Postpartum recovery is a crucial time for new mothers as their bodies heal and adjust to the changes that come with childbirth. It is essential to prioritise self-care during this period to promote physical and emotional well-being and ensure that your healing process after birth is safe, healthy and supports you while you balance recovery with the birth of your new baby.
It’s impossible to say enough about the benefits of adequate rest, and prioritising sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your healing. Adequate rest and sleep are vital for your body to recover from childbirth. Take advantage of moments when your baby sleeps to rest as well. Accept help from family and friends to lighten your responsibilities, allowing you to prioritise rest. Focus on your overall health and wellness by consuming a nutritious diet that supports your recovery and provides the energy you need. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals and stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day.
The benefits of exercising pre and post pregnancy are well-known, but it’s important to consult a healthcare provider about when it is safe to start exercising postpartum. Engaging in gentle exercises like walking or postnatal yoga can help restore your strength and improve your mood, and if exercise was part of your routine prior to pregnancy it can help you feel like you are getting some normalcy back into your life. Listen to your body and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to suit your lifestyle and mood.
You may also want to consider practising pelvic floor exercises, as strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is important after childbirth. Perform pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) regularly to aid in recovery and prevent issues like urinary incontinence. Research and speak to friends and family members for advice on technique and specific exercises you can perform.
Self-care and prioritising time for yourself to do things you enjoy couldn’t be more important during your postpartum journey, but it’s important to be realistic about the things you can do safely. Whether you need downtime, alone time or just to engage in something relaxing and enjoyable, consider enjoying a warm bath, reading a book, practicing relaxation techniques, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.
Whatever postpartum looks like for you, be patient with yourself and your body and accept support and guidance from those closest to you.
After a vaginal birth, your body will go through a period of recovery and adjustment. Some women find they recover quickly and can focus on the challenges of motherhood soon after their birth, while others take longer to heal. Either way, the birth process is physically and mentally draining, so protecting your postnatal health is crucial.
A variety of physical changes will happen to your body after a vaginal birth, and a noticeable one that all women experience is vaginal discharge. This vaginal discharge is called lochia and in the first few days it will be bright red and heavy, resembling a heavy menstrual flow. Over time, it will become lighter in colour and flow. It can last for up to six weeks, and using sanitary pads is recommended during this time for your comfort and hygiene.
If you had a vaginal tear or episiotomy during childbirth, you may experience soreness and discomfort in the perineal area. Applying ice packs or warm compresses, taking pain relievers (if approved by your healthcare provider), and practicing good hygiene can help with the healing process.
You’ve probably noticed your breasts have changed significantly throughout the course of your pregnancy, and the changes will continue postpartum too! After childbirth, your breasts will go through changes as they start producing milk and they may feel swollen, tender, or engorged. Frequent breastfeeding or pumping can help relieve the discomfort and establish milk supply.
After giving birth, you will also experience contractions known as afterpains as your uterus contracts back to its pre-pregnancy size. These contractions can be more noticeable during breastfeeding and are more common for women who have had multiple pregnancies.
The physical changes can be a challenge, but for many women it’s the emotional impact of birth that is important to address on their journey through postpartum healing.
New motherhood brings with it a set of unique joys and challenges, and because your hormones will continue to fluctuate after your birth, you may suffer from mood swings, baby blues, or postpartum depression. It's important to seek support, communicate your feelings, and reach out to your healthcare provider if you're experiencing prolonged feelings of sadness or anxiety.
Feelings of exhaustion and fatigue are also extremely common as you adjust to the round-the-clock care requirements of your new baby, so be sure to steal any available opportunities to rest and practise any self-care strategies that help you.
A caesarean section (C-section) birth is a major operation and usually takes longer to recover from in comparison to a vaginal birth.
You will likely spend a couple of days in the hospital to ensure proper healing and receive care. The initial recovery period at home can last several weeks, with a gradual return to normal activities. It’s important to make yourself aware of what to expect from your postpartum journey to ensure that your recovery is as comfortable and quick as possible, allowing you to get back to taking care of your little bundle of joy.
Pain and discomfort are normal and will vary from woman to woman, but tenderness and pain around the incision site are common. Your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medication to manage the discomfort. Follow their instructions on medication usage and care for the incision area, such as keeping it clean and dry, dressing and bathing the site of the wound.
Your body will go through postpartum changes, like those after vaginal birth. You may experience vaginal bleeding (lochia), breast engorgement as your milk comes in, and hormonal shifts. These changes are a normal part of the postpartum period and will gradually subside. Speak to your midwife if you have any concerns. As is to be expected after any major operation, you will need to avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting to allow your body to heal. Your healthcare provider will advise you on specific restrictions and when it is safe to resume normal activities but take the opportunity to enjoy daytime with your new baby and family.
Practice self-care safely by catching up on your favourite shows, reading or even practising breathing exercises while seated. Motherhood is a rewarding and unique journey, but some women find the experience of a c-section to be emotionally challenging. You may experience a range of emotions, including joy, relief, sadness, or disappointment. It’s important to recognise that your emotions are normal and valid, so lean into support from your partner or loved one and accept any help that is offered to you.
Caring for a new baby after major surgery will always be a challenge, so don’t feel guilty for relying on those around you in the days, weeks and even months after your c-section. Be sure to keep in contact with your hospital about your postpartum check up, this visit allows your provider to assess the incision healing, discuss your contraception options, and provide guidance on resuming sexual activity