Labor and delivery can be tough, especially for first time moms. Postpartum though, that can be a WHOLE different story. The whole recovery process and healing after birth can come as a gigantuin shock to even the most prepared super moms.
It definitely was for me.
Your body has just gone through some crazy #$*! and it doesn’t stop there. I wish someone had told me what to expect my body to go through after childbirth. So buckle up, girlfriend and let’s dish the REAL deets.
Here’s what you can expect that first week after labor and delivery that NO ONE TELLS you!
Your Postpartum Body – 10 Things No One Tells You
1. You’ll still look pregnant
I was going down the hospital elevator less than 24 hours after labor and delivery. We were heading to the cafeteria because I thought getting some steps in would do both of us some good. Those rooms can get a little stifling! A nice young man got into the elevator after us from the same floor. Attempting at a friendly conversation he asked, “Oh, when are you due?!”
I had thought the pregnancy look would go away (and the pounds) directly after childbirth but one quick look at the scale once we were home (within 48 hours of delivering) told me I had only lost 5 POUNDS. Our little one had weighed 5 pounds, 13 ounces.
I ended up using the Belly Bandit + Waist Trainer. The same one that Diary Of A Fit Mommy uses and it worked wonders. Within a week after delivering that belly DID shrink and that pregnancy look was gone! About eight weeks later, I finally felt like I didn’t look like I had eaten a super large lunch!
2. Peeing & pooping become nightmare-ish
After pooping out what seemed like a watermelon (having the baby), you may be hesitant to ever want to do anything down there ever again. And that makes sense. IT IS painful. Try using a gentle, dependable and effective stool softener like Colace which is the #1 doctor recommended brand. It works. My doctor highly recommended it and it’s worth it.
Next, something you may not even realize (if you’ve never had a baby) is afterward, squatting to go #2 is…difficult AND peeing can be SUPER PAINFUL. One of the things they told me before I left the hospital was to try to be on my “tip toes” during a bowel movement because squatting would help tremendously. That was impossible. After talking with a few other moms who had this exact same issue, I heard over and over to try out the Squatty Potty toilet stool. The same brand also has one in bamboo that would be perfect as a step stool for our little potty training toddler.
Last (TMI) tip: during a bowel movement, if things are extremely painful down there, try using an effective peri-bottle like this one (buy your own and put the free one from the hospital in the second bathroom) and dowsing that area with warm water. This soothes and can make all the difference, trust me.
3. A postpartum kit is a MUST for healing & comfort
Postpartum recovery and healing after birth is no joke. Your body is going through some rough repair. You can speed along this process tremendously and retain a certain measure of comfort in the process! Along with this kit, make sure you are drinking TONS of water, getting some greens in and handing baby off to get a little shut-eye when you can. Check out 10 Unbelievable Postpartum Recovery Tips For Healing After A Vaginal Birth to help recover the best way possible.
Here are 9 absolutely necessary items:
- Very quickly, you will run out of those giant pads from the hospital. You also (like me) may not have been madly in love with them. Stock up on Always Maxi (overnight extra heavy flow with wings). They are not as bulky and the wings provide extra space for any leakage.
- You will also run out of those guazy, ugly as heck but amazing disposable underwear the hospital gives you. Or they may give you none. Save yourself the trouble and buy your own postpartum maternity (post-surgical) disposable underwear just like the hospital has.
- Also, the hospital provided Tucks Medicated Healing Pads to place directly on the maxi pad for relief. They are little round (3″) pads with witch hazel and I cannot tell you how much they relieved the burning and itching. Ah-mazing.
- When you want to graduate into actual underwear (and ditch the diaper feel) I would advise having a pack of ridiculously comfortable underwear on hand like these boy short boxer brief panties. Postpartum, I was thanking God that I had those boy short underwear. I liked how they didn’t ride up and they were super comfortable.
- Make sure to add a good panty liner like Always thin dailies as you transition to normalcy. I personally, liked Always liners the best because they were comfortable and effective.
- First off, I know those DIY “padsickles” are like all the rage but I’ve been there, done that and they were TERRIBLE (in my personal experience). If I wanted to freezer burn my painfully injured vagina then padsicles would definitely be the way to go. On the other hand, when I wanted actual pain relief and comfort, these medicated cooling pads (like they have at the hospital) were MUCH better!
