Giving birth is not the way it seems in the movies—a woman screams at the top of her lungs, is handed a baby, and life just seems to move on. There are so many details missing from the full picture of what the aftermath of childbirth is like.
Some details may feel so intimate or private that even your experienced friends or family members have left some details out of their stories. Many new mamas are bombarded by a list of postpartum experiences that are actually common and normal. Are some things better left unsaid? In this case, the Wombilee team won't leave you in the dark. Let's dive into some common postpartum experiences that are not so popular or easy to talk about.
Your "First Steps"
You will have the ability to walk…but it won't be easy at first. Medically, you will be cleared to walk at the appropriately given time—but physically—walking can be very uncomfortable and even extremely painful in some cases. You're encouraged to walk very short distances and at a very slow pace. In some cases, especially after C-sections, it could be painful for weeks. You're encouraged to exercise this way to jump-start your recovery. So, although you are capable of walking soon after birth, it probably won't be for more than a bathroom trip and to cater to your baby.
This is a sensitive subject for many new mamas. No matter what number of pregnancies you've experienced, postpartum sex can be physically and emotionally distressing, even if it was never a problem in your past pregnancies.
While there's no required waiting period before you can have sex again, most healthcare providers will recommend waiting four to six weeks after delivery. Some mamas are good & ready to get back into their groove, and others have returned to a changed sex life.
Women create more estrogen in the first months of pregnancy than in the rest of their entire life combined. However, after giving birth, estrogen levels plummet quickly to pre-pregnancy levels—affecting their sexual desire and arousal. The good news is that research from the University of California shows that childbirth doesn't seem to affect a woman's long-term sexual functioning; it's all temporary.
Emotionally, things may not be that simple. Many new moms have reported that they felt anxious about sex for three to six months after giving birth. Some moms felt emotionally, mentally, and/or physically traumatized by their experiences, causing them to avoid sex for up to a year or more. Traumatized or anxious by what, you ask?
Regardless of your birth experience, vaginal pain is common and is most likely due to hormone changes. It could also be the aftermath of painful cervix checks during labor. This can leave a mental scar that lingers for a while, causing some temporary anxiety during penetration. Perineal damage could also cause some anxiety and insecurities.
It is possible that none of the above applies to you. You may have no trouble feeling aroused and excited to get intimate with your partner again—but with no time, energy, or privacy to satisfy those needs. Due to the feeding schedule and short sleeping periods of your newborn, you may only get two or three hours of sleep in a row. Fatigue for both you and your partner can create a wall between your sex lives.
Postpartum is a period in your life, not the rest of your life. Having a healthy sex life is important in your relationship, but so is a healthy mindset. Share these concerns or worries with your partner. Take your time and find new ways to enjoy your sex life when you're ready. We can't emphasize enough that it's all mostly temporary, even though it may not feel that way at the moment. Life has changed in many ways—accept that this new version of you may think and feel differently while being kind to yourself.
Leaking urine (or urinary incontinence) after childbirth is very common. One in 3 women who have had a vaginal birth will experience leakage when they laugh, sneeze, cough or exercise. You may need incontinence underwear (adult diapers), but only temporarily, as this issue typically resolves as the tissues in your birth canal heal, usually within a year.
Lochia will probably remind you of your period. But it's actually a mix of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue being eliminated from your uterus that was once useful to help your baby grow.
It often lasts for around four to six weeks but could last up to 12 weeks after your baby's born. We recommend using our heavy pads for the first week or two. Lochia tends to begin heavily with brown-sticky blood. You should switch to our moderate pads as the lochia gradually subsides to a lighter color and flow, typically by week three or four.
Also known as 'mother's wrist' or De Quervain's tenosynovitis. This is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist from repetitive hand or wrist movements. During postpartum, using your thumb & wrist seems unavoidable when having to frequently pick up your baby or keeping your hand in the c-position while holding your breasts during feedings. It probably doesn't sound like much now, but you don't realize how useful your thumbs and wrists are until they're so sore to the point that you can't make a fist…or worse…properly care for your baby! If you feel some pain in that area, use a hand brace so it doesn't get worse. If you're beyond that stage, check out this quick video for simple exercises to fix it.
Postpartum constipation is very common and can be especially frustrating because pushing is one of the last things you'll want to be doing while recovering from birth. You may still be very sensitive as your uterus heals and shrinks. And as a new mom, you probably can't afford to spend a lot of time away from your newborn.
You can blame postpartum constipation on weak abdominal muscles and postpartum medications & supplements. This means it won't be unavoidable for some, but it still can be possible to find easy relief.
Although you're busier than ever, remember to make time throughout your day to drink lots of fluids (at least eight to ten glasses of water every day). Include things like green vegetables, whole grains, bread, fruits, and bran in your diet.
Ok, so we are strong goddesses and no victims of womanhood, but postpartum hemorrhoids can be exasperating. They're usually caused by increased pressure on your lower rectum and are often a result of stress on the perineum or the aftermath of the struggle from constipation. Postpartum hemorrhoids can range from irritating or itchy to quite painful, with bleeding after having a bowel movement or a swollen area around the anus.
This is usually around the first couple of weeks for a short amount of time, but if you're dealing with everything mentioned above, let's just say it can feel very inconvenient.
Stretch marks aren't the only beautifully symbolic reminders of your pregnancy journey. Other seemingly irreversible body alterations become a new part of you. C-sections will take some time to heal, and when it does, you may still be left with a noticeable scar. Loose skin is a normal experience after pregnancy, from your belly reversing from your baby bump. Diastasis recti is a common condition and occurs when the ab muscles separate during pregnancy from being stretched. The separation can make your belly stick out or bulge months or years postpartum. With intentional exercises and practices, these effects can be improved over time. Hair loss is also very common a few months into postpartum. Although it is normal, it isn't true hair loss, but a reaction to fallen estrogen levels.
PS: We can't tell you how to feel about your new body, but we can remind you that what your body has done will always be more beautiful than the social construct of vanity.