Sunday, June 10, 2012

10 Things They Don't Tell You About Postpartum Recovery

Okay, long post title, but had to get the idea out there, that there are things that they don't tell you about until you find out right after you give birth. For those with 1 or more kids out there, am I right or what?  And some of this may be a bit TMI, but hoping it helps some of you out there prepare if you don't know this already, or help a friend who is about to have a baby:

1. Post Partum After Contractions: These were somewhat uncomfortable with my first pregnancy. I had to take an ibruprofin and was okay. Well, here comes baby #2 and it was as painful as the contractions I had during the beginning stages of labor.  And these after shock contractions came on immediately after they placed my precious baby on my tummy.  I was trying to enjoy the bonding moments, but agh, it was a little painful.  So much so that it was hard to have a conversation with anyone during one.  Having a natural childbirth made it worse because I did not have the epidural to help with pain or the drugs from a C-section recovery.

I get home 6 hours after I deliver and they are still no fun.  The next day, it was worse and as I was nursing they came on fast. My post partum doula called my midwife and she called in a prescription, because Ibruprofin was not doing the trick at all!   And what did the doula tell me as I was laying in my bed recovering: "oh yeah, when you have your second kid (and 3rd, etc.) they are much worse."  Oh thanks for the heads up :)  Apparently your uterus weighs around 2.5 pounds at full term and over the next few weeks it shrinks back to 1/2 an ounce, so your body has to go through a lot of contractions to help it shrink back.

2. Sweating: I vaguely remember sweating with my first pregnancy, but this time around it's awful.  First it was 24/7 and constantly being hot, then it turned to the night sweats this week. I wake up in a pool of sweat with my hair all damp.  I'm going through clean sheets every night.

3. Breastfeeding leaking: You buy the breastmilk leak pads before you have a baby as they tell you to in your birth class, but you have no idea until after you have a baby the amount of leaking you have.  Once your milk comes in and you are super engorged and in pain, you start leaking from one side and then the other (and on your sheets too so put a waterproof pad under them). I can just look at my baby and I start leaking.  The burp cloths are not just for her spit up, but for the extra leaking for the new mommy too!

Oh and most of us have heard about the benefits of breastfeeding so that's nothing new, but one thing I also didn't know was that when you start breastfeeding, Prolactin and Oxytocin are released-the relaxing hormones.  As soon as my baby latches on and starts nursing, I all of a sudden feel sleepy and calm. It's like that 'put me to sleep feeling' you get when you get your hair done, reminds me when I was a kid and my mom would french braid my hair.  New moms really need this perk to help them get through the day!

4. Post partum bleeding and fluid: Yes, we all hear about the period you have after you give birth that lasts from 4-6 weeks.  But no one tells you how different it is and the instructions they give you as you leave the birth center or hospital is kind of scary too- all I'm gonna say here is 'golfball size', yuck.  They want to make sure you monitor the 'flow' and look for signs of hemorrhaging (eewh) and clots (double yuck).  So they told me to wear Depends, and I thought they were crazy but so glad I bought them for the first few days.  You have strange fluids and liquids leaking out of you that it's way better to wear them and dispose of them than worry about wearing your own underwear.  And you definitely have to take it easy those first 6 weeks postpartum, because if you do too much, then your flow increases, which is a sign to get more rest and off your feet!

5. Your first BM is not fun: A lot of moms told me to get a stool softener for after birth.  So I asked my practitioner for advice and she suggested I take Mama Calm (from Whole Foods). It's a great drink for moms to get your body back in synch, because yes, your body is not the same in that department right afterwards.  It's almost like when you have had the stomach bug a few days and it takes awhile to get back in the swing of things, if you know what I mean.  The first time you have a BM it can be kind of scary, especially if you had a tear down there, so definitely take something to help.

