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You’re a hero.
You just gave birth to a human being. Best moment of your life. Your postpartum recovery? Not so much. Your body went through a major trauma.
Vaginal delivery or c-section, 2-hour labor or 17-hour labor, it makes no difference. Your body experienced massive strain. But you became a mom and that’s all that matters.
And here comes the big question: how long does it take to recover after giving birth? Hmm, it depends. I know you wanted a better answer.
But it actually depends on your body. And of course, it depends on whether you had a normal delivery or a c-section.
But this article will stick to vaginal delivery recovery and how you can speed up your postpartum recovery because it’s quite a challenge.
WHAT IS MEANT BY NORMAL DELIVERY
A normal vaginal delivery (NVD) happens when you give birth through the birth canal (vagina). No matter how you choose or end up delivering (vaginal delivery vs. c-section) having a healthy baby is all that matters.
And you want a memorable and painless delivery. It’s not an easy job to push a baby out. Having a birth plan may help. I made a FREE BIRTH PLAN PRINTABLE for you.
Here’s what to expect after your labor and delivery:
1. POSTPARTUM RECOVERY TIMELINE – HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A WOMAN TO HEAL AFTER GIVING BIRTH
It takes around 6 weeks for a woman’s body to fully recover from pregnancy. But keep in mind that not all women are the same, so your recovery may take longer or less. The same rule applies to your postpartum symptoms.
After all, your body was under a lot of stress and stretching so it needs enough time to heal. You can’t really predict how fast your symptoms will go away.
I had a normal delivery with episiotomy (perineal tear) and I was extremely sore for months, while my friend was ok after a couple of weeks.
2. VAGINAL BLEEDING AND DISCHARGE AFTER YOU DELIVERED
I honestly thought I would never stop bleeding. My vaginal bleeding lasted for weeks, so you should expect some bleeding too.
It’s more like a heavy period mixed with leftovers from your delivery (tissue, mucus, clots and other stuff that helped nourish your baby throughout your pregnancy). It’s called lochia.
The amount and the color of the blood will slowly taper off just like when you have your period. Now if you feel like you’re having a hemorrhage you better call your doctor.
3. WATER RETENTION
You really thought you were going to get rid of this, did you?! Well, I have bad news for you. No, your swelling in legs, hands, and feet won’t disappear miraculously after your delivery.
Mine was actually worse after I delivered than it was during my pregnancy. I had extreme swelling. When I went with my newborn for her first checkup the nurses were shocked at how swollen I was.
4. POSTPARTUM WEIGHT LOSS
You will lose weight, but don’t have high hopes. I know you want to look fabulous right away but nothing is going to happen overnight. Once again, every woman is different.
Some women may gain more, others less, some may lose it all, others may be still struggling 3 years after they gave birth.
I gained 50 lbs total and lost 22 lbs in the 3 days I was in the hospital. But most of that was ‘baby weight’ and all of the extra stuff, like placenta (placenta weighs around 1 ½ lbs).
It took me several months to go back to my initial weight.
Breastfeeding may help because it tends to promote weight loss. So you may go heavy on that. Generally, pregnant women are expected to gain around 25-35 lbs during their pregnancy and lose around 6-12 lbs after their pregnancy.
Don’t get frustrated. Try to maintain a healthy diet and focus as much as you can on bonding with your newborn.
5. AFTER BIRTH PAINS
It’s normal to have cramps after you delivered your baby. Those contractions are caused by your uterus which is shrinking.
These afterpains, that’s what they’re called, may increase while breastfeeding because it causes chemicals to be released which in turn cause the uterus to contract. Use heating pads or hot water bottle.
6. BABY BLUES AND HORMONAL SHIFTS
After all the struggle of pushing that baby out, you will be moody. Blame it on your hormones, which will go crazy. Add some sleep deprivation and anxiety and you may suddenly feel angry.
Postpartum anger is one thing and postpartum depression another thing.
