What To Expect During Your Postpartum Recovery Period & Some Postpartum Tips For Mothers
Postpartum care and the realities of recovery after childbirth are something that I pushed to the back of my mind during my first pregnancy. I had a difficult pregnancy with a multitude of serious complications. In my mind once I reached the end of my pregnancy I was done with major body and life changes. I didn’t want to think about the postpartum period or any remaining postpartum symptoms! I wish, however, that I had prepared myself more for the additional changes to my body and life that occurred after the birth of our first daughter.
As I sit here I am 25 weeks pregnant with our second little girl and find myself looking ahead to labor, delivery, and postpartum already. My brain is flashing back to all of the postpartum symptoms and transitions that I wasn’t prepared for the first time around. I’ve already began gathering supplies and planning out freezer meals and house maintenance to help the period run smoother for me and all of my family this time around.
If you are pregnant I highly recommend that you do a little bit of reading on postpartum symptoms and realities before you find yourself sitting in the season. Even if it scares you (like it did me!) I think you will be thankful to have a few things prepared for the season – both emotionally and practically. You can also read and download my free printable checklist for what to pack for labor and delivery HERE to be sure you have the items along to make your recovery as smooth as possible.
(This post contains affiliate links which means that if you purchase an item through my link I make a commission on your purchase – at no additional expense to you! Read the full disclosure here.)
Here are some postpartum symptoms that I was not prepared for and my best postpartum recovery tips:
Note: I had an induced vaginal birth and breastfed. I’m sure some of these postpartum symptoms vary by mother and birthing method. This is just my experience!
1. Your postpartum body will hurt all over – for at least a couple weeks!
I expected my body to hurt after pushing out a nearly 7lb. human being and I knew there would be some bleeding. Friends had tried to warn me that the pain was difficult to manage and had equipped me with ice packs and maxi pads. In my naive lack of experience, however, I had no idea how painful the recovery process from childbirth would truly be! You will hurt “down there” in a way that you never have before. Just going to the bathroom will be a painful process for probably at least a couple weeks! (Note: perry bottles from the hospital are a life-saver for the bathroom pain – make sure you take any provided bottles home with you!) I also had severe pain near my tailbone that I couldn’t seem to find relief from no matter what I tried. I thought it was from laying in the hospital bed for several days, but turns out it was from constipation. Be sure to take some kind of stool softener after birth – you will thank me later!
In addition to the expected areas of pain after childbirth, I was unprepared for the postpartum symptom of breast pain. Friends had told me that breastfeeding could be a difficult and stressful experience, but I was not prepared for the pain of it! I had to grit my teeth tightly together and wince in pain every time my new baby latched for the first several weeks after she was born. I did use some lanolin cream but the pain was pretty intense for a couple of weeks.
My best postpartum recovery tips for this – I’m stocking up on some of the following items for baby #2!
- Padsicles – (Read my recipe for these HERE!) Basically I’m soaking maxi pads in witch hazel & aloe gel and freezing for pain relief!
- Tylenol – I’ve heard ibuprofen works better but I’m unable to take it due to my blood thinners with pregnancy.
- New Mama Bottom Spray – The hospital provided me with a bottle of Dermoplast for numbing/pain relief, but I found it stung and didn’t help me a whole lot. I ended up buying a New Mama Bottom Spray a few weeks after birth and finding it much more soothing and helpful.
- Miralax – This is coming with me in my hospital bag! The hospital did provide a stool softener, but I found Miralax to be gentle and extremely helpful last time around. I didn’t purchase it until a couple weeks after the fact last time, but as soon as I took had almost instant tailbone pain relief.
- Lansinoh Breastfeeding Cream – I had this on hand last time and will be sure to have it with me again to help soothe breastfeeding pain.
- Epsom salt – I’ve been told that epsom salt baths are helpful for healing! You can also get specific sitz bath mixes like this one for postpartum care.
The aftermath pain from childbirth is a postpartum symptom I was very much unprepared for. With a little bit of preparation I hope to manage it more smoothly this time around. Also, take heart! It all hurts but it won’t last very long. By a month after birth I was already starting to feel much more myself in terms of residual pain and healing.
2. Your postpartum emotions will be unpredictable.
I was very unprepared for this postpartum symptom! I’ve always had bad monthly emotional swings with my fluctuating hormones, but the postpartum roller coaster was more intense than I had expected. I was in tears A LOT and experienced heightened anxiety and very irrational fears. Sleep deprivation definitely plays a part in your ability to manage your emotions, but there are also very real hormonal fluctuations happening that can make the postpartum period one with crazy emotional highs and lows.
I’ve had some friends who didn’t struggle much with their emotions postpartum (so hopefully that will be your experience too!) but it was a very difficult emotional period for me. My doctor prescribed me an antidepressant but I was afraid to take it. However, looking back I had some tell-tale signs of postpartum depression. I did have my husband keep careful watch over me and let him dictate whether it was necessary for me to take the medication for safety reasons. I really didn’t start to feel more stable until nearly 6 months after our daughters birth.
Are you expecting a baby soon? Read also:
My best postpartum recovery tips for this – I’m looking into a few options for baby #2:
- Check with your doctor – If you think you are at specific risk, it may be beneficial to obtain a proactive prescription for antidepressants. I’m going to ask about having a prescription ready and on hand before our second daughter’s birth so that I can take it right away if needed. It is so hard to realize how much you are suffering emotionally while you are in the middle of it, so if this is your first postpartum experience I highly recommend that you ask a partner or loved one to keep careful watch and dictate for you whether you need additional help or medication.
