what to expect in the postpartum period

Get Through the Postpartum Period Like a Boss!

I know lots of you are wondering what the postpartum period will be like once you’ve had your baby, so I decided to write this blog about it to take some of the mystery away!

Postpartum is a wild and weird world and it’s important to be prepared. Knowing what to expect during the postpartum period will help you be as prepared as can be.

Keep reading to find out all the tips on handling your postpartum like a boss, written by a labour and delivery nurse.

This blog post will go over all the things you can expect after vaginal birth, I will write a whole other post for you to learn about postpartum after a c-section. 

More from Babytalk: What to expect right after a vaginal birth

what to expect in the postpartum period

Bleeding – What’s Normal and What Isn’t

Once you have birthed your baby and placenta, your period comes back with a vengeance!

Just kidding, but in reality, postpartum bleeding is very heavy and probably heavier than most of your periods.

I always recommend to women to buy Depends (or a similar brand) and then to use a big pad as well. That way if there is any “spillage” you can just throw them out and you don’t have to worry about soiling your underwear.

The bleeding is the worst for the first couple of days, and then it tapers off bit by bit. You can switch to smaller pads but don’t use tampons or diva cups until you get the OK from your healthcare provider, usually around the 6-week mark

It’s important to remember, that every woman is different, some bleed more and for longer and some bleed less and for a shorter period of time. You MAY experience bleeding for up to 6 weeks on and off while your uterus is shrinking back down to its normal size.

Your uterus has a gaping “wound” where your placenta was previously and it is shedding the lining it had while your baby was growing.

What is abnormal bleeding?

Well, if you put on a fresh pad and soak it completely within one hour or if you pass a clot that is larger than a small plum, you have a problem!

If you are in the hospital, please talk to someone, your nurse, midwife or doctor. If you are at home and this happens go immediately to the nearest emergency room. Call an ambulance if need be.

If this happens, you might have a delayed postpartum hemorrhage. This is when some bits of the placenta is still inside and the wound isn’t able to close up properly.

This is not that common, but a very serious complication that can occur.

How Your Uterus and Body Changes after Birth

Your body just made a baby.

Just let that sink in for a little bit!

I know we all see pictures of Hollywood stars “bouncing back” within days of giving birth, but that’s not reality!

Your uterus grows from the size of your fist to the size of a watermelon! Now, what other things in the world can do that?

Give yourself a little grace and allow yourself some time for your body to get settled into the “new normal”. You will never be the same again, and that’s ok! You have a little beautiful baby to show for it.

It takes about six weeks for your uterus to go back to its original size and into your pelvis where it sits behind your pelvic bone.

It took 9-10 months for your uterus to grow to this gigantic size, so please let the 6 weeks pass before you start judging your body for not bouncing back! Or just don’t judge it at all because it just made a human being!

Shout out to Mamaway for making an amazing belly band for postpartum. I’ve used it after a c-section and even though it doesn’t help you lose the “postpartum belly” it really helps to support your movement after birth. Love it!

Cramping and Pain

You will go through a period right after birth that will be a little uncomfortable. For some, it’s a little bit more than just uncomfortable and you might be in a lot of pain. 

Your healthcare provider will offer you pain medication and I recommend that you take it as long as you need it!

It will help with both the cramps and the vaginal pain you might be feeling after birth.

You really don’t want to be in pain because it interferes with bonding and breastfeeding and it might even inhibit your recovery.

If you are in pain you are less likely to want to move around and movement actually helps with the healing! So take those pills girl!

Cramps are a reality of life right after your birth.

Now your uterus has the huge task of shrinking back to its normal size and you might cramps as strong as you did during labour!

Unfortunately, these cramps get worse and worse with each baby, but the good news is they don’t last long! You are going to feel them more when you are doing skin-to-skin with your baby or breastfeeding and they should subside by day 3-5. 

Why do you cramp? It’s because your body releases oxytocin which is needed for breastfeeding, but also causes your uterus to cramp and shrink.

Isn’t nature amazing? This is important too because it will minimize the amount of bleeding and lessen the chance of postpartum hemorrhage.

This is why we give a shot of oxytocin after birth!

