Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What to Expect: Recovering from Labor and Delivery

Me  after our daughter was born - December 2012
DISCLAIMER: This post is going to cover some of the more graphic aspects of giving birth.

People tend to gloss over certain aspects of having a baby. It comes from a good place. I mean, no woman that has had a baby wants to utterly terrify a woman who is about to have a baby. But I always want to be informed as possible. And I would have wanted some one to tell me what I'm about to tell you.

Delivering a baby is hard on your body. Yes, it is a "natural" process, but it is FAR from being an easy process. Although, my hope is that reading this article will make it a little easier for you.


Heavy Bleeding - It will be heavier than a period and will contain both clots and tissue. The discharge is called lochia (LOH-kee-uh) and contains the tissue and blood that lined your uterus. This can last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks after giving birth. 

You can NOT use tampons during this time because it could introduce bacteria and cause an infection. My suggestion is to use depends (Yes - adult diapers. Trust me!) until the bleeding lightens and switch to regular pads.

Cramps - These are also called "After Pains". Your uterus still has to contract back to it's normal size (About the size of a grapefruit) and that's what is happening when you feel the cramping. It is shrinking in size and getting rid of the uterine lining (see above).

Hemorrhoids - These are fairly common and usually go away after a few weeks. I will be honest. I couldn't tell you whether or not I had them. My daughter was "sunny side up" and that alone was so painful that I really couldn't tell you what all was going on down there.

Constipation or Hesitancy to Go - Although common, I personally didn't have constipation (that may be because I took the stool softener that they offered me in the hospital before it was an issue) but even without constipation, you may feel hesitant to go. The hemorrhoids, episiotomy, and general pain you feel might make you less than enthusiastic about that first bowel movement.

Incontinence - Because of the stretching that occurred in your muscles during delivery, you may have trouble holding your urine in when you laugh, cough, sneeze, etc. Though, doing Kegel exercises will help to reduce that.

Episiotomy or Tearing - Your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) may have either been cut or torn and in that case you will need stitches. Those stitches might be painful for a few weeks after delivery

Sex - There is starting to be some debate about this now, but it is generally believed that you should not have sex at all for 6 weeks. At that time you will have a follow up appointment with your doctor and they will tell you whether or not it is safe to resume having sex. 

C-Section Recovery - If you have a C-Section you may not experience some of the symptoms above (such as hemorrhoids, incontinence, or episiotomy) unless you have a Trial of Labor first. However, you will have a different recovery to deal with. You will (at least in my experience) heal a lot slower and feel more sore. It will be harder to get around and will probably need more help than if you didn't have a C-Section.


Sore Breasts - You will feel your milk come in which will cause a burning like sensation (for me, it still happens every time I need to feed and my daughter is about 5 weeks old). Your breasts will also be hard/engorged at times - especially if you miss a feeding.

Sore Nipples - Your nipples may hurt (A lot!) after you start breast feeding. To help ease the pain you can either rub breast milk or lanolin cream on them and be sure to air dry them after each feeding.

Your Hair May Shed - Remember all of those hormones during pregnancy that made your hair super thick? Well your hormone levels are starting to level off now, so your hair won't stay so thick. Don't worry. It's normal.

Hot and Cold Flashes - Because your body is adjusting to new hormones and blood flow, you may be roasting one minute and freezing the next.

Weight - Your postpartum weight should be anywhere between 12-15 pounds less than your full term weight. And if you gained the recommended 25-30 pounds, you will have only lost about half of the pregnancy weight after giving birth. Don't worry. You can lose the extra weight with diet and exercise (and breastfeeding will speed up the weight loss!)


Stay Hydrated - Make sure to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day!

Rest - I know this is hard, but sleep when the baby does and ask for help! Get someone else to do those dishes or pick up the living room!

Take Your Time Recovering - Don't lift heavy objects, use stairs, or even drive until your doctor gives you the OK - if at all possible.

Shower Daily - It will help prevent any infections and just kind of make you feel better all around.

Don't Feel Alone - If you are feeling bad, sad, mad, glad -- whatever! -- for any reason... talk to other moms about it. And if you feel like you are the only one to ever feel that way? Then it's even more important to talk about it!! Because chances are that you are NOT the only one. 

  • Have a fever 100.4 or above
  • Use more than one pad an hour
  • Have increased bleeding or clots
  • Have redness/swelling at incision site
  • Have pain/swelling/tenderness
  • Have hot/red/bleeding nipples
  • Experience painful urination
  • Have increased vaginal pain
  • Experience vomiting
  • Start feeling depressed or suicidal
Remember - I am NOT a doctor. Please seek help if you need it.

If you haven't had your baby yet, also see What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much! I was kind of nervous to write it, but I did it BECAUSE most people don't talk about it. I think it's too bad that we kind of romanticize pregnancy and birth. I feel like that makes women have unrealistic expectations and they will be shocked (or even worse: feel like they are abnormal or did it wrong) because they had never heard any of these things before hand! Which is a shame, because it is still a wonderful process... just not "movie" wonderful. Real Life Wonderful.