Make sure you closely monitor your emotions and don’t feel ashamed of asking for help. Your hormones won’t only mess with your moods but also with your body.
POSTPARTUM RECOVERY TIPS
You want to recover as fast as possible and be able to fully enjoy motherhood and spend as much time as possible with your newborn.
You don’t have time to go through all the trouble that any of the postpartum symptoms may give you. You just want to be back in shape.
Here’s what you can do to speed up your postpartum recovery:
1. PERINEAL RECOVERY
The first 24 hours are crucial and … painful. I’m not going to lie. You have to prepare for this. The hospital will probably give you disposable underwear and HUGE pads which you’ll love.
They’re not fancy but they are helpful. On top of these, I was also given Dermoplast for burning and itching sensation. I have to admit that it was super difficult to go to the restroom.
Urine will make you scream. They gave me an irrigation bottle and told me to put warm water and rinse before and after peeing. It helped me tremendously.
So remember: Dermoplast spray, irrigation bottle for warm water rinses and avoid prolonged sitting or standing. You may also want to try warm sitz baths. Anything warm will bring you comfort.
2. WHAT HELPS WITH PAIN AFTER GIVING BIRTH
I was not joking when I said that anything warm would comfort you. Indulge yourself in a hot shower or some heating pads to relieve the body aches from pushing that baby out.
Consult with your doctor before taking any pain pills in case you’re breastfeeding.
3. FIRST BOWEL MOVEMENT
Not so enjoyable and not so easy. I think it took me over a week to have my first bowel movement, so it can take some time. Don’t ‘push’ things. But let me tell you, it had a pretty funky color, like dark green.
That’s quite normal and it actually has a name: meconium. Meconium, first stool after birth, has this weird color due to the breakdown of red blood cells.
It’s also from all the medication they gave you in the hospital (if they gave you). So don’t freak out, unless it lasts longer than 3 days. If so call your doctor.
Make sure your diet contains a lot of fiber, stay active (go with your baby for a walk) and avoid straining, mainly if you have stitches from your perineal tears.
Worse than this would be for you to experience diarrhea due to the stretched muscles.
Having hemorrhoids may also enable poop to escape. You can use my all-natural recipe to get rid of hemorrhoids overnight. Fortunately, all these issues are temporary so don’t despair. Kegel exercises can help.
4. GET INTO KEGEL EXERCISES
These exercises help your pelvic floor recover after childbirth and they also help you resolve postpartum urinary incontinence.
You can start doing them as soon as you feel you’re up to like I said don’t rush things. No need to prove your Hercules.
5. CARE FOR YOUR BREASTS AND SORE NIPPLES
Mine hurt like crazy and they were sore. I breastfed for 2 weeks and after that, I switched to formula per her doctor’s request (my daughter was losing too much weight in a short amount of time).
My breasts felt like 2 painful rocks. A warm, hot shower always helped me.
A comfortable nursing bra would make you feel even better, along with some lanolin cream.
You won’t have as much swelling and tenderness if you breastfeed, just don’t forget to place some cold compresses on them in between feedings.
Make sure your baby is latching properly as well, otherwise that could be another cause your nipples may hurt you.
6. DON’T SKIP YOUR POSTNATAL APPOINTMENTS
Go to your doctor when you’re supposed to. You want to make sure your postpartum recovery is going smoothly and it’s your chance to mention any other struggles you deal with.
7. EAT SMART
A healthy diet is not a must only for when you’re pregnant, but also for your postpartum recovery. The same principles apply: protein and fiber and a ton of water.
Stay away from all your bad habits like caffeine and alcohol. They may make it even harder for you to sleep. And you’re exhausted, to begin with.
8. STAY ACTIVE
Always ask your doctor when you can start exercising (cause we all want our flat belly back in no time) but if you start with short walks in the park with your baby it will help you with constipation and give a nice boost (circulation, muscle tone, mood).
Let those endorphins take over and chase away that postpartum depression.
