What to Expect After Giving Birth
Being pregnant and giving birth are two of the most miraculous things a woman’s body can do. It is an incredible journey, and if you’re like most, you’ve probably had some difficult and joyful times.
Growing a baby is one of the most amazing feelings for a mother. Even if you are super sick, which I was for several months with all of my pregnancies, it is still crazy to think that you are growing a little human inside your body.
I have given birth by both c-section and vaginal birth and let me be the first to tell you that neither was EASY!
Regardless of how your baby came into this world, every woman experiences the same kinds of postpartum changes.
It’s time to learn about what to expect after giving birth. Here is how your postpartum body changes mentally, physically, and emotionally!
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Table of Contents
Postpartum Emotional Changes
Postpartum Hormonal Changes
During your pregnancy, you probably had a lot of hormone stuff going on. Chances are you experienced fear and anxiety about all of the unknown. Would your baby be healthy? Would you be able to follow your birth plan? Are you going to be able to handle everything postpartum while caring for yourself?
Giving birth is a lot of work, no matter how it happens. There is a lot that goes into it physically, but there is an equal amount of emotional adjustment as well.
The best way to handle your postpartum recovery is to be prepared for a roller coaster ride of emotions.
The two weeks after childbirth, you’ll experience varying degrees of mood swings. It’s natural for your hormone levels to fluctuate and change postpartum, which can lead to feelings like sadness or anger coming on suddenly – even if they’re not there before.
Figuring out what you’re supposed to do with your baby once they have entered the world can be a lot.
If it feels like your emotions are really out of whack like you’re experiencing postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression, reach out to someone. Whether it be your spouse, your friend, or your doctor, let someone know that you need help. Postpartum depression is a real thing, and it can become a serious medical concern.
There is nothing to be ashamed of!
If you’re planning to breastfeed, make sure you have some idea of what you’re getting yourself into. You need to know the basics of what breastfeeding is and what to do if your baby struggles to breastfeed. Talk with the discharge nurses and get all the help you can from the lactation consultants before going home.
Breastfeeding was by far one of the most exhausting things for me emotionally as a new mom. I wanted to make sure my baby was getting enough breast milk, AND I needed to focus on my own postpartum recovery.
Those two things are hard considering your uterus is contracting every time you nurse for the first few days, AND your nipples feel like they have been mutilated by this little human. OUCH!
Prepare your spouse and yourself for some hormonal changes after pregnancy. Lack of sleep, learning a lot of new things about yourself as your postpartum body recovers, and trying to figure out your new baby is enough to make anyone feel a bit crazy. Hang in there!
If you have concerns about your postpartum recovery and feeling unprepared, I highly recommend you check out this amazing, budget-friendly postpartum handbook!
Postpartum Physical Changes
You may be wondering about all of the changes your body will go through after giving birth. Of course, you’ll have a new little one to help care for and love on!
However, there are also physical changes that happen too – like hormones returning back to normal levels and weight loss. You might experience some soreness in your breasts as they readjust from producing milk if you’re breastfeeding or pumping often. Though it’s different for everyone, many women generally lose their pregnancy weight within six weeks postpartum (though this can take longer depending on how much weight they gained during pregnancy).
The point is- to give yourself time to get used to the way things have changed. Life is totally different now!
Weight Changes After Giving Birth
If you’re self-conscience about your body, being pregnant can be brutal. If you find yourself thrilled at the idea of having your “pre-baby body” back, prepare yourself.
For some women, the weight literally disappears with no effort at all. For others, it takes a lot of work postpartum to recover physically. And for others, their body never goes “back”.
If you’re super eager to start losing baby weight, there are some things to know.
If postpartum weight loss is one of your goals, it’s important to monitor what you eat as well. Make sure to drink plenty of water too, especially if you’re breastfeeding! You should also be eating healthy snacks in between meals like fruit or veggies – which are low-calorie options that will keep hunger at bay.
With the approval of your care provider, most women can start exercising again after about six weeks. Something light with a few reps three times per week should do the trick when starting up again. Start slow and don’t overdo it at the risk of hurting yourself and delaying your postpartum recovery even longer.
It can help quite a bit to plan out your meals for the week ahead so that there’s less chance of overeating or not eating enough depending on what happens on any given day. Of course, it might be hard from time to time with work schedules changing constantly – but if you’re able to find some consistency then meal planning could be very helpful!
Bowel Changes After Giving Birth
It typically takes between one month and three months postpartum until mothers begin to regain their normal bowel habits, which is also dependent on diet and exercise levels while breastfeeding/pumping beforehand. The first few postpartum bowel movements are incredibly uncomfortable, sometimes painful, and they feel incredibly AWKWARD.
Even if you had a c-section, you’ll be amazed when you quickly discover just how many muscles you actually use to poop. Make sure you’re taking a stool softener for a while!
