You planned every detail around the delivery of your baby. It was perfect, and now that you’re home, you realize that there was one thing you forgot to plan—your recovery. Truthfully speaking, it’s hard to plan around how your body will respond to birth and postpartum. Every delivery is different, and every woman’s body is different. It could also be that there are so many articles on your pregnancy journey and so little advice on postpartum care. We’re working on it!
It could also be mom brain. It’s a real thing.
So, where does your postpartum conversation start on recovery? Are there things your OB-GYN wishes you knew before your first visit? Here’s some advice to give you the smoothest possible post-birth experience.
Get as much sleep as you can.
A strange thing is happening to you after delivery. You’re feeling absolutely exhausted but find it impossible to fall asleep or stay asleep. You may have postpartum insomnia.
Postpartum insomnia is the inability to fall asleep consistently after your child's birth. Not all parents will be affected by it, but some of the reasons you could be experiencing it are hormonal changes and changes to your lifestyle. Having a baby is a pretty significant lifestyle change.
Some causes of postpartum insomnia:
- Hormonal changes in your circadian rhythm
- Adjusting to parenthood
- Demanding newborn schedule
- Breast engorgement
- Night sweats
- Postpartum anxiety
If you have sleep struggles for fewer than three months, your postpartum insomnia is short-term. If you continue to have insomnia three times a week for three or more months, you may have chronic insomnia.
Some ways to improve your insomnia include:
Improving your eating habits: Cut out caffeine from your diet and reduce snacks later in the evening. If you’re breastfeeding, this may be hard as you’re usually operating at a calorie deficit. Plan your meals evenly during the day and keep meals before bed light if you are hungry.
Create a nighttime routine that starts with the baby. Turn on soft music, dim your lights, and get rid of the screens. If you’re behind on reading, grab a good book and snuggle up in the sheets. If books aren’t your jam, try restorative yoga. Developing a schedule for naps, feedings, and general activities will set the stage for good sleep habits for the baby.
If those methods don’t work, ask your OB-GYN about sleep training for your baby. If your baby is a great sleeper and it’s just you struggling to find your nighttime rhythm, consider sleep training for yourself.
Get moving with exercise.
While you should be getting some sweet slumber, don’t forget to get your body up and moving around. There’s a myth that you shouldn’t do any physical activity for six weeks after birth. You obviously shouldn’t go rock climbing, but finding time for light walks or even gentle stretches can help with body recovery.
The key to long-term success for your body is to be patient and realistic about what you can do. If you have a normal pregnancy and feel good, you start working out. Give yourself about a week as a buffer, even if you feel fine.
If you had a cesarean delivery or possibly other complications, you’d need to consult your doctor on a timeline for exercise. In most cases, this will be several weeks after birth as a cesarean is a serious surgery.
Your first few weeks after giving birth shouldn’t include jumping, weightlifting, running, or anything too rigorous. Give yourself roughly 20 - 40 minutes a day of low-impact aerobic activity.
A typical workout would be a 15-minute walk followed by 10 minutes of light yoga or abdominal strength training. As your body recovers, you can do more rigorous activities.
Listen to your body.
Your body’s recovery will be different from other moms’ recoveries. If you feel good about taking a bath, gently try it.
Your OB-GYN might not specifically write down that you can do these things, but listening to your body should signal when you can safely do them.
Some great postpartum exercise routines to safely include:
- Happy baby pose: Which loosens tight pelvic floor muscles.
- Belly breathing: Helps re-coordinate your breathing throughout your core.
- Kegel exercises: Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
- Pelvic tilt exercise: Strengthen your abdominal muscles.
If you’re breastfeeding, consider pumping or nursing before any exercise. Getting a supportive bra will also make sure you’re comfortable.
You’ll feel the benefits right away from light-to-moderate aerobic exercises. Some include:
- Stress relief
- Better sleep habits
- More energy
- Strengthen weakened muscles such as your abdomen.
Your postpartum recovery may include different symptoms.
While exercising before six weeks is safe, you’ll still need to pay attention to different symptoms that may occur during this time. These physical and emotional symptoms could come on quickly and suddenly.
Some of the symptoms you may experience are:
Soreness: A baby just came out of you. There is going to be a bit of soreness. Expect your vagina and anus to have discomfort for a couple of weeks post-delivery. Taking an ice pack to this area could give you quick relief when you need it most.
Breast engorgement and nipple soreness: As the baby comes, so does your milk supply. It’s normal while you’re breastfeeding to feel soreness in your breasts and nipples. Sometimes a bad latch can add to the struggle.
Hormonal changes: Postpartum hair loss? Night sweats? That’s right – your hormones are still all over the place. As your hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels, symptoms should subside and return to normal-ish.
Vaginal bleeding: It’s normal to experience vaginal bleeding and discharge following the birth of your baby. Your body removes the excess materials that help your baby grow inside you. Expect spotting for upwards of six weeks which will lessen as time passes.
Use sanitary pads as opposed to tampons, as it will help ensure you don’t get infections.
Baby blues: For 70 - 80% of new moms, they may feel sadness when they get home. These feelings of sadness and depression are caused by, you guessed it, hormonal changes in your body. Baby blues usually only last a couple of weeks. If you continue to experience them for an extended period, consult your OB-GYN immediately.
While there are many symptoms to look out for you should consider a postnatal vitamin to help.
Postnatal vitamins: Pink Stork recommends postnatal vitamins. Yes! But even if it wasn’t our amazing ones, prenatal vitamins can help restore nutrients you lost during the pregnancy and support your healing. You may also consider a Vitamin-C or Iron supplement depending on your body's needs.
Listen and trust your body.
Your postpartum life stage should be a period of self-care. Be kind to yourself. Communication with your partner and family is also key to preventing your feelings and misunderstandings. It’s normal to feel better sometimes and not great at others. Always ask for help if you need it and put yourself first.
Being a parent to a newborn is a lot of work. Even the most experienced parents can be overwhelmed with the baby's constant needs.
You want to lose your pregnancy weight but never consider extreme diets or rapid weight loss. Ease into your new routines. You got this, mama.