Tearing and Stitches

It’s a reality that most women tear after a vaginal birth. Most often it’s not a big tear and you will heal relatively quickly.

Your vagina is like your mouth.

You know when you bite the inside of your mouth? Don’t you find that it heals so quick that by the next day you’ve forgotten that it happened? Your mouth is very vascular (has a lot of blood vessels) and so does your vagina!

So yes, it sucks to tear but just know that usually, the discomfort won’t last long.

Here are some tips to deal with that discomfort:

  • Use a Sitz bath. This is a little basin that you fill with warm water and sit on. You can put Epsom salts in it as well and this helps aid the healing process.
  • Use the little spray bottle you got at the hospital and spray warm water down there while you pee. That way the urine won’t make it burn and sting!
  • Try to stay as active as possible. Movement gets the blood flowing which helps with healing.
  • Take your pain meds!
  • If you’re really sore you can use a donut pillow to sit on so there is less pressure on your stitches when you are sitting.
  • Make an ice-pad by soaking your pads in water and freezing them! You can do this in advance to have ready when you come home from the hospital.

Breast Changes and Breastfeeding 

Most women’s breasts grow a lot during pregnancy. This is because your body is getting ready to breastfeed!

Whether you are breastfeeding or not, you are going to experience some pain and discomfort when your milk comes in, which is usually on day 2-4. 

If you are not breastfeeding you can use frozen cabbage leaves on your breasts to decrease the swelling. Don’t express a lot of the milk because then your body will think you need to keep making milk!

There is SO much teaching that goes into breastfeeding. I really recommend that you prepare fully before your birth.

I wrote an eBook all about how to prepare for breastfeeding before birth which you can purchase right here! There is an eBook version and an audiobook version for the low price of $10!!

Be prepared and snag your eBook right now!!! Prepare for Breastfeeding During Pregnancy 

Also, you can take a breastfeeding class! Milkology is awesome! Use the code BABYTALK10 for a 10% discount. I love her courses so much.

I really cannot go into detail in this short blog post about breastfeeding, but you can read some more of my posts and get really prepared for your journey:

More from Babytalk about breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding Tips You Must Read Before Having Your Baby

24 Tips for Breastfeeding That You Absolutely Cannot Miss

Hand Expressing, Milk Collecting and Cup Feeding Using The kindestCup

The Magical Way to Increase Breast Milk Supply

Exercise in the Postpartum Period

The myth is that you shouldn’t exercise AT ALL until you get the all-clear from your doctor at 6 weeks.

There is no harm in doing some light exercises like walking and gentle yoga as soon as you feel ready. Actually it can be quite helpful in the postpartum period!

Any vigorous exercise should be avoided because that can increase your bleeding or aggravate your stitches, but you should definitely start some lighter exercises before that!

Talk to your provider when you are leaving the hospital about when you can start.

Exercise is more dependant on how you are feeling than some exact number of weeks!

Postpartum Emotions

You might get the baby blues, about 80% of women do.

You might feel teary one minute and elated the next. This is just because of the fluctuation of hormones in your body.

Learn more about postpartum depression right here! Postpartum Mental Health

If you are experiencing serious mood changes after the first week or 10 days then I would definitely recommend that you see a health care professional.

You really don’t want to suffer from serious depression or anxiety because this will hinder you from having positive postpartum experience.

Women who suffer from serious postpartum mental health issues have a harder time bonding with their newborns, and this will lead to more issues down the line. Get help right away if you feel your mood is off.

You can call you OBGYN or your family doctor. They will refer you to a specialist who might use talk therapy or medication or a combination of both.

It’s so important that you feel well so that your whole family can thrive!

Want to have a happy postpartum period? Read more here!

You’ll Be Awesome Mama

Well, that’s it! I hope you have an amazing postpartum period, it will really help you if you’re prepared!

Hit me up on Instagram (@babytalk.birthnurse) or send me an email if you want to chat more, I love hearing from you guys!

Oh, and please comment below on what your postpartum experience was like!

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About the Author

Hanna is passionate nurse and mama of four babies. Parenthood can be hard, but you don't have to do it alone. Hanna is here for you from pregnancy, to birth and beyond!

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