Even the world’s easiest pregnancy gets old by the time the eighth or ninth month rolls around. While you’re probably excited about delivering, it means you finally get to meet that beautiful baby that’s been kicking the crap out of your bladder for the past four months. It also means you can lean forward without running into your stomach, sleep on your back or your front or upside down if you want, and breathe without feeling your lungs getting smushed. Although all of those things are largely acceptable right off the bat, you do have to remember in the days after labor that you’re body has been through a lot, and you are not expected to return immediately to your pre-pregnancy self. In fact, most experts recommend taking at least six, if not eight, weeks before resuming your normal habits. Here’s a look at what to expect from your body in the weeks following labor and delivery.
Your Exhausted Mind
The most overwhelming sensation (aside from love, of course) you can expect to feel is exhaustion. Pregnancy is hard, and labor is harder, but it’s all worth it -- although, you will be worn out for a day or two. While you may not get a whole lot of sleep over the next month or so, the good news is most newborns spend about 17 hours a day sleeping, which means you can at least count on a few naps. The first few days is when babies generally sleep the most. You can expect to have a nurse or two popping in and out every few hours, but sleep when you can. Once you get home, sleep when your newborn sleeps -- and don’t be ashamed of it.
The Baby Blues
Sleep may be the most obvious feelings, but it certainly won’t be the only one. Many women experience the baby blues, a common if disconcerting sensation. Roughly three-quarters of the post-pregnant population tend to feel a little sad after giving birth. Most women notice a lot of mood swings as hormones settle back into place, not to mention sleep deprivation and the sudden demands of a newborn.
If these feelings of sadness and anxiety don’t get better (or get much worse), it’s possible you’re one of the 10% to 15% of women who suffer from postpartum depression. If this is the case, it’s important to seek help sooner rather than later. Focusing all your attention on your newborn is a normal part of new motherhood, but it’s imperative to remember to pay attention to yourself, as well.
Your Traitorous Body
Once Baby is out of your body, it seems like your body should belong to you again. Not being able to control your body the way you’d like can be frustrating, but getting back to normal can take at minimum about six weeks. Additionally, losing your pregnancy weight can take as long as it took to gain it in the first place. Women who give birth via cesarean section generally need even longer to get back to normal than vaginal deliveries.
Abdominal pain is another part of recovery. A little pain is normal -- your uterus went from the size of a watermelon back to its normal size and shape very quickly -- at least, mostly. As it shrinks back up, you may notice some twinges and tenderness. Discomfort, particularly accompanied by abnormal discharge, can be a sign that something isn’t healing right, so give your OB a call.
The Pain in Your Rear
A few other delights you can look forward to as a result of vaginal delivery include hemorrhoids, constipation, and a sore perineum.
Hemorrhoids, swollen and painful or itchy veins in the anal region, are a relatively common issue for pregnant women, and they may continue or grow worse after delivery. The muscles needed for childbirth include those in the vicinity of hemorrhoids. Furthermore, constipation is not uncommon following delivery, and this can make hemorrhoids worse. Take a stool softener for a few days, particularly to avoid having to push hard on an already sore area.
The perineum sometimes tears or needs to be cut during labor. Even without either of those things, it can be uncomfortable for a few days. Sit on an icepack, and spritz the area clean with water after you use the bathroom.
When it comes to recovering from childbirth, the most important thing to do is give yourself time to heal. Just because you expect your body to bounce back to normal by day three, doesn’t mean your body feels the same. Expect to spend at least six weeks taking it easy, which includes sleeping, eating well, staying hydrated, not lifting things heavier than your newborn. You should also follow any other instructions from your doctor.