You’ve given birth to your precious little one, and just like that, those pesky pregnancy symptoms are magically gone. Now what? You’ve been so invested in your pregnancy journey that you’ve hardly given any thought to what the next few weeks hold.
Don’t worry. We’ve got you.
The Next 6 Weeks of Postpartum Recovery
These next weeks with your new baby are supposed to feel like complete bliss. Right? Some women may agree that they do, but if you don’t, you’re not alone.
Let’s be honest. With the bleeding, hemorrhoids, night sweats, and the many other side effects you may experience, it can feel like the six weeks that the postpartum period is described to be, drag on much longer than that.
To be completely transparent, it may be longer than six weeks that you feel like yourself again. Most women may feel fully recovered physically by six weeks (give or take), but mentally could be a different story.
You might be thinking right now, “Wait, did you just say I may not feel like myself again for months?” We’ll get to that, but yes, it’s possible.
Common Postpartum Symptoms
Okay, time to discuss the nitty-gritty. The stuff nobody wants to tell you about before you give birth, and then expects you to figure it all out on your own. That stops here. We are going to talk about it. TMI no longer exists.
Some of the most common postpartum symptoms you can expect to experience are:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Breast engorgement
- Night Sweats
- Baby Blues and
- Postpartum depression
Maybe it’s no surprise, but after you’ve given birth (no matter how you’ve given birth), you can expect to have vaginal bleeding. This bleeding, known as lochia, can last anywhere from 2-6 weeks, sometimes even longer. If you’re still experiencing vaginal bleeding by 12 weeks postpartum, talk to your caregiver.
It’s important to note that this bleeding is not your period. It is simply tissue and blood that lined your uterus during pregnancy. You can expect the bleeding to be on the heavier side and bright red for the first couple of weeks, then start to become lighter in both flow and color.
Chances are you experienced hemorrhoids during your pregnancy, but if you were one of the lucky ones that didn’t, you will most likely develop them during pushing if you have a vaginal delivery. Applying witch hazel to the affected area is a fan favorite way to soothe these painful and itchy annoyances.
It’s not uncommon to absolutely dread the first bowel movement after you’ve given birth. You’re swollen, sore, and the last thing you want to do is push something out again, am I right? Especially if you experienced a vaginal tear during delivery or had an episiotomy. This fear
alone could be the reason for constipation, or it could be brought on by certain medications that you were given during your delivery, or if you received anesthesia. Drinking fluids, as well as eating foods that are high in fiber, will help, but if you need a boost, ask your doctor about prescribing a stool softener for you.
Whether you plan on breastfeeding or not, you can expect your milk to come in within the first 3-6 days after giving birth. You’ll know your liquid gold has arrived when your breasts fill full and uncomfortable.
If you plan to breastfeed, feed your baby often and apply cold compresses to the breast to help alleviate the pain. The engorgement should subside within 24-48 hours.
If you don’t plan on breastfeeding, it can take several days for this engorgement to fade. Avoid touching your breasts or applying any heat to them (i.e. warm water from the shower), as this can stimulate let-down, triggering your breasts to produce more milk.
Before you wake up in a panic that the t-shirt you went to sleep in is soaking wet, you should know that this is normal during the postpartum period. Thank you hormones. This is one of the ways your body tries to expel any excess fluids that aided in your pregnancy. These sweats will pass, but in the meantime, keep the room cool, and wear loose-fitting pajamas. And don’t forget to drink that water, mama!
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression
During and after pregnancy, everyone is majorly concerned with your physical well-being. But your mental well-being should be just as cared for.
During the postpartum period, 70-80% of women will experience the “baby blues”. It’s common to feel sad or overwhelmed and to cry often after having a baby. Do not feel guilty for feeling this way. Your body just went through a majorly transformative process and if you find yourself feeling less than joyful to have a new baby in your home, this is nothing to be ashamed of.
However, if you find yourself feeling this way for more than a couple of weeks, or if you’re feeling a sadness that is more extreme than just a little blue, you may have postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression typically begins within a month of giving birth and can last up to one year. If you experience any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor.
- Feeling sad/hopeless/extreme despair
- Having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
- Loss of interest or connection with your baby
- No motivation
- Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
- Distancing yourself from family and friends
One More Thing
While these symptoms may have you cringing and feeling anxious for what’s to come, it’s important to know this: The postpartum period will not last forever. These symptoms will pass. Soak in those newborn baby snuggles, and take care of yourself. You’ve got this.
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Familydoctor.org – Recovering from Delivery (Postpartum Recovery)
Womenshealth.gov – Recovering from birth
Womenshealth.gov – Postpartum depression
Happiestbaby.com – How to Relieve Engorged Breasts
Healthline.com – Causes and Treatments for Postpartum Night Sweats