- The hospital also gives you this cheapo little bottle to squirt warm water down there every single time you go to the bathroom called a peri bottle. It sucks and it’s not an option. However, there is a MUCH better alternative. Fridababy makes a peri-bottle called the Fridet with a nozzle specifically designed to be held upside down, giving you much more control with each use.
- When you leave the hospital, chances are you will receive Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray and you will be thankful as heck. The nurse told me, “Never forget to use this each and every time you go to the bathroom.” The problem is, that’s a lot of spraying so we had to go out and find two additional cans. Save yourself the hassle and have it ready beforehand! I can’t stress this enough. Another similar spray gaining momentum is Earth Mama Herbal Perineal Spray. It’s a more natural product and I’ve heard raving reviews.
- Prepare to have sitz baths. They are SUPER healing and fantastic for postpartum recovery. Buy a simple plastic cover that sits neatly over your toilet like this top Amazon sitz bath by Yunga Tart and use a high-quality Epsom salt made specifically for these types of baths like Epsoak Epsom Salt (which is Amazon’s #1 choice). I linked the large bag because sitz baths are usually recommended 2-3 times a day! That’s a lot of Epsom salt.
4. Breastfeeding is HARD
People asked me, “Are you going to try to breastfeed?”
I thought that question was silly. Why wouldn’t I try? Formula cost like a gazillion dollars and I had heard breastmilk was better anyways.
Well, right away I found out why mommies everywhere ditch the boob and go for formula. It can be HARD and PAINFUL. Prepare for bruises, blisters and more (Lansinoh Gel Soothies and Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream will be your two new best friends).
I took a breastfeeding class and even with that, I found myself going back to the workbooks. We even had to have an in-home visit from a lactation nurse a couple months later. Everyone told me just to give up (except for the lactation nurse):
“Well, I only breastfed for two months so you can stop now anyways.”
“It’s okay to use formula. Just do it. It’s WAY easier….”
To each their own. Maybe I was just too stubborn to give up! With breastfeeding, your baby has to get a proper latch and that means the nipple goes down the back of their throat. If it’s too far forward, you will get blisters and bruises and it will be EXTREMELY painful.
You have to pop your finger in their mouth and release the suction. Then, try, try, try again until they learn how to properly do this. To start a proper latch, it takes a little technique (plus it feels totally awkward and like you’re doing everything wrong). I definitely recommend taking a class, reading up about how to properly breastfeed online or asking lots of questions with your lactation nurse. It takes time and a ton of patience. I’ve heard some babies do it right away!
The great thing is, once you and your baby have it down after those first few weeks, then you’re golden.
5. You will sleep less than you thought was humanly possible
I’ve pulled several all-nighters in a row during my college days working on projects but having a baby stretched my sleepless boundary knowledge WAY beyond “where no one has gone before.” My husband and I were a bleary-frazzled- zombie-mess.
You may be one of the lucky ones who has a newborn that just sleeps those first few weeks. The first few days this is normal but beyond that, babies can be up A LOT at night. Prepare yourself ahead of time and check out The Ultimate Newborn Sleep Schedule, Must-Know Week By Week Tips.
6. They just don’t make pads big enough
You will bleed A LOT. In my hospital bag, I packed all these cute pjs and comfy clothes, but I never wore them. Everything I wore became soaked.
(While we are on this topic, you really do need to make sure you pack your hospital bag correctly. I lived, learned and wrote a post about it. Check it out here: Hospital Bag Checklist, For Mom-To-Be + Free Printable)
On the hospital bed, they laid down about a 2′ x 2′ square disposable pad that was changed often. Leaking came through the giant pads I wore (make sure you stock up at home with the best postpartum pads possible), and through the hospital gown. I bought a super cute delivery gown and it was a great idea for pictures, but all those gowns were decimated.
After a day and a half in the hospital, we were homeward bound and I was still in shock of the amount getting everywhere. It got on the bathroom floors, soaked through underwear and just ran in the shower.