6. Tears and repairs and sore lady parts: I had tears with both pregnancies and the second was not too bad.  But you still are in pain and no one tells you how uncomfortable it will be. So I got this great tip from my lactation nurse to put a little water on a maxi pad and then freeze them. Voila, instant comfort!!  And my doulas also suggested to buy Mother Love sitz salts to take a sitz bath, very helpful as well!  Also, for those with c-section recoveries, I have heard how painful the incision can be and to not lift anything over the weight of the baby. Hard to do when it's your second and you have a toddler to take care of, but hopefully your child is more independent and doesn't need to be lifted into a crib.  If not the case, then enlist some help from family or hire some help, because you will definitely need it.

7. Breastfeeding hurts the second time around too: Yes, breastfeeding hurts at first, but keep it up, it does get better!  When I weaned my 20 month old from once a day feedings, I remember thinking how easy it was to nurse her now and how quickly you forget how it was painful as a newborn.  Fast forward 4 months and here I am doing it all over again. Yes, when your milk comes in, you are huge and engorged and it feels painful.  And those first few days of breastfeeding, or for me it's been more the first 2 weeks, the nipple pain is no fun. I had to tell my husband that when he sees me about to nurse our baby, to not talk to me, because those first few seconds of latching on feel like someone is pinching and twisting your nipples. Ouch!  But it's just you getting used to it and pretty soon it will be pain free.  I haven't ever had cracked or bleeding nipples, so if you are and having problems, consult a lactation nurse.

8. No paci or bottle the first 3 weeks: Okay, had not heard this one until I was in my 32nd week of pregnancy at our birth classes with our first.  So that means my husband can't give my baby a bottle the first few weeks to relieve me?  Yikes. Or a paci to calm a crying baby?  They say it's because you need to establish your milk supply and if your baby is sucking a paci, it will mimic a feeding and/or they may loose their suck reflex. And if you give a bottle too early, it can interfere with your milk supply and you may not produce enough and will have to supplement with formula.  AND on top of that, I learned that you have to introduce a bottle between week 3-5 and if you wait until after week 5, then they may not ever take one.  So when it's time, make sure you've pumped some milk, then leave the house while your husband gives them a bottle, that way they won't smell your milk and will more likely take one.

Oh, and as for the whole pumping thing- ugh, don't get me started, but if you give a bottle, you STILL have to pump if you don't want to mess up your milk supply, because believe me you will get engorged and will be in pain.  Good idea to buy a manual pump in case you are out and can't get home in time to use the big pump.

9. Baby Blues affect 80% of moms: I had no idea how common it was for moms to get the baby blues. 80% is a super high percentage and most of my friends had the blues with frequent crying, mood changes and anxiety. I didn't get the baby blues but was for sure extra sensitive to things, especially things on TV that were sad, made me extra teary eyed and I am sure my husband will tell me I had a mood swing here or there :)

Post Partum Depression is also very serious as it affects around 40% of pregnant moms but it starts more after 4 weeks of delivering.  Back to my first point in this post, for hundreds of years, women used to take 40 days to recover from delivering babies and had extended family live with them and take care of them and chores, but today, we are expected to bounce right back in carpool lines, running errands and housework.  Too much is expected and our hormones and bodies have gone through so much! My midwife said what childbirth does to our bodies is the equivalent of running a marathon or two.  I think our society really needs to reach out to new moms and help them out, and extended family needs to be sensitive as well and look for warning signs.  Just because a mom seems to be doing okay, she may be hiding what's really going on.  I had a guest blog about PPD here and she wrote an excellent post about it.  For baby blues and PPD, please reach out to your doctor or midwife to let them know.

10. Saggy Tummy: I know what you're thinking, "but you just had a baby, don't be so hard on yourself." Behold the saggy tummy.  Yes, well with my first it was so hard to get back into the groove of things.  I lost all my baby weight pretty fast but my body was no where near what it used to be. I had this lingering 'tummy' where I looked about 3 months pregnant, until I got pregnant again.  Your tummy deflates and then it just kind of droops and clothes look super strange on you.  Those Hollywood mommies? I'm convinced they schedule early inductions like at 35 weeks just so they don't gain anymore weight and then they have personal trainers for like 5 hours every day, AND get tummy tucks.  My second pregnancy is even harder!  After you give birth you either wear maternity clothes and look strange, or you try to wear your old clothes and you look like you've put on weight.  And my midwife gave me advice at my 10 day appointment this week: "oh, well, in case you didn't know, it's much harder to loose the weight with your second." Tell me about it!

