If you’re a first time mom, you’ve probably spent a lot of time learning about how to get through pregnancy and how to prepare for labor.
But, have you thought about postpartum?
This phase can be a difficult transition period as your body goes through a weeks-long recovery process, all while caring for a newborn.
The more information you have, the easier this process will be and the more energy and focus you’ll have for your baby.
So, here’s everything you need to know about the postpartum timeline and how to survive!
The postpartum timeline starts from day one after birth to six weeks post birth.
During this time your body will heal and recover from labor and you’ll begin to feel more like your old self.
However, there may be some permanent changes to your body that you’ll need to adjust to (more on that below).
For these first six weeks, you’ll need to avoid sex, strenuous labor and exercise. Focus on caring for your body so you can get back to normal as soon as possible.
What are normal postpartum body changes and side effects?
There are several common postpartum body changes and each woman will experience them a little differently. It all depends on your body before birth, the circumstances and method of delivery, and your natural recovery response.
You may have to deal with all of these side effects or just some of them and it can differ from birth to birth.
Here’s what you should generally prepare for:
- After pains
- Abdominal pain
- Pelvic pain
- Back pain
- Lots of bleeding
- Perineal pain
- Perineal Stitches
- Urinary dysfunction
- Clogged Ducts
- Nipple Soreness
- Stretch Marks
- Hair Loss
- Skin changes
- Mild Depression or PPD
How long do these take to heal?
Most of these symptoms will start to subside after a couple weeks. However, bleeding, perineal pain, back pain and breast symptoms typically last the full 6 weeks.
The Longest Changes
Bleeding can last up to six weeks and is heaviest during the first 3-10 days. If you notice excessive blood loss (bleeding through more than one pad in an hour or large clots), seek medical care immediately to make sure you aren’t experiencing postpartum hemorrhage.
Also, you should not use tampons during this recovery period. Just stick to the ultra large maxi pads or diapers!
Perineal recovery will depend on the circumstances of your delivery and whether you had any tears or an episiotomy. This process can take 3-6 weeks depending on how much trauma there was and how well your body naturally recovers.
Back pain and breast discomfort can last up to 6 weeks as well. Back pain brought on by carrying your baby for 9 months, an epidural, and delivery can be exacerbated by your new breastfeeding routine and adjustments to caring for a newborn.
Breast discomfort may continue until baby is a bit older and you’ve both learned the breastfeeding process better.
Stretch marks and hair loss can be permanent changes for your body. Hair does tend to fill back in over time, but may always be a bit different.
You can minimize the appearance of stretch marks with creams, lotions and by taking collagen and Vitamin E.
Your body shape my also be permanently altered after carrying your baby and undergoing delivery. You may also see a permanent change to the shape and size of your breasts.
Postpartum Depression Timeline
Mild depression (or “baby blues”) after birth is normal and can last a couple weeks. If your mood doesn’t stabilize overtime or your symptoms worsen, you should see your doctor to rule out Postpartum Depression.
Postpartum Depression is common in women after birth and can last several months or even years.
PPD is nothing to be ashamed of, and with medication or therapy, most women feel more like their normal selves and live and function happily.
You can care for your midsection by taking the prescribed medication from your doctor, avoiding heavy lifting, refraining from exercise until your doctor gives the OK, and taking it slow.
Use lumbar supports and enlist plenty of help from friends and family.
There will be lots to heal and handle “down there”.
Perineal and urinary problems are often the hardest to deal with, so you’ll want to learn all you can about how your body feels after birth and how to care for it before you give birth and from your doctor and nurses post-delivery.
Start by using lots of cold packs, and warm baths or use a sitz bath if okayed by your doctor.
You’ll also want to medicate and numb your perineal area by using tucks pads and perineal spray and use a peri bottle to help you clean after using the bathroom.
Take as many supplies as you can from the hospital, including: an inflatable donut cushion, ultra maxi pads, mesh underwear, pads and spray, your peri bottle, and any other items you can get your hands on.
You’ll also need to learn all the essential things to know about breastfeeding so you can understand common nursing complications and how to deal with them.
To combat changes to your hair, skin and body, eat a healthy and balanced diet, drink lots of water and continue to take a prenatal vitamin.
Seek help from your doctor if you experience extreme sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, anger, or rage. You may be prescribed medication for postpartum depression.
Here’s a list of the postpartum essentials to make your life easier. And just remember that most hospitals provide these supplies for you so don’t feel the need to stock up before birth!
- Maxi Pads or Adult Diapers
- Mesh Underwear
- Tucks Pads (Medicated Cooling Wipes)
- Perineal Spray
- Peri Bottle
- Witch Hazel
- Ice Packs
- Donut Cushion
- Nursing Pillow
- Nursing Pads
- Nipple Cream
- Breast Pump or Hand Pump
- Nursing Bras
- Stool Softener
- Prune Juice
- Prenatal Vitamin