Childbirth is one of the greatest and most beautiful moments you’ll experience in life. I’ve had four very different childbirths with each of my children, but they were all special in their own way. The days, months, and even years following childbirth come with many unexpected changes and experiences.
So many changes occur with your body, emotions, hormones, sleep, and even your relationships. I don’t believe that you can ever be fully prepared for the moment you become a mother, but there are things I can share so you have an idea of what to expect after childbirth.
What To Expect After Childbirth
There are so many things that I wish I knew before giving birth, specifically when it came to my body. I’d like to highlight a few areas where I did not feel prepared.
Your Body Needs to Heal
Your body goes through a lot during childbirth, and there are many things happening in the weeks after delivery. I have only had vaginal births, so I am only able to speak to that experience. You will likely be sore, especially if you had a tear during your vaginal delivery and have stitches that are healing. Your obstetricians and gynecologists should give you something to help ease pain, such as a high dose of ibuprofen.
There are several items that you can purchase ahead of time to help with postpartum care. Your hospital will provide you with supplies to take home as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra!
Here is a list of must-haves for the weeks following delivery:
- pads for bleeding
- ice packs to ease soreness
- a spray bottle for cleaning your vagina (use warm water)
- stool softeners to help with constipation after delivery
Be prepared for your first few bowl movements to be at least a little painful. Drinking plenty of water will help with constipation. Another thing worth noting is that it is normal to have vaginal discharge after having a baby. This is simply your body getting rid of the blood and tissue that was inside your uterus. Don’t ever hesitate to call your doctor if you feel like your bleeding and/or pain is getting worse. To hear about more of what to expect with bleeding, pain, and nursing, head to this post.
A quick note on the way your body looks after birth:
The best advice I can give it to be kind to yourself.
You do not need to get back to your pre pregnancy weight anytime soon. Eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, and taking short walks is a great way to begin feeling good. Speaking of exercise, kegel exercises are a great thing to do during pregnancy and postpartum to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Be Aware of Your Mental Health
Of everything to expect after childbirth, your mental health is top priority. Most new moms experience something called the baby blues during the postpartum period. According to Mayo Clinic, you may be experiencing this if you have mood swings, anxiety, crying spells, and trouble sleeping. Baby blues usually pops up within the first few days after delivery and can last several weeks. If these feelings continue longer than a few weeks, you may be experiencing postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety. This is what I suffered from after my first baby. You can hear about my postpartum depression and anxiety experience here.
Another detail to be prepared for is that when/if you decide to begin taking birth control, the transition can affect your mood swings all over again.
If you find yourself in the trenches of postpartum depression, please know that it’s nothing you did wrong. It is your brain’s response to giving birth. There are many ways that you can heal from this. Your first step should be talking with a trusted physician. What many people don’t realize is that your partner may also suffer from depression and/or anxiety. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms. You should receive a postpartum depression and anxiety screening at your postpartum doctor visit. You can read more about this screening, and find other resources, on The American College of Obstetricians’ website.
I have an entire series of blog posts dedicated to postpartum depression, which you can find here.
Lack of Sleep
Everyone tells us “get sleep before the baby gets here” or “you can sleep while the baby sleeps”. However, let’s be real. No amount of sleep that you get in the days and weeks leading up to delivery will prepare you for how exhausted you will be once your baby gets here. Those first few nights are especially brutal. Even if you have the opportunity to sleep, you may find yourself unable to sleep because of anxiety. This is especially true with your first baby. You want to keep your eyes on them 24/7, which doesn’t leave much time for sleep.
What you can expect after childbirth is for your baby’s sleep patterns to be unpredictable. When it seems like they are in a routine, they will switch things up on you! Not getting enough sleep can really affect your mental health, so my number one piece of advice is to ask for help.
Ask for help from your partner, your friends, your parents, your neighbor…anyone.
An exhausted mama affects the entire household, your emotional well-being, and even your milk supply.
Changes in Your Relationships
Another important piece of postpartum life is how your relationship is affected, specifically with your partner. Making the transition from no children to one child is a big one. Then the transition from one to two kids? For me, this part was the hardest.
You are both trying to navigate parenthood all while keeping up with other aspects of your life, such as your job and other children’s needs. This can leave very little time spent together. This can even leave you experiencing feelings of grief for what your relationship used to be.
My advice is to accept the season of life that you are in, and understand that things aren’t going to be the way they were before. You may need to get creative in finding one on one time together, and that’s okay. Reaching out to family and friends for help with the baby so you can run out and get a quick dinner together is a start.
What is something that you wish you knew to expect after childbirth? Let me know in the comments!
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