POSTPARTUM RECOVERY KIT
You may want to prepare a postpartum recovery kit before your delivery so you have everything ready and work on your recovery on day one. Here’s a checklist you can use as a guide.
- ACETAMINOPHEN – good for body aches and perineal pain
- PADS – get the heavy-duty ones for your postpartum bleeding but also to keep you comfortable. You want long and wide pads for good coverage.
- ICE PACKS FOR YOUR VAGINAL SORENESS -from all the stretching and tearing. Wrap a lunchbox ice block in a paper towel and you’re good to go. You can combine them with witch hazel pads to help with the pain and hemorrhoids. Sitting on a pillow might also help.
- IRRIGATION BOTTLE – if they give it to you in the hospital please take it home. You’ll thank yourself later. Keep it in your bathroom and use it with warm water to irrigate your perineal area before and after peeing and when you take a shower.
- GRANNY UNDERWEAR – there’s nothing wrong with that. Better wearing that than being in pain. This style of underwear fits those maxi pads of yours. You may even ask the nurse to give you a few pairs of those gauze underwear they make you wear right after you give birth.
- NURSING BRA – I strongly recommend this because they make your life so much easier. Plus, they are comfortable. You shouldn’t skip this.
- DERMOPLAST OR LIDOCAINE SPRAY – to numb the pain and soothe the itch.
- HEATING PAD – to ease your pain in your perineal area, loosen up muscles and for some relief for your suffering breasts.
- STOOL SOFTENER – if you have a vaginal delivery but still get stitches due to episiotomy (like I did) this will help you keep things ‘gentle’. You don’t want anything bothering your sore perineal area. Also, when cleaning the area use padding motions, don’t press too hard on your skin. Remember to use that irrigation bottle before and after your bathroom visits to avoid infections.
- POSTPARTUM BELLY WRAP – this is by far the most important item you’ll want in your postpartum recovery kit. I bought two pairs in different sizes (as my belly was shrinking). Make sure you buy a size that not only fits you but also keeps your belly tight to some extent.
POSTPARTUM SYMPTOMS – WHEN TO CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR
- EXCESSIVE BLEEDING – it’s rare but possible. Postpartum hemorrhage happens when you bleed and fill more than a pad every hour. Also, consider calling your doctor if your bleeding increases each day or if you pass large clots. Keep your eyes open or I should say nose for any strong odor.
- PAIN WHEN URINATING
- REDNESS, SWELLING OR PUS AROUND YOUR (EPISIOTOMY) INCISION
- LOWER ABDOMINAL PAIN
- HEADACHES – if you get severe headaches you may have some blood pressure issues, that in extreme cases may lead to stroke.
- DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS – this can happen during or after your pregnancy and as the name suggests it means you have a blood clot in a deep vein. If you notice any pain, redness or heat in your legs immediately seek professional help.
- POSTPARTUM PREECLAMPSIA – preeclampsia or toxemia can happen during pregnancy, while postpartum preeclampsia can develop 48 hours after your delivery. Both of them constrict your blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, which is something you don’t want. Symptoms include severe headache, blurred vision, and swelling of hands and feet.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR
- When to start exercising after birth
- What’s the risk of exercising too soon after childbirth
- How long should I rest after giving birth
- How do you get rid of postpartum water retention
- How long should I wait to have another baby
- Why did my milk supply suddenly drop
- What should I eat to increase my milk production
- How long do I have to wait to take a bath after having a baby
- How long does it take for my cervix to close after birth
- When can I have sex after birth
- Does sex hurt after having a baby
- Can I sleep on my stomach after giving birth
- How long will my uterus hurt
- How can I stop my hair from falling out after pregnancy
- How much postpartum hair loss is normal
- Why am I gaining weight after stopping breastfeeding
- How soon after birth can I take birth control
- Can birth control affect milk supply
- How long does postpartum engorgement last
- How long do breasts hurt after birth