Birth Recovery

What to know

Recovery after birth is highly individual and depends on many factors. For example, did you give birth vaginally or with a c-section? Is your baby sleeping well at night, and is breastfeeding going well? This article may answer some of your questions about postpartum recovery.

How long does it take to recover after childbirth?


After having a baby – particularly if it is your first – just attending to the needs of the newborn can be hectic. Alongside this, you might be breastfeeding, and you also need to recover from the birth.

Things that can affect your postpartum recovery include:

Bleeding

No matter how you deliver, there will be vaginal bleeding after birth. This postpartum bleeding is called “lochia”.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding will usually become easier over time but, in the short term, your breasts can be uncomfortably full and your nipples sore. Over time, the nipples “toughen up” and the tenderness settles.

Lack of sleep

Your baby will usually wake throughout the night and disturb your sleep, making you tired. A useful tip is to grab a nap during the day when the baby is having their day-time sleep.

Pain from vaginal birth

After a vaginal birth, there will be pain from any vaginal tearing or an episiotomy. You can usually control this with simple pain relief. The pain normally settles quickly, becoming noticeably better every day. That said, recovery time after vaginal birth may be several weeks depending on how bad the injury was.

Pain from c-section birth

The obvious source of pain after caesarean delivery is the c-section scar. This pain is usually well controlled, and women are often surprised at how small a problem it is. The recovery time after c-section varies for each person.

 

What to expect after giving birth?


Bleeding after childbirth | Perth  birth recovery

Bleeding after childbirth


Here are some common questions about postpartum bleeding:

How long can bleeding take?

The blood loss after delivery usually lasts weeks, as the site in the uterus where the placenta was attached heals. The blood gradually changes from bright to dark, then a brown discharge, before becoming yellow. It often smells bad.

Is there always bleeding?

There is always a loss, but the amount and duration varies a lot. For some, it lasts as little as a week or two, while for others it can last for more than eight weeks. It is commonly less and shorter after caesarean section, but may also be more intermittent with sudden gushes of loss after several days with none.

What is the bleeding like?

The colour changes slowly over time, from bright red to dark, to brown, to yellow.

How much bleeding is normal?

The loss is usually heavy, more than a usual period, but it decreases over time. After a couple of weeks, it is usually light.

When to see a doctor?

Infection can occur, and will commonly present with increased bleeding. The signs of infection are an increasing loss, often associated with pain and fever. After your discharge from hospital, you can always talk to a midwife at St Mary's at any time if you are concerned about infection or postpartum haemorrhage.

I have given birth. When is it safe to...


After childbirth, you may wonder when you can resume these normal activities:

Have intercourse

You can have intercourse after delivery whenever you like. It is important to note that it is normal to be disinterested. This is mainly because you may be tired and more focused on the baby.

The timing relates to your delivery. If there was tearing or an episiotomy, intercourse is usually uncomfortable before around six weeks. Even then, it is important to be gentle. Intercourse can be surprisingly sore after a c-section, particularly if you are breastfeeding. This is related to the low oestrogen state, which makes the vaginal skin dry and sensitive.

Exercise

You can exercise how and when you like. Let your body tell you what you can do and, if it is uncomfortable, back off. In general, exercise is good after childbirth.

If you have had a significant pelvic floor injury, it's best to avoid heavy weight bearing for about six weeks, but walking is just fine.

During a c-section, the abdomen is opened in a way that makes it immediately strong, but still sore. That means you can do any activity safely, pain being the only limiting factor.

Drive

You can drive when you feel comfortable to. This will vary with the individual.

If you are slow to respond to an emergency braking situation because of pain or medications, do not drive. You can test this out: Sit in a stationary car and go from accelerator to brake as quickly as you can. If you are slowed down due to pain, do not drive. If your capacity to control a car is the same as always, you can drive.

Work

The main limitation to working is the demands of looking after a new baby. You may be tired and restricted by the need to feed. Within those limits, you can go back to work at any time.

With a flexible work environment — and particularly if you have flexible hours or remote access — that can be very early. Do not set too-high expectations of yourself, but also do not set them too low.

Being a mother is a wonderful thing. However, if you are used to working, an early and limited return to a baby-friendly workplace may feel right for you.

Birth recovery healing tips

Pain medication can be a great help after birth. Using it early and regularly will allow you to cope with the demands of motherhood better, so I advise not being a hero. The best way to look after your baby is to look after yourself.