Your Postpartum Stomach Pooch
Just when you thought you were done looking like you were pregnant… you still look like you’re 5 months pregnant.
In case no one has told you yet, your belly doesn’t just disappear right after giving birth. In fact, it may hang out for a while. With my c-section, my postpartum stomach pooch took a lot longer to go down than it did with my vaginal birth. I don’t know if that is because I was active more quickly after my vaginal delivery (it was a VBAC) or not.
Even now, I still have a bit of a “pooch”. I am working on it, but I know a lot of people have told me that it doesn’t matter what they did to get rid of it, it still hangs out there.
Your uterus will shrink back to its original size (about the size of a pear) in about eight weeks or so, but at first, it may still seem like you’re pregnant because it’s softer and heavier than before. You might even be able to feel some spotty areas on your belly where ligaments are healing after they were stretched during pregnancy.
The bottom line is not to be shocked if you still look pregnant for a bit after giving birth! If you’re lucky, it will disappear quickly. These are some of my FAVORITE Postpartum Clothes!
You may be thinking, “How will I ever go back to a normal sleep schedule when my baby doesn’t sleep”?
It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself – it might take anywhere from six weeks to three months for mothers’ bodies and minds to fully adjust to this new postpartum sleep change.
Sleep deprivation can be brutal and I know that VERY well!!!
I had a baby who had infant colic for 5 months and it was awful. I have seriously never been more exhausted in my entire life. When your baby is inconsolable most of the day and sleeps for 1-2 HOURS EACH DAY, it’s hard.
However, thank the Lord most babies sleep more than that. I went back to work after having my first baby, and we didn’t have to deal with colic. We established a sleeping routine that worked really well. I would breastfeed throughout the night and right before I left. Then I would pump breast milk at work throughout the day.
Sleeping for the first couple of weeks can be tough, but if you can establish a wake-sleep routine with your baby, it will be incredibly helpful for you, as you’ll likely be getting more sleep. I know a lot of people try the cycle of wake, eat, play, sleep.
We did something like that. Find a feeding routine that works for your family and stick with that until it’s totally obvious that it isn’t working anymore.
If your baby isn’t sleeping, and you aren’t getting enough sleep, you need to ask for help. Have someone come over and sit with your baby while you rest. Your postpartum recovery hinges on your getting rest. Bad things can happen when you become too sleep-deprived. The last thing you would want is for something to happen to you or your baby simply because you weren’t getting enough sleep.
Two words. Golf balls.
You’ll likely hear the word golf balls and think, “What does that have to do with me giving birth?”
Did you know some women pass blood clots the size of golf balls after giving birth?
It sounds crazy, but, just think, you passed a tiny human through there, why not a golf ball?
Postpartum bleeding is different for everyone, and it will be different for each birth.
I didn’t have near the amount of bleeding with my c-section as I did with my vaginal delivery. Why might you ask? When you have a c-section, they clear that stuff out a lot better during surgery than your body does naturally at the time of vaginal birth.
So then, after birth, it is your body’s job to get rid of that stuff.
The bleeding from childbirth usually stops within two weeks postpartum – though there can be light spotting for up to six months afterward due to hormones adjusting. If you’re concerned about your postpartum bleeding, you need to call your healthcare provider immediately.
Make sure you have created your postpartum care kit to help you deal with bleeding after giving birth. Use the hospital freebies they gave you from the hospital after giving birth. I was using witch hazel pads and a peri bottle. Both things helped me to feel cleaner despite all the bleeding.
If you find that you suddenly start bleeding more than you had been, think about what you were doing right before it happened. I know there were times when I would start doing too much and my body would tell me that by bleeding more than it had been. This is one of those things not to do after giving birth. Listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
Don’t be afraid to call your doctor and ask questions. If something doesn’t feel right about your postpartum bleeding, call and ask the medical staff. That’s what they’re there for.
Breastfeeding After Giving Birth
I really don’t think there is anything that can completely prepare you for what breastfeeding is going to be like. It takes a toll on your body psychologically, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
There will be times, in fact probably many times, that you are going to doubt yourself and you’ll want to quit. Keep going and keep trying. Sure, you 100% need to make sure your baby is getting fed and that should be your priority. But keep trying.
I recommend that you either take a basics of breastfeeding class, spend some time with someone who has breastfed a baby, or seek out help from a lactation consultant. There is a lot of information out there, and you need to find it. There are different latch positions, different things to aid you if your baby won’t latch right, and all sorts of things to watch for if your baby isn’t getting the amount of milk they should. If you think you understand all the basics, you should check out this breastfeeding hurdles class that could help you find a solution.
Make sure you get some really great nursing bras once your milk comes in. I wrote an entire post about what you should look for when buying a nursing bra, as well as when to shop. I also give some great recommendations in case you’re still unsure.