But the best advice for post partum recovery is to get some REST! Remember they tell you to rest 6 weeks after delivering, more if you've had a c-section. If it's your first, second or beyond, take as much time to sit down, put your feet up and hire a maid.  Having older children can be more hard, but remind yourself you need to sit down more and not worry about the mess.


  1. Thanks for the reminders. I'm about to have my second in a few weeks so this is a good reminder of all that fun stuff to get ready for! :)

  2. I had forgotten how breastfeeding makes you sleepy at first!! Holy moly, if I'm nursing, I literally fall asleep mid-sentence. It's crazy!! And the sweating. Ugh.

  3. I know, how quickly I forget too about these things! The sweating still happens at night and it has been almost 3 weeks that I gave birth. My husband thinks I'm crazy setting the thermostat so low each night. And I LOVE the sedating effect of nursing and just when I am about to close my eyes and fall asleep with my newborn, I look up and forget my rambunctious toddler over in the :) At least it helps me relax during a temper tantrum.

  4. So true! I wish someone had told me these things while I was pregnant with my first. They need to put this in the What to Expect books, and in the first chapter.

  5. Oh, the sweating! And the leaking. I would have my nursing bra with pads all ready to go and hang it *right* outside the shower so I could out it on without getting milk all over the place. And, yes, dropping the baby weight the second time around has been MUCH harder.

    One thing that helped me were the Mrs. Patel's Milk Makers. A girlfriend bought me their starter pack as a gift. Such yummy treats!

    Thank for this - great list and it made me laugh. It's always good to know that you are not alone in the wonderful land of post-baby craziness!

  6. [...] By the way, there are all of these fun postpartum happenings that I’m convinced you completely forget about exactly 12 months after giving birth. It’s a rude re-awakening… my friend Kira covered them all wonderfully here. [...]

  7. I didn't find that breast feeding made me sleepy. It seemed to cause 30 min of nearly unbearable contractions for weeks , everytime the baby latched on.

  8. I had baby #3 on April 13th...and - wow! - those postpartum contractions were somethin' else. Ouch. Much worse than with my first and second babies.

    Also - the sweating! It's crazy, isn't it? I woke up DRENCHED for the first month-ish.

    I ate dried plums the first few days after my delivery to help w/ the first BM.

    RE: breastfeeding. It was rough for the first 3.5 weeks for me, but now it's smooth sailing.

  9. You covered it with #5. NO ONE told me this, when I finally did have a bm, I think the heavens and the earth both shifted directions at the same time.

  10. Haha, and if you think the afterpains and losing weight (or not) are worse with number two, trust me when I tell you two is nothing - three is even harder! :) All worth it though.

  11. Ha, so true!! With so much going on after birth and then to have to deal with BM issues, not fun!

  12. Thanks for sharing, and the losing weight so far is true, not easy at all!

  13. Yikes, that is awful. I had those contractions everytime I nursed as well the first week, not fun!

  14. Thanks for sharing, and glad to hear other moms out there are going through the same things! Good to remember these things because you so quickly forget after your first pregnancy!

  15. Congrats and let us know how it goes!!

  16. Thank you for writing this blog. I am 34 weeks and this is my first child. I must say this is the best blog that I have read. I call myself a "late bloomer" because I am just getting started to buy things and really research items that I would need for my postpartum recovery.

    I would agree that Mrs. Patel Milk Makers, Motherslove and Earth Mama Angel Baby have really good products for postpartum recovery. Off I go to get this hospital bag together :). Good luck to all the pregnant woman.

  17. Thanks! I hope your pregnancy has been going well! And so glad you are preparing for the 4th trimester :) Good luck and congratulations to you!!