself so you can better care for your new baby. 

For more information, advice, and support, call RMC today. We’re here to help!