- Progessence Plus Essential Oil – If I can afford it, I am going to try applying a bit of this essential oil topically following our baby’s birth. I had a friend who used it and had a very positive postpartum emotional experience. (It’s always hard to make a direct correlation as to what made her experience positive, but I’m willing to give it a try!)
- UPDATE: I can’t say for sure if it was due to using this essential oil, but I did not end up having any issues with postpartum depression after baby #2! I applied a little bit of this essential oil behind each ear every night before bed.
- Placenta Encapsulation – This is another one that depends on our financial state. I have read and heard very positive things about taking encapsulated placenta and its assistance in helping with postpartum emotions. There are many companies who will take your placenta directly from the hospital and turn it into pill capsules for you to consume. It grosses me out, but I just might give it a try!
3. Postpartum sleep deprivation is real.
It seems silly to list this one here since most people know that having a baby means sleepless nights and exhaustion, but I was truly not prepared for the severity of this postpartum symptom! Call me completely naive, but I didn’t know our new baby was going to have to eat every 2 1/2 – 3 hours! Our daughter was also a very stubborn sleeper and took over an hour to fall back asleep after feedings in the first several weeks. Therefore, many of the initial nights after she was born I was only getting half hour increments of sleep all day and night! Things got MUCH better once we began to sleep train her (you can read about the steps we took for that here), but the sleep deprivation was a difficult hurdle to get past.
My best postpartum recovery tips for this – we’ve set in place a few things to prepare more fully for sleep deprivation with baby #2:
- My husband is taking two weeks off of work instead of one – This small thing I’m hoping will make big difference in my ability to rest and heal the first several days postpartum. Since he went back to work very soon after our first daughter’s birth, I never wanted to interrupt his sleep or take too much help from him at night. This time I can have a little bit more time with his help at night for things like diaper changes, re-swaddling, and getting the baby back to sleep.
- I’m introducing a bottle for one feeding each night – With our first baby I was very protective of my breastmilk supply and was hesitant to use the bottle much. With our second baby I plan to make at least one nighttime feeding a formula bottle so my husband can take a turn with feedings and I can sleep through at least one feeding each night in the first several days. (I know there can be strong opinions on this, but for my sanity and sleep it’s something I’m willing to do!)
Take heart that you will one day sleep more fully again, but in the first several days after giving birth you may think of and crave little else.
4. You may not feel a bond with your baby postpartum.
This seems to be different for every new mom, but I didn’t feel an immediate attachment or bond to our daughter when she was born. For me it took until after the sleep deprivation settled, my emotions balanced back out, and she started to interact with me a little bit until I felt a bond with her. I list this here only to say that it’s okay if you aren’t immediately gushing to be a parent or over-the-moon enamored with your little one. There is a lot going on in your body and mind. You may not feel that bond right away, but you will get there. So don’t worry or feel guilt if you’re slow to bond with your baby like me. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother or that it will never happen!
My best postpartum recovery tips for this…
Just one! Give it some time.
5. Your pregnancy symptoms might disappear!
While all of the above postpartum symptoms probably don’t make you long for the postpartum season, there are a few positives! I had a very difficult pregnancy with many miserable symptoms. After 9 months of living with them I almost forgot that they weren’t normal and that one day I might actually have relief. I experienced varied levels of nausea through my whole pregnancy that made it difficult to enjoy eating or to eat without thinking about how things would settle in my stomach. I had to stay on medication for the nausea all the way up until I gave birth. Everyone may be different, but immediately after giving birth I ate a meal without any of it sitting strange in my stomach! I was suddenly able to enjoy food and go without the nausea medication! While so many of the postpartum symptoms are difficult, I was thrilled to be on the road to recovery from some of the persistent ailments of pregnancy. I was even more thrilled that some of the pregnancy symptoms disappeared right away!
6. Your life will be forever changed as soon as the postpartum period begins.
Again, this seems like a foolish statement to make since everyone knows that having a baby changes your life. I put it here simply because it really is true. I was so focused on getting through a miserable pregnancy with our first daughter that I didn’t stop to think a whole lot about how having her was going to change our lives. Our priorities are different, our schedule is very different, and I now hold the role of a mother that will forever shape who I am in this life.
I wasn’t fully prepared for the major shift my life would take as we welcomed our sweet baby girl into the world or the shift that would occur in my relationships. This is one postpartum reality that probably no mother can be fully prepared for. I put it here simply to say, take in some of the season you are in before your baby arrives and look forward to a new season once you meet him/her. It’s a challenging one, but full of so much deep joy and new excitement as well!
If you are expecting and planning for your postpartum season, my intent of this post is not to scare you! I simply wish that I had been more prepared prior to the birth of our first daughter. These postpartum symptoms and realities may hit you like a whirlwind at first, but life will settle back down and your body will heal with time. Don’t live in fear of the postpartum period, but do prepare a bit! You will be thankful when you get there if you are ready in some practical and emotional ways.
NOTE: I am NOT a medical professional. For postpartum advice from educated nurses and midwives you can read a collection of the top 20 tips from nurses and midwives compiled by the Huffington Post HERE.
Side Note: If you are preparing for a baby and don’t have any made, I highly recommend stocking up on freezer meals! I didn’t have any made before our first daughter and had to add the stress of cooking back into my life just a few weeks after she was born. This time around I will be stocking our freezer as full as I can! If you need some meal ideas, I have 6 tried and tested pre-cook freezer meal recipes here that I made to prepare for my morning sickness with this pregnancy.