Your postpartum body will be sore, no matter if you had a completely natural birth with no tearing, a c-section, or anything in between. It is pointless to give a detailed account of what you may feel like, since every birth and recovery process is individual. In general terms, you can expect the following physical discomforts after giving birth:
- A sore vaginal opening, or a sore incision site.
- Lochia, the pospartum bleeding that lasts for around four weeks and that can soak quite a few maternity pads in a day.
- Heavy and perhaps painful breasts, that may become engorged if you don't nurse frequently.
Beyond those four things, you may experience noticeable uterine contractions (especially while breastfeeding), a burning sensation while peeing, fluid oozing from your c-section incision, and many other unpleasant recovery symptoms. Most moms will feel like a relatively normal again within a few days to a week, and will feel even better after a month to six weeks.
Every piece of written advice about postpartum recovery will tell you how important it is to get rest and bond with your new baby in the first week (and beyond) after giving birth. Yet, you'll probably be surrounded by hospital staff and excited relatives and friends who want to see the baby. If you give birth at home, you may even be tempted to get up and cook for your baby guests! Newborns may not require much physical activity from you they are happy with with your presence and milk most of the day. Laundry seems to magically build up with a tiny baby around, though, whether it is the baby's clothes, towels, and perhaps cloth diapers, or your own clothes (milky vomit will be everywhere!). Cleaning and cooking are the other big obstacles. So, how on earth can you rest with all that going on? In truth, getting rest is almost Mission Impossible if you expect your whole household to run really smoothly and want to spend time caring for your baby unless you have a maid, perhaps. So the bottom line is, something has to give. Here are some tips, from my personal experience from when my two children were fresh babies:
- Freezing your home-made meals when you are pregnant will be a life-saver. Purchasing frozen meals is a less healthy alternative that will also work.
- Talk to your partner (if you have one) about how you are going to organize your family in those early days while you are still pregnant. Some men expect their newly postpartum partners to cook and clean, because "they're at home all day". Make sure he understands this is not realistic. Postpartum bodies need rest to heal as soon as possible, and with a newborn waking up every few hours during the night, you will have some catching up to do.
- As long as your house is hygienic, don't worry about the chaos you'll inevitably deal with. You've got roughly four options 1. Try to do everything yourself, and get a burnout for free, 2. Rely on your partner or friends/relatives to take care of the house, 3. Pay someone to clean, do the laundry, etc, 4. Accept that your house will be messier than usual, and don't stress about it. Even if you have the benefits of numbers two or three , number four is basically just something you need to do.
- Some people use paper plates in the first few weeks, to eliminate dirty dishes.
- Many new moms will feel it is necessary to actively take care of their newborns the whole time they are awake, and then to spend a long time on getting them to sleep, by rocking, singing, and so on. This takes all your time away, and may just make you feel really irritated. Using a good baby carrier made all the difference for me. The baby will most likely be happy just to be with you, and you can do some light chores, read a book, or have coffee with a friend!
- Sleep when the baby sleeps, if you can. Don't worry unless you use drugs or are a really, really heavy sleeper, you will wake up as soon as your baby even coughs. Moms have a radar for that stuff.
Weight loss after pregnancy
Almost all newly postpartum mothers can go for small walks after around 24 hours. This is especially important for your postpartum recovery if you had a cesarean, but it will also contribute to the process of physical recovery and weight loss after pregnancy for anyone else. When you are around six weeks postpartum and have had your follow-up appointment with your doctor or midwife, you can start making conscious weight-loss efforts. Weight loss after pregnancy should come about as the result of healthy eating (which can include limiting calories), as well as exercise. You can read more about getting your body back in our article about weight loss after pregnancy.