Postpartum care refers to the care you get immediately after childbirth. The first few six weeks will require a lot of adjustment! You’ll be riding a rollercoaster of hormones and dealing with a lack of sleep while your body heals, you learn to breastfeed, and you adjust to life with a baby. Working with a midwife will help you navigate this crazy new world.
Birth is a normal part of life, but labor and delivery take a lot of energy, so will take a while for your body to regroup. Here at Birds & Bees Midwifery, we specialize in helping moms with natural births, whether that’s at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital. Before we go any further, we just want to let you know this blog will focus on recovery after a vaginal delivery.
A 2014 study, conducted by a group of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, found that a lack of knowledge about postpartum health and a lack of preparation for the postpartum experience were having a negative impact on the wellbeing of American mothers. The best way to improve this, they found, was through better education.
With that in mind, we’re going to answer a five FAQs to help you learn what to expect.
Have questions about postpartum care? We’re happy to help.
How long does it take to heal after giving birth?
The first question most new moms ask after a vaginal delivery is how quickly it will take the body to heal. As a general rule, it’s normal for your vagina and perineum to be sore for up to three weeks, although it could take longer to recover if you experienced a tear or had an episiotomy.
An Irish study, conducted in 2017, found that approximately 85% of women experience some degree of trauma to the perineal region during birth. Your vagina won’t be exactly the same as it was before birth, but once it heals, it will be very close. It’s really important to keep the area clean and you may find that applying ice or taking warm baths helps ease the pain. Your midwife will help look after your wounds to make sure everything is healing as it should while you recover.
How long does the bleeding last after having a baby?
The next most common question we get, from a recovery perspective, is how much bleeding is considered “normal” after giving birth. The vaginal discharge is called “lochia,” and it’s essentially a very heavy period that includes blood, leftover tissue, and mucus. It takes a while for your uterus to shed all the fluids that helped your baby grow, and it can last up to six weeks. It will be heaviest for the first few days and will ease over time, eventually fading from red to a yellowish white. Call your midwife straight away if you see large clots so they can rule out postpartum hemorrhage.
Postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal morbidity in the world. It’s not something that should scare you, but it’s something every new mom should know about, because the best way to treat is it to act quickly. A 2010 article by Dr. Kathleen Rice Simpson, a nurse, noted that many cases are preventable but that good communication and early diagnosis are critical. Your midwife will talk you through the warning signs so you’ll know if you need to raise the alarm.
How long does it take to poop after birth?
Yes, it’s time to talk about that first postpartum bowel movement. This can be a little intimidating, especially while your perineum is raw and healing, but it’s really important that you help your body stay regular. This means eating lots of high-fiber foods – like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – as well as drinking plenty of water and keeping moving to help your system kick back into gear.
It takes two or three days for most women to have their first bowel movement after delivery. It’s really common to experience constipation and hemorrhoids after birth, which can make it painful, but don’t worry – this is totally normal. Tell your midwife if you’re having trouble, because they may be able to recommend dietary changes or stool softeners to help things along.
What is postnatal depression?
Recovering from birth while caring for a newborn baby can be difficult. You’ll experience a big rush of hormones and it might take a while to learn all the new skills you’ll need to raise a baby. On top of that, 2006 study reported that 76% of moms in the United States experienced a high level of fatigue for at least two months after giving birth, which directly impact things like mental health.
It’s really important to be kind to yourself during this period. As part of your postpartum care, your midwife will check in and see how you’re feeling and whether you are experiencing any symptoms of postnatal depression. This is really common in first-time moms, so please don’t be ashamed to bring this up and discuss it openly. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health while you’re transitioning to motherhood! Remember, we’re always here to help.
Does postpartum care include breastfeeding?
It sure does! Breastfeeding can be a beautiful experience, especially for first-time moms, but it often takes a bit of practice. Newborn babies need to feed every two or three hours, up to about eight or 12 times a day, to ensure they have the energy they need to grow and develop. We’re planning to write a whole blog to help with breastfeeding and lactation support soon, so keep an eye out for that and feel free to call us if you have any questions in the meantime.
Looking for local postpartum care in Palmer, AK? Call us today.