When you’re still in the hospital, have the lactation consultant come in as much as you need to before you’re discharged from the hospital. Check with your insurance company before you deliver and find out what lactation services they offer free of charge. Many insurance companies want breastfeeding moms to be successful, so they offer lactation consultants as part of their services for free.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. One of the biggest things you can do for yourself before giving birth and breastfeeding is to know that it probably won’t be easy. Easy, no. Worth it, YES!!
Postpartum Care Kit
I have written an extensive post about creating a postpartum essentials kit because it is so important to make sure you’re ready to care for your postpartum needs. I recommend that you scroll through this section, and then check out that post for an in-depth breakdown of all the stuff you need!
- Pain medication– I went back and forth between the two they recommended, so I didn’t have a lapse in pain medication for the first few days.
- Snacks– You’ll get hungry and you won’t want to move much.
- Water– You need to stay hydrated whether you’re breastfeeding or formula feeding. It’s important that your bladder is filling and emptying itself.
- Pads for heavy flow– These are a must!
- Pillows for support– I liked having pillows all around me. It’s also good to have a pillow to hold onto for sneezing or coughing. I would pull the pillow into my belly so that the movement wasn’t as sudden after my c-section.
- A chair you can get in and out of easily– If you had a c-section, moving isn’t easy after you’ve had major surgery. Make sure you have something with arms so that you can push yourself up more easily. For what it’s worth, I slept in the recliner for a week or two, simply because it was the easiest place to get in and out of. I couldn’t sleep in my bed because getting up by myself was nearly impossible.
- Nursing pillow if you plan to nurse– Have a pillow that will position your baby where they need to be for a successful breastfeeding session.
- Ice packs for your incision/ lower lady parts– I LOVED MY ICE PACKS! I really hated to take any pain meds because I was nursing, but I had just had major surgery and I needed to take care of myself. Ice is what allowed me to only take minimal pain meds for just a few days.
- Belly Wrap– These are AMAZING! I was given one at the hospital and I wore it a lot. You can buy them online if you either didn’t get one at the hospital or if you want something a bit more supportive. Even if you had a vaginal birth, a lot of postpartum women will wear them in hopes of getting rid of their baby pooch more quickly.
- Colace or some brand of a stool softener (check with your doctor first)- Pooping after giving birth is terrible. It doesn’t matter if you have a c-section or a vaginal delivery, it’s awful. Colace for the first week or so will make your bowel movements a little more bearable. Though I will say that a tear or two may have been shed.
- Nursing Pads– Even if you aren’t going to nurse, your breast milk will still come in. A lot of women will leak breast milk during the postpartum recovery period until their milk dries up. Make sure you have a box on hand just in case.
- Nursing bras and tanks– You’ll want to make sure you’re clothes are comfortable if you do plan to breastfeed. Make sure that your clothes are easily accessible, especially for the first few weeks. I share a lot of awesome information about nursing bras here!
- High-waist panties– If you had a c-section, you’ll need underwear that sits above your incision. You can’t have underwear that sits on your incision. First, that would be incredibly painful, but second, that would really deter healing.
These are the hospital freebies after giving birth you will likely get while in the hospital!
Postpartum Recovery Tips
- Your postpartum recovery timeline is going to be different than your previous births and your friends’ births. Give your postpartum body the time it needs to heal. Seriously. Don’t think you feel “good”, and then overdo it. You’ll delay your postpartum recovery time.
- What not to do after giving birth? Don’t have intercourse or begin a rigorous workout routine until after your 6-week postpartum check. You’ll want to make sure everything has healed the way it should, and I would have to believe you don’t want to be pregnant going into your postpartum check. Yikes!
- Figure out your maternity leave before giving birth. Make sure you have made the proper arrangements with your employer so that you don’t have to worry about it after giving birth. Your time will be consumed with your postpartum care and that sweet little baby.
- It doesn’t matter how your baby came into this world, they’ll have you up and walking as soon as possible. The medical staff wants to make sure everything is working before they send you home. Once you’re home, don’t overdo it. I was up and moving more after my vaginal delivery versus my c-section, but I was still up and moving.
How long does it take to recover after giving birth?
I have heard that it takes 3 years until your body truly feels like you have recovered from giving birth. Now, obviously, you’ll begin feeling more like yourself much sooner than that, and your body can get back into shape long before then. But, it just goes to show that taking 40 weeks to grow a tiny human means your body isn’t just going to bounce back to the way it was before giving birth in a super short time frame. Your postpartum body needs time to recover.
As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, giving birth is a big deal. There is a lot that goes into growing a tiny human, and there is a lot that goes into recovering from birthing a tiny human.
Give yourself time to heal. Don’t do something you’re going to wish you hadn’t. Listen to your body and ask for help when you need to. At the end of the day, everyone wants a healthy mom and a healthy baby.
MORE Helpful Postpartum Tips
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