03.24.22 6 min read

4 Things People Don’t Tell You About Postpartum (But Should)

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After you give birth, you may think the hardest part of pregnancy for your body is over.  But there are still physical and lifestyle changes you’ll experience after bringing your baby home as part of postpartum recovery.

Not all parts of postpartum are discussed regularly. It can be easy to think you’re doing something wrong or being a bad mom if it isn’t smooth sailing. However, all parents experience challenges and adjustments after their new baby arrives.  

Keep reading to learn about 4 things people may not have told you about postpartum recovery. 

1.  It takes time for your body to recover.

Your body goes through significant changes from the time you conceive until delivery. And your body doesn’t immediately recover after labor. It takes time to heal from the changes that may happen while delivering.

Vaginal tears

Most women discuss that the pain of labor is worth it in the end. While people discuss the pain that can happen, most new mothers don’t discuss things like vaginal tearing. If the baby’s head is larger than the vagina is able to stretch, a tear can happen in the vagina, cervix, or labia. The tear may need to be closed with stitches to help stop bleeding and aid healing.  

You may have a higher risk for tears if (1):

  • Baby’s weighs more than 8 pounds 12 ounces
  • Baby’s head circumference is more than 35 centimeters
  • Family history of pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Vacuum extraction delivery 

Postpartum bleeding and period changes

Postpartum bleeding can linger for longer than you may expect. For the first few days after delivery, it’s normal to see some blood clots and bright red blood discharge. The hospital will provide you with a higher-grade pad to protect your clothing. Later you should be able to switch to a standard pad. 

Within 1-2 weeks, you’ll notice the postpartum bleeding lessens as your body heals. You may experience light bleeding and spotting for up to 6 weeks after delivery. It’s recommended to only use pads during this time because other types of menstrual products could interfere with healing and may lead to an infection. 

It’s normal during this time to experience an increase in spotting and light bleeding when you move more. So if you take your baby for a walk or stand for a while, it could be a good idea to wear a pad in case you have some light bleeding. 

Postpartum bleeding isn’t the same thing as your period. If you’re not breastfeeding, your period could return as early as 6-8 weeks after giving birth. 

Mothers who are breastfeeding likely won’t get their period back until much later. This is because the hormones produced during breastfeeding usually delay the return of normal menstrual cycles. 

Exclusive breastfeeding could delay the return of your period for 6 to 18 months. When your period returns depend on how your body reacts to the hormones and when you start weaning.

And it’s important to remember that while it’s less likely to become pregnant while breastfeeding, it can still happen. Your period and ovulation could return at any point while breastfeeding, so it can make family planning more challenging. 

Also, breastfeeding can limit the contraceptives available to you. Contraceptives containing estrogen can lower the amount of breastmilk you make, so you may have to wait before taking your usual birth control method. There are still several progestin-only or non-hormonal birth control options available. Talk with your healthcare provider about which may be the best fit for you. 

2.  Getting your fitness level back can be tough. 

It’s normal for your body to change during and after pregnancy. There can be a lot of pressure to immediately look like you didn’t have a baby. Try not to be discouraged if it takes time to regain strength and lose the weight gained during pregnancy. 

The important part is to eat a nutritious diet to support your body’s healing, energy levels, and nutrition needs if you’re breastfeeding. Try to eat a balance of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. 

And it’s equally important to move your body and exercise. Talk with your healthcare provider about when you can begin exercising again. Most of the time, you can resume light exercises like walking within a few days after an uncomplicated delivery. But more intense workouts, like weight lifting, running, and sit-ups, you may have to wait 6-12 weeks after childbirth.

Try to be patient with yourself when you start your workouts again. It’s normal to want to pick back up where you left off with the same weight or running distance. But during pregnancy and childbirth, your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles become stretched and weakened. It can take time to rebuild your strength after having a baby.

Sometimes it may be helpful to get help in regaining strength, especially for your pelvic floor muscles. Weakened pelvic floor muscles after childbirth can lead to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. 

So, if you’re experiencing your bladder leaking or peeing a little while sneezing, coughing, or jumping, you may want to consider seeing a pelvic floor therapist. A 2019 clinical trial found pelvic floor exercises helped reduce urinary incontinence in postpartum women (2).

While seeing a pelvic floor specialist, they’ll teach you exercises to help improve muscle strength and prevent leakage. 

3.  Breastfeeding has its challenges.

You may picture breastfeeding being a simple and easy process. One where milk supply comes in quickly and your baby latches perfectly for feedings. But there is a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding, for both you and your baby.

One survey found that about 70% of mothers experienced difficulties with breastfeeding, like (3):

  • Cracked nipples
  • Low milk supply
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Latching problems 

You don’t have to figure it out on your own. Lactation consultants can help troubleshoot the challenges you’re having and support you. New mom and breastfeeding support groups can help answer your questions and support you while navigating breastfeeding challenges.

4.  Postpartum mental health challenges are common.

Around 50% of mothers experience sadness and mood changes within the first few weeks after childbirth (4). The postpartum blues also called “baby blues”, are a low mood and mild depression symptoms that develop a few days after childbirth. Typically, these go away on their own about 2 weeks after the symptoms start.

For some people, these symptoms can progress to postpartum depression. It can be challenging to ask for help with your mental health after having a baby. Some women feel guilty that they’re feeling sadness after giving birth because it’s expected to be a joyful time. 

But it can be both a happy and beautiful experience, while also being challenging for your mental health. So having challenges with your mental health doesn’t have to take away from the joyful experience. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for support. Local in-person and virtual support groups are also available to offer more social support from other parent’s going through similar experiences. 

Bottom line

The postpartum period is full of excitement, joy, and challenges. Often the challenges are the least talked about, and sometimes it could feel like you’re the only one facing those.  But just because you haven’t heard about it doesn’t mean you’re the only one experiencing it. 


Looking for postpartum care? Check out Zaya Care to book online with in-network lactation consultants, dietitians, physical therapists, mental health therapists, acupuncturists, and more.


References

1. Jansson MH, Franzén K, Hiyoshi A, Tegerstedt G, Dahlgren H, Nilsson K. Risk factors for perineal and vaginal tears in primiparous women – the prospective POPRACT-cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2020;20(1):749. Published 2020 Dec 2. doi: 10.1186/s12884-020-03447-0. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7709229/ 

2. Sigurdardottir T, Steingrimsdottir T, Geirsson RT, Halldorsson TI, Aspelund T, Bø K. Can postpartum pelvic floor muscle training reduce urinary and anal incontinence?: An assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020;222(3):247.e1-247.e8. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2019.09.011. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31526791/ 

3. Gianni ML, Bettinelli ME, Manfra P, et al. Breastfeeding Difficulties and Risk for Early Breastfeeding Cessation. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2266. Published 2019 Sep 20. doi:10.3390/nu11102266 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835226/ 

4. Balaram K, Marwaha R. Postpartum Blues. [Updated 2022 Feb 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554546/