What They Don't Tell You About Post Partum Recovery

Thursday, 8 December 2016
If you read my birth story, you'll know that I found labour a less than enjoyable experience to say the least. Don't get me wrong, I didn't expect it to be a walk in the park but when you've never experienced that kind of pain, it's impossible to imagine it and therefore it's pretty difficult to prepare for it. All the way through labour, I kept telling myself that it would be over soon. That's another contraction over, that's another centimetre dilated .. another step closer to the finish line. The minute Oliver was born, I remember thinking 'it's over!' and then feeling a bit hard done by when the doctor showed up to start my stitches. In my desperation, I actually asked her, 'is this the final painful thing before it's all over?' and she said yes. I'll be home tomorrow, I thought, and this pain will all be a distant memory...

I wasn't prepared in any way for the recovery. I didn't know there would be a 'recovery' - is that naive? No one mentioned it to me beforehand. At most, I thought I'd be a bit sore for a few days but in reality, it took a good two weeks before I felt anywhere near normal again. 

Now, let me just be clear - this post isn't meant to scare anyone. It's not a doom and gloom kind of post. In the same way that labour is openly discussed, I think we should discuss post partum recovery too. Just like labour, it happens. There's nothing you can do about it, but at least you'll know what to expect.

tips for after labour


1. Tears, grazes and stitches - If you're unlucky enough to have had any of these, the recovery can range from mildly painful to full blown torture. It's sore to walk, to sit and don't even get me started on the pee problems. You might have heard about how painful 'the first pee' is after you've had a baby - no one mentions that it continues to hurt like that for a good week at least. I was scared to pee, so despite my insane thirst (see point 3), I was scared to drink anything. The pain started to get a bit better around day 8 for me, and gradually got better over the next two weeks.
Tip: A bath with lavender or tea tree oil helps to soothe and heal the area. For the pee situation, cold baby wipes are your friend. Luckily you should have loads of these to hand.

2. Post-partum bleeding - Your body's emptying out all the contents of your womb from the last 9 months, so it's usually a lot more than just a normal period and, TMI alert, there can be a lot of clots too. Remember though, tampons are a no-go so soon after labour so maternity pads are the only option. They're basically nappies so at least you're twinning with baby!
Tip: Don't try and get by with normal pads, buy the proper maternity ones because chances are you will need them. If you're not used to wearing pads, make sure you have some proper underwear too. By proper underwear, I mean granny pants.

3. Losing the Water - You'll lose water in every way possible in the first few weeks after childbirth. If you thought the third trimester frequent toilet trips had subsided .. sorry, not quite yet. Expect to sweat a lot more than normal too. The good news is that you'll notice it on the scales - as your losing all that water, you lose weight quickly so you'll probably drop a lot in the first two weeks.
Tip: Wear deodorant (obviously) and change your clothes regularly. FYI - you'll probably be doing that anyway since you'll be covered in baby sick. Yay.

4. Exhaustion - seems obvious, doesn't it? I always thought that the exhaustion in the newborn days was because of the long nights awake with the baby. I didn't realise that you get no time whatsoever to recover from labour. You're thrown straight into it. I was given my bed around 10pm after labour, Andy was sent home and I spent the whole night looking after Oliver myself. I was delirious with tiredness - there's no power nap before motherhood. I can imagine this is even harder if you've had a section.
Tip: The cliche advice is to sleep when the baby sleeps but that's easier said that done. My tip is to make sure you're eating and drinking enough - it's easy to forget when you're so engrossed in looking after the baby. Take help from friends and family if it means you can get a nap every so often.

My biggest tip is to tell people how you're feeling. Post partum recovery isn't discussed a lot so most people won't be aware of how tough it can be and how rough you might be feeling. Personally, when I've went to visit new babies in the past, it didn't even cross my mind that the mum might still be in pain. Don't feel like you need to accept lots of visitors, or that you need to go out before you're ready. Take your time, set your own rules and remember it will get better eventually!

Did any of you have any surprises after labour? What was the worst part of your recovery? 


3 comments on "What They Don't Tell You About Post Partum Recovery"
  1. I completely agree post partum recovery isn't discussed enough at all. I had stitches as well and it was so sore, going to the toilet/sitting down/walking was so painful and if it wasn't for my other half taking the lead for the first two weeks I don't know what I would have done! On the other hand it's amazing how quickly the body heals and once you're through the first two weeks or so I found things got so much better. Wish this post had been around when I was due to give birth, I'm sure it will help lots of mummies to be :)

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    1. Yeah you're so right. I remember one day I woke up feeling so much better and it wasn't long afterwards that I felt back to normal. Like everything else that's difficult in the process (the pregnancy, the labour..), it all comes to an end, you get over it and you're left with a beautiful baby!x

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  2. Totally agree this should be spoken about more! I had an emergency section and took a very long time to feel back to normal. I know it sounds totally silly but got such a shock when I hadn't really thought through the fact that my husband would only be there for so long at the hospital with me and I would be on my own with baby all night etc! All to do with hormones but I was so emotional about it...! x

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