Pain relief

Your body activates pain pathways, concentrating on areas that cause pain, resulting in pain amplification. If you can preempt this pain amplification by controlling the pain well from the outset, you will experience less pain overall.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the optimum method of feeding your baby, with many studies showing health benefits. Feeding becomes easy over time and, just when you think it has become easy, it gets even easier.

However, it starts out hard for most women, especially over the first few days. It gets even harder when the breast fill and the nipples become sore. On top of that, you are often tired, and you may hit the “baby blues” a few days after delivery. It takes support and commitment to get through this stage.

It is difficult — and sometimes insurmountably difficult. Artificial feeding is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Many women experience an amount of grief and guilt if they do not succeed at breastfeeding. If you have tried your best, that is all you can do.

Nutrition (for mum)

Your appetite may increase while feeding. Your capacity to engage in normal household activities, including food preparation, can be limited by time constraints.

There is no particular diet that offers any particular advantages. A well-balanced, healthy diet is encouraged, but that is true at all times, not just after giving birth.

While feeding, the demands on your iron stores continue, so if they were low, iron supplementation remains important.

Contraception

When you resume intercourse, pregnancy can occur.

Breastfeeding can be a good contraceptive. While feeding, your menstrual cycle is suppressed — typically, there are no periods for months. The duration is extremely variable, and it is possible for the periods to return early. Two weeks before your first period, an egg will be released.

Unless you are happy to conceive again, I recommend an additional form of contraception. A condom is always an option. When breastfeeding, the combination pill is not recommended, as the oestrogen in the pill can — in theory — suppress milk supply. Microlut, a low dose progesterone-only pill, is commonly used.

Postnatal depression

Having babies is an amazing, wonderful thing. However, women often find that the reality of child rearing is a lot harder than anticipated.

New mums are commonly tired because of sleep disturbance at night. Being chronically tired can lead to a state that is difficult to distinguish from depression. In addition, the baby can become all-consuming, and one's self-identity can be challenged.

Postpartum depression can be difficult. I have a few tips to help deal with the early post-natal time:

Teach your baby to sleep, especially at night

Your baby needs to be taught that daytime is light, noise, play, and cuddles. Night time is feed, change, and bed. If you send this message constantly, your baby will learn the difference and build a routine. If the baby sleeps better, you will sleep better and be more able to cope.

Get out of the house

Babies are portable, especially when they are small! Put them in a stroller and get outside. You can go for a walk to the shops, to your favourite local place, or to visit friends or family. It will lift your spirit and, as a bonus, the baby will find the movement in the stroller very relaxing and will sleep.

Engage with friends and family

Social interaction, and a chance to vent, listen, and share is good for the soul. Mothers groups, friends, and family can provide this.

Work

This is not always an option and not for everyone. Re-engaging with what was an important part of your identity before the baby can be beneficial for some.
It is very possible to develop a state of clinical depression. Commonly, it takes months to develop. Evidence suggests that markers can be identified during the pregnancy, and so we do some routine screening during the pregnancy and at the post-partum visit.
C-Section Perth WA |Dr Chris Nichols

How Dr Chris Nichols can help you


I have been through this process with many women countless times — including with my wife and our four children. I bring this vast and personal experience to help you through this journey.
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Dr Chris Nichols Obstetrician - Gynaecologist - Fertility Specialist Perth

Dr Chris Nichols

MBBS FRANZCOG
I deliver babies at SJOG Murdoch Hospital and have gynaecology theatre lists at both Murdoch and South Perth Hospital. With the help of Fertility Specialists of WA, I established the first fertility clinic south of the river, Fertility Specialists South, located in Applecross.
Elaine McCann Practice Midwife

Elaine McCann

Practice Midwife
I have been a midwife for over 30 years and worked with Dr Chris Nichols for more than 20 years, initially on the maternity unit at SJOG Murdoch Hospital where I still work as a clinical midwife part time and more recently as his practice midwife.
Ruth McCloskey Practice Nurse

Margaret Browne

Practice Secretary
I have known and worked as a practice secretary with Dr Chris Nichols for over 20 years at SJOG Murdoch Hospital. It is an enjoyable workplace and our aim is to provide a professional and caring experience for our patients.
Ruth McCloskey Practice Nurse

Ruth McCloskey

Practice Nurse
As a practice nurse I have worked at several hospitals and clinics around Perth including SJOG Murdoch Hospital. I enjoy assisting Dr Nichols with minor procedures in the rooms.