I’m incredibly thankful that I read up on other blogs and knew to stock up on disposable underwear like they give you from the hospital and super comfy boy short boxier brief panties that I could just toss afterwards if I wanted to. No granny pannies here! I could still feel somewhat human again with cute underwear.
7. You may want NO ONE around you or touching you…forever
Caring for your newborn may take everything you’ve got. Your little one’s EVERY need depends solely on you. On top of this, you are recovering from a significant medical event AND hardly sleeping. You and your newborn pretty much become one person, especially that first week.
I am a “physical touch” person when it comes to the 5 Love Languages (if you haven’t read it, it’s amazing – check it out!) and that means I translate touch as someone caring or showing love. AND I WANTED NO ONE TO TOUCH ME. I had hit my max exhaustion days ago and caring for our newborn took everything I didn’t know I had.
If you are an extrovert (or at least a little more inclined this way), you may have zero problems with people but I definitely did. All I wanted to do was lock myself in a room with my baby and significant other and try to breathe again. I had no energy or mental capacity left to deal with anyone.
If you are introverted, consider letting others know they can come on day 2 at the hospital (or at least after you’ve been removed from the labor & delivery room into the more “permanent” room) and then the week AFTER the baby is home.
This may sound extreme but it’s not, especially if your husband only has five days of paternity leave. You may want to spend that time bonding as a new family and figuring out your new life, rather than attending to everyone’s else’s needs.
8. Your hair will probably fall out…A LOT
This one was SHOCKING to me! Right away your hair might begin falling out after delivery. I remember pulling GIANT clumps out and staring at that fist full of hair in shock. Hair was everywhere…it migrated somehow into the bottom of the cup of water I was drinking, I picked it out of the food I was eating, it caked my clothes, stopped the tub drain several times and permanently seemed to coat our bathroom counter. I felt like I was going insane!
I even had someone say to me, “Wow, your hair looks SOOOoooo thin.”
IT DID grow back though. By about six months, all the falling out stopped. Now, two years later I actually have the thickest and longest hair I’ve ever had. So there is hope! Just keep taking those prenatals or a quality hair, skin, and nails vitamin.
9. Your boobs will become GIANT rocks (if you aren’t careful)
If you are breastfeeding and miss a feeding (maybe you sleep through a regular feeding at night or start one later than normal), you may find yourself with PAINFUL GIGANTIC ROCK BOOBS. Seriously, it was like having the worst, painful boob job on the planet. Stripper heels not included.
To avoid this (and not have to pump, cry and ice your boobs!), remember to “self-express” (use a pump) and/or have at least eight minimum feedings a day. My lactation consultant put it this way: breastfeeding is a give and take system. You need to put in minimum, 8 tickets a day to remove breastmilk. The amount you remove will be the amount you produce. If you don’t put in a ticket and remove the breastmilk, then you will find yourself short.
And that means rock hard boobies that may produce less after the fact.
Prepare ahead of time (because you likely WILL need these) and add some Lansinoh Gel Soothies to your Amazon Cart and stick them in your fridge. Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream will become your new best friend if you are breastfeeding.
10. You may puff up like a balloon
If you opt for the epidural, there is a chance you will swell up like crazy, even after you’re finally at home with your newborn! This swelling may take some time to go down AND may be super duper painful. I witnessed a friend have so much swelling in her legs and feet that it was hard for her to sleep at night!
And trust me, every MINUTE of sleep you get is precious, precious gold.
To remedy this, she tried EVERYTHING. She let me know two things that saved her sanity and actually worked: a solid pair of compression socks built for this very thing and Tea Tree Oil Foot Soak with Epsom salt for relief.
Your body may go through many forms of crazy and surprising that first week or more after birth but this too shall pass! Now that you know that pregnancy belly doesn’t just disappear, trips to the bathroom will be seriously uncomfortable (painful and frustrating), sleep will become foreign, you may hate people, hormones will rage and your hair will fall out, you can now mentally prepare yourself.
In the end, it will all be over with before you even know it (even though during that time, it might be terrible and feel neverending). Most importantly, what matters is that you have a beautiful new life to cherish and to hold. And truly, that makes all the crazy, so worth it.