Birth RecoveryWhat to know
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:
BleedingNo matter how you deliver, there will be vaginal bleeding after birth. This postpartum bleeding is called “lochia”.
BreastfeedingBreastfeeding 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 sleepYour 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
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: