Recovery After Birth
After you’ve made and delivered a human your body has to recover. It’s time to take care of yourself as well as your baby.
At a glance
All those changes in diet and hormone levels can affect your bowel movements after birth
Your breasts will get bigger and more tender as they start producing milk
Pelvic floor exercises should help if you find yourself having little ‘accidents’
If you’ve had a C-section take it easy and try not to lift more than your baby
A lot of changes have happened over the last 40 weeks or so. When it comes to recovery after birth it might take a while before you feel completely yourself – it’s often normal to feel a bit sore and very tired.
Your body after birth
You might not know this, but it’s not uncommon to look about five (or more) months pregnant shortly after giving birth. Your skin might be a bit loose and your tummy a funny shape for a while, but it’s common for this to happen while your organs take time to go back to their normal places.
Your breasts will probably be a bit bigger than before as they’re getting into milk-making mode. If you start breastfeeding you can expect them to get quite full and firm and even change shape. Nipple cream can help and if things get really sore then cabbage leaves in the bra are a surprising boobsaver – keep the cabbages in the fridge to feel even more soothing relief. Also, a well fitted and supportive feeding bra is a must.
You might find you’re weeing regularly, and it’s not unusual to have some accidents when you sneeze or laugh. Don’t reduce your water intake if this happens – it’s normal, and it’s important to drink plenty so you stay hydrated. Try and get on those pelvic floor exercises before birth and then afterwards too. The NHS has a really helpful app called Squeezy for this.
If you’ve had a vaginal birth then soreness here is a given. You may have had stitches and you’re more than likely feeling tender down there. Try a lavender bath to ease the pain. Pour a little milk in a glass and add three or four drops of lavender oil. Then add it to a warm bath. It won’t heal you but it will soothe you a bit. Ask your midwife beforehand if it’s ok to do this as, depending on what kind of stitches you have, it might not be advisable at first. Another pro-tip to help with your recovery after birth is to get a post-natal donut-shaped pillow to keep the pressure off your sore bits.
You may have more to show for your labour than just a beautiful baby. While it can be unpleasant it’s very common to have haemorrhoids for a few days following all that pushing. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your midwife or doctor about this; they’ve seen it before, more than you think. Try and eat healthy high-fibre foods for a while such as muesli or whole wheat bread and pasta.
On a similar note… You may end up constipated due to a number of reasons. Pain relief, prenatal vitamins that contain more than 30mg of iron, and C-sections can all lead to an uncomfortable time after birth. Try to get active, drink lots of water and get some fibre in your diet. Talk to your midwife if you need further help.
It’s not usual but, because of your fluctuating hormone levels, medications, or anxiety, you may have an upset tummy after birth. Speak to your doctor if you’re worried and don’t forget to rehydrate as there’s bound to be some fluid loss.
It takes at least six weeks to recover from a C-section. You will be told to take it easy after the birth. As a general rule they say you shouldn’t lift more than your baby’s weight. Post C-section you also won’t be driving for a while so have visitors come to you if they can. Make sure you master the side-roll in and out of bed, it’s a lifesaver. Well, it’s a stitch-saver anyway. Your midwife will be able to help you.
Baby blues and postnatal depression
It’s not just physical aftercare that you should think about, mental health care is just as important to your recovery after birth. About 80% of mums go through baby blues shortly after birth while some experience postnatal depression in the first year. Talking to family and friends helps, but if you’re worried speak to your midwife or a healthcare professional. If you’re looking for more info you can read about postnatal depression and baby blues here.
In terms of after-birth care, there are lots of things you can do to take longer-term care of yourself. You can be prepared for the immediate (straight after birth) aftercare by getting a few bits you’ll need in advance. See our helpful advice on things you could pack in your hospital bags here.