The road to postpartum recovery can be a long and exhausting one. I am currently 12 months postpartum, but there are 14 things I wish I’d known about the healing process.
When expecting a little bundle of joy, the main focus of conversation is often on pregnancy and childbirth, resulting in the overlook of the mom’s postpartum life. So, as a first-time mom, I was anxious but very optimistic concerning labor, delivery and postpartum care. However, my perspective did a complete 180 within the first hour of birthing my tiny human. I was overcome with a trillion emotions and clueless on how to accomplish anything.
To add to my ever-so sensitive pot of sentimentality, I was absolutely dumbfounded by how naive I had been regarding the postpartum process. Had I known then what I know now, I could’ve saved myself a world of hurt. But, fret not my fellow pregnant grasshoppers for I am going to spill ALL the beans about the postpartum period with 14 things I wish I’d known.
1. Six Weeks, Shmix Weeks
Contrary to popular belief, it can actually take up to a year for your body to fully recover from childbirth, but rightfully so; it took you just as long to cultivate a child. While some women may recover in 6-8 weeks, it could be months before you feel like yourself again. There are soooo many physical and emotional changes happening to your body during the postpartum period, so please don’t expect to feel like your pre-pregnancy self right away.
Personally, I did not feel “back to normal” until I was about thirteen weeks postpartum. Granted, I was cut and cauterized at six weeks, eight weeks and ten weeks. Yes, CUT and CAUTERIZED (comment below if I should do a story time about this experience)!
2. Vaginal Tears Aren’t Exactly Preventable
I hate to burst your bubble, but preventing vaginal tearing is not an exact science. However, there are techniques that may help reduce the risk of tearing such as massaging the perineum and delivering in an upright position.
In my case, I can’t say for certain if my delivering on the hospital bed had any bearing on my tearing, but I do know I did massage my perineum area along with incorporating a few other precautionary methods and I still had a second degree perineal tear (and a very crooked one, too). It’s very important to note that everyone’s body and skin elasticity is different so tearing for some women is just inevitable.
3. Perineal Stitches Hurt Like A Motherrr
Believe it or not, tearing was one of many reasons why I was petrified of childbirth. I still remember being spread eagle on the delivery table and feeling the pins and needles sensation in my nether-region as my doctor sewed me up.
During my first two weeks of postpartum recovery, I dreaded every time I had to get up, sit down or walk around. So, pretty much any time I moved, I was in absolute torture. There was a few things that gave me somewhat of a relief—ice packs, dermoplast spray, witch hazel pads and sitz baths (which is sitting in a tub of warm water).
4. Postpartum Bleeding Can Last For What Feels Like A Lifetime
Surprise, suprise… every woman experiences postpartum bleeding and discharge (otherwise known as lochia) following the birth of a baby. Initially, the bleeding will be bright red with a few small clots—similar to a heavy menstrual period. Then, over the next two to six weeks, the color will turn from a bright red to a pinkish brown which eventually fades to a cream or white.
I, on the other hand, bled until I was about six months postpartum. I first visited my OB/GYN to discuss my persistent bleeding when I was roughly four months postpartum. He recommended I take a birth control pill to control the bleeding. However, after doing a little research, I learned that birth control could negatively effect my milk supply as a breastfeeding mother, so I never took the pills and continued to just suffer in silence. Two months later, I decided to make another doctor’s appointment because there HAD to be another solution and… there was! My perscribed me a progestin-only birth control pill, which is actually an ideal form of contraception for breastfeeding mothers.
IMPORTANT: Please do not wait as long as I did to see your doctor if you’re having any postpartum complications. I urge you to be vigilant in your recovery and call your doctor if you experience any red-flag signs: fever, large clots, pain, excessive bleeding or other symptoms of infections. Listen to your body and play it safe.
5. An Interesting Smell Will Come From “Down There”
Postpartum bleeding and discharge (or lochia) is similar to a heavy menstrual cycle in substance, sight and smell. Both consist of blood, uterine wall lining, bacteria, dead tissue, mucus, clots and um… a stench. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the metallic menstrual period smell; however, the musk of lochia is rather foul.
In my opinion, a number of things contributed to the funk:
- The lochia itself
- Being unshaved
- Not being able to use soap, otherwise the stitches could get irritated
So, imagine being on your period with a hairy vag AND not being able to cleanse with soap. Even when my stitches healed and I was able to groom properly, I still would get a little whiff of a twang. The odor literally lingered for a good 3-4 weeks.
6. The Amount Of Discharge (Not Lochia) You Expel May Increase
During your first trimester of pregnancy, you may start to experience more discharge than normal. This can be expected to decrease upon delivery or, unfortunately, it won’t. Some mothers have had to deal with this inconvenience for YEARS. The amount of discharge dispelled is often more than any pair of undies can bare, which can result in the constant use of panty liners. Sorry in advance.
