The First Six Weeks Postpartum: Physical Recovery
Coming home with your newborn baby is an exciting and scary time. Whether you’re a first-time parent or a well-traveled expert, there is a lot to consider when it comes to your own recovery. As a postpartum and infant care doula, what I often see with my clients is that the reality does not match up to the expectation.
If you’ve been extremely active before and during your pregnancy, you may be surprised at the sudden changes to your body. While it takes about 40 weeks to slowly work your way up to being full-term, and all of the changes that come along with that, the changes after your baby is born can be much more drastic and unexpected, so let’s talk about that.
EXPECTATION: Back into my old jeans!
REALITY: While you very well may be among the genetically gifted few that can do this, often, it is simply not the case. The jeans may fit, but everything isn’t necessarily back in the “right” place yet. You may find that they go on, but they are tight. The large postpartum pads you’ll be wearing aren’t going to fit
EXPECTATION: I can’t wait to breathe, move, sleep on my stomach again!
REALITY: The breathing will definitely get better, and probably improved a little before the birth of your baby. Movement is improved, but give yourself grace. Depending on how your birth went, how long it was, and the many different positions you worked through, you’re very likely to be sore! Tired achy muscles and joints can be common. Clients often say “I feel like I got hit by a bus!” If you had a cesarean birth, whether it was planned, or comes after any amount of laboring, you will need to let your body heal from abdominal surgery. A vaginal birth doesn’t necessarily mean no pain. Be prepared for vaginal soreness, swelling and stitches that can make moving around difficult. If you had fluids during your labor or birth, you may find it takes a while for that extra swelling to go down. Postpartum contractions to get your uterus back down to its new normal size may make stomach sleeping uncomfortable for a while. Talk to your provider about medications that are safe to take and plan to rest a lot for the first several weeks.
EXPECTATION: My body belongs to me again!
REALITY: Newborn babies require around-the-clock care and attention. While it only lasts a little while, be prepared to have your little one with you around the clock. Breast and bottle-fed babies need to be fed often, and both come with their own set of exhausting challenges. When they are not being fed or changed, they want and need to be held. They are recovering from a big event themselves and it is a lot of work to adjust to being on the outside. Newborn babies sleep quite a bit the first few weeks. Take advantage of it, not by getting chores done, but by resting (even if you can’t sleep) when baby sleeps. Whether you decide to breastfeed or not, there are a lot of uncontrolled hormones running through your body and your breasts may be sore and leak. Make sure you have a plan in place to get yourself comfortable. Whether you’ve had a vaginal or cesarean birth, most clients are surprised by the lochia after birth. It will be like a heavy period for the first several days and is a whole other physical issue to deal with, along with recovering from birth, adjusting to a new routine and caring for a newborn around the clock. Get help from a professional postpartum and infant care doula. They are trained and experienced in helping families adjust and take care of themselves when a new baby arrives.
What Our Experts Are Saying
Insights, recommendations, and advice for parents balancing babies and the blues from the doctors, subject matter experts and thought leaders in the Modern Parent Project community.
What to Do?
Direct, straightforward and summarized advice and recommendations. Parents, please consider the following insights when navigating the challenging topic of postpartum blues and moods.
What NOT to Do?
The wrong words or actions can sometimes make things worse. Parents, please consider avoiding the following potential traps when navigating the challenging topic of postpartum blues and moods.
Speak openly with your doctor about what you are experiencing.
It's important to speak openly with your healthcare professional regarding how you are feeling. Though not normal, postpartum mood disorders are very common and you are not alone.
Create a support system who will be there for your through your experience of postpartum mood disorder.
Share how you are feeling with the people you are close to. These people will help make up your support team and will be an integral part to your recovery.
Seek Counseling with someone who specializes in or has worked with postpartum mood disorders.
Having a postpartum mood disorder can be a scary and bewildering experience. Talking with a trained professional who understands your situation will be paramount in your recovery.
Don't keep your feelings to yourself.
It's important that you share your feelings with both your doctor and your loved ones.
Don't think that you are alone in your struggle.
Postpartum mood disorders are not normal, but they are common, and you do not have to suffer in silence.
Don't believe the lie that you are a bad mom.
Having a postpartum mood disorder does not make you a bad mom. You are struggling with a real illness that is treatable.
Rather speak with a specialist? Click here and let's get you scheduled for a confidential phone or video chat.
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