The Postpartum Experience: Physical Recovery

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Many families struggle to understand what the postpartum period will look like. That is understandable. They have no frame of reference. Even if friends or family have had babies before them and discussed it, the experience of each family will be unique.

Hollywood does no do expectant families any favours either. Movies, TV shows, and popular culture would have new parents believe that the postpartum period will be either idyllic or a nightmare. The truth, like most things, probably falls somewhere in between.

In this six part blog series, we are going to explore all the different aspects of the postpartum recovery. This series will cover vaginal birth, caesarean birth, your emotional recovery, a partners experience, the sibling experience, and how to have a better postpartum experience.

 

The stigma surrounding discussions of the postpartum period often leave people confused or overwhelmed. They can occasionally dismiss symptoms of problems because they assume that pain or discomfort is normal. Here we will discuss what some normal aspects of recovery from vaginal birth can look like.

 

Locia is the bleeding associated with the period after birth. What starts as heavy, bright red, bleeding with large clots, will taper to pink and then light brown bleeding over the first few days. Light bleeding will continue for several weeks following the birth of a child. Small clots, especially after breastfeeding, are normal.

 

It is common to be surprised by after pains; people assume that once the baby is born labour will be over. Those immediate hours are a shock, especially as after pains often become more painful with each pregnancy. Even more people assume that having a caesarean, especially a scheduled one, will save them from the after pains. However, as after pains are the uterus contracting to its pre-pregnancy size, they will occur regardless of how your baby is born.

 

Hot flashes and sweating are also normal for many individuals. It can be a result of hormone fluctuations. It can also be worse for individuals who received IV fluids during labour. IV fluids can also cause swelling of the extremities as the water is retained. Sweating is the body getting rid of excess fluid that accumulated during birth.

Breast and nipple pain is also common, especially in those who are breastfeeding. While prolonged pain is not normal with breastfeeding, some initial discomfort is. Many individuals also experience discomfort during “let down”. Prolonged or agonizing pain is a reason to see help from a lactation consultant.

 

For some people, the hardest part of recovering from childbirth is learning to embrace their new postpartum body. It takes time for the belly to shrink and go back to pre-pregnancy size. It can take time to lose the weight gained during pregnancy, and to fit back into your old clothes.

Remember to be gentle with yourself. Regardless of how your baby arrives, the days and weeks after having a baby are a time of healing and self-care. Use this time to get to know your baby and yourself as a new parent

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