7. Hemorrhoids Can Go Away, But They May Return
After having a baby, especially with a vaginal delivery, many women develop hemorrhoids. Generally, with treatment, the pain and swelling should decrease dramatically within a few days and, by six weeks, the hemorrhoids should go away on their own. Nevertheless, once you’ve had hemorrhoids, they can return due to medical conditions and lifestyle habits. To avoid a reoccurrence, increase your intake of fiber, spend less time seated on the toilet and do not strain during bowel movements.
8. Your First Period Postpartum Will Be Different
Chances are the first period after delivery won’t be like your periods before you got pregnant. Your body is once again adjusting to menstruation.
You may experience some of the following differences:
- cramping maybe stronger or lighter than usual
- heavier flow
- irregular cycle
- small blood clots
- increased pain
My first real postpartum period was indeed different—I didn’t experience any abdominal or vaginal cramping or pain, and I hardly had any blood clots at all; HOWEVER, my flow was all kinds of heavy! My flow was so heavy that I couldn’t even wear tampons, only the thick level 4 maxi pads. Even with my taking the progestin-only birth control pill to transition my body from postpartum bleeding to a regulated monthly menstrual cycle, now, at ten months postpartum, my period is still not where it was pre-pregnancy.
9. There Is Nothing Glamorous About Postpartum
Celebrities and social media influencers make having babies look like a piece of cake, posting their post baby bodies only minutes after delivering. However, the postpartum period is not as radiant as it’s portrayed. Behind those beautiful photos are adult diapers, large maxi pads, ice packs, medicated hemorrhoidal pads, splashing perineal bottles and lots of wobbly walking. Please do not be fooled into comparing your body or recovery process to no one’s because everyone heals at their own pace.
10. You May Experience Some Hair Loss
Postpartum alopecia is normal and only temporary, so fret not. Most women notice hair loss around the 3 month mark. For some, it’s minimal shedding, but for others, it’s dramatic amounts of hair clumps. To prevent excess hair loss, continue your prenatal vitamins and reduce unnecessary hair manipulation—gently shampoo/condition, detangle hair with wide-tooth combs, refrain from pulling hair into tight ponytails, avoid using any heated appliances and withhold all chemically based treatments until the shedding stops. Talk to your practitioner if your hair loss is excessive. Hair loss after pregnancy could be a sign of postpartum thyroiditis, which happens when a woman’s thyroid becomes inflamed after having a baby.
11. Breastfeeding May Destroy Your Nipples
For it to be so natural, breastfeeding doesn’t always come natural. I remember struggling immensely the first month of breastfeeding my little one. It was such a difficult and frustrating time that I had to resort to pumping and bottle feeding my fresh-out-the-womb newborn before waiting the entire “suggested” 2 weeks because my nipples were just that tender due to poor latching. My best advice to new moms wanting to nurse is to consult with a lactation specialist, and be patient and act within the best interest of yourself and your babe.
12. Having Sex After Childbirth Takes Mental And Physical Preparation
The mental and physical effects of labor and delivery, along with caring for a newborn can really take the X out of sex. It may be helpful for you and your partner to reconnect emotionally before proceeding sexually to ensure you’re both comfortable jumping back in the sack. With a little intimacy and lube, you’ll be rekindling your sensual selves in no time.
13. The “Baby Blues” Is Real
Intense sadness and moodiness are perfectly normal the first few days or weeks after childbirth. A whopping 60-80% of new moms are estimated to experience the emotional postnatal rollercoaster known as the baby blues. This should come as no surprise considering the combination of sleep deprivation, new responsibilities and lack of time for one’s self. It is important to note the difference in feeling temperamental and feeling chronically sad, depressed, overly anxious, or having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, which can all be signs of postpartum depression and anxiety. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please contact your doctor for help. Do not think you’re crazy or a bad mom, postpartum depression is no one’s fault and is treatable.
14. You’ll Never Be Fully Prepared
Despite all of your physical and psychical preparation, some unexpected thing will come about and thwart your plan. Trust me, I thought because I had watched every postpartum vlog on Youtube and purchased all the right products, I was ready to kick some postpartum butt, BUT boy was I wrong. So, you can try to prepare for any and every thing until you’re blue in the face; however, nothing, especially when it concerns motherhood, will ever prepare you for the new world you’re about to embark on.
Although it is virtually impossible to prepare for EVERYTHING, I do hope I’ve given you some insight into what postpartum life is really like but breathe easy. No matter what is thrown at you, you’ll learn to duck and dodge and roll with the punches!
Leave a comment below on which postpartum component you’re the least excited by!
Have A Beautiful Day ✨