After having a baby, it’s inevitable that you will experience a number of physical and emotional changes, particularly in the early days. Understanding these changes and knowing how to cope with them will help you on your journey to postpartum recovery.
There a couple of things you should be focusing on after birth; your recovery and caring for your newborn. It’s easy to get distracted by other things at home, but by concentrating on your own wellbeing along with your newborn, you’ll find that you recover quicker. Listen to your body; slow down and rest if pain increases after a period of prolonged activity such as walking.
In the first few days after birth you may experience swollen feet, body aches, sore perineum and vagina, heavy bleeding, uterine cramps, night sweats and enlarged and tender breasts. Postpartum changes such as swelling, bleeding and body aches usually settle within a few days to a few weeks.
If you experience body aches and cramps in your uterus, using a warm pad pressed against the area may help. Body aches do settle down after a period of rest.
Many women complain of perineal soreness after birth. The extent to which you may experience will depend on the significance of any trauma to the perineum and vagina. You may be worried about peeing after birth as it might sting a little. A peri bottle filled with warm water, poured on the area as you pee works wonders in providing soothing relief. You may also want to try a post birth relief spray to bring some additional comfort.
As your milk increases in volume and the colostrum (first milk) changes into your main milk, you may find your breasts swell and engorge. This can also bring some discomfort. Wearing a well fitted bra and using a cold compress may help to reduce pain. Be sure to feed your baby regularly to avoid engorgement and reduce the risk of developing mastitis. Your breasts will eventually settle down when they start to regulate how much milk they produce. This can take a couple of weeks or so.
Another aspect of postpartum health to consider is emotional and mental wellbeing. Around 80% of women will experience some form of emotional change after the birth. Often this manifests itself in the form of the 'day 3 blues' but all too often is a lot worse. It's pretty normal a few days after birth to feel tearful, especially when you are exhausted from lack of sleep whilst trying to recover or have had a traumatic birth experience. For most women, this tearfulness resolves after a few days.
If you are feeling down, overwhelmed, tearful, run down, depressed, guilty, fearful, disinterested in daily events or just not quite yourself and its ongoing, be sure to talk to someone about it. That can be either someone close to you or your care provider. Postnatal depression and anxiety is common but women can recover from it if it's recognised and treated promptly.
Postpartum recovery can take some time so go easy on yourself. If you are concerned about any aspect of your healing journey, reach out to your midwife or GP for advice and support