There is a lot of advice out there from friends, family, the internet about what to expect for your postpartum recovery. I was told the same things over and over again; watch out for postnatal depression, have homecooked meals in the freezer, sleep when the baby sleeps, limit visitors etc. But no one tells you about postpartum bleeding, going to the toilet after giving birth or how your stomach will look and how it will change. Nor does anyone discuss what sex will be like after having a baby.
I’m going to cover all the things that I experienced the two times that I have gone through my postpartum recoveries. Along with that, I will list any things that helped me like products, techniques etc. in the hope that it helps over new mums out there not feel so alone with going through all of this!!!
The postpartum belly
I was completely naive as to how I would look after having a baby and come to think of it no one usually lifts up their top to show you their belly after having a baby so how would I know what to expect?! My stomach looked like jelly. My stomach was so wobbly it made me feel queasy to look at it. However, I did find wearing a Belly Bandit * day and night helped to shrink my uterus and tummy quickly. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but it worked, and within a month there was a vast improvement to how my stomach looked.
After two months I was back into my pre-pregnancy jeans, and although my stomach isn’t exactly as it was before I had two children, it’s not that dramatically different. My linea nigra (the dark vertical line on my tummy) took 18 months to fade, but it did eventually disappear.
I was very naive before I had my first baby. I remember buying two weeks worth of maternity pads and thinking that would be enough. No, I bled both times for about a month. And it was heavy. I wasn’t prepared for the after pains either; I didn’t realise I would feel my uterus contract back. Apparently, this is more painful the more children you have, and it definitely was after my second baby. Also, women who breastfeed often feel their uterus contact when they start breastfeeding. The best thing you can do to help your self is to take it easy as much as you can.
Before I had my baby, I expected to be able to breastfeed him from the word go, but because of complications after his delivery, I had to stop. I realised nobody told me what would happen when I stopped breastfeeding. My boobs went rock hard, and I could barely lift my arms above my chest, it was pretty painful for about 3-4 days. After that my boobs would leak on and off for about six weeks. But they too eventually went back to normal; it just takes time.
I didn’t realise how extreme postpartum hair loss could be. I would loose handfuls of hair every day for about three months postpartum to even now six months later. I do now have regrowth from where I lost the hair which I am very grateful. For a couple of months, I had two bald triangles at the temples of my head. I hated wearing my hair up as it would just draw attention to the bare patches but having my hair down with a newborn was impossible. I ended up wearing my hair up and spraying Root touch up spray* onto the patches which did a fantastic job of disguising them. Again, a proper diet and some time, your hair will start to regrow.
Going to the toilet
I had an episiotomy followed by a lot of stitches, so I was scared to death of going for a wee let alone anything else after giving birth. My midwife gave me a water bottle that I could spray down there as I went for a wee which helped. After a couple of days, the stinging subsided. When it comes to “going for a number two” I would recommend drinking loads of water and eating plenty of fibre; the last thing you want is constipation. A lot of women get haemorrhoids after having a baby. This can be treated by a topical cream and by again keeping hydrated and eating plenty of fibre. Everything will go back to normal after a couple of weeks.
Sneezing, jumping and coughing
No one told me that after having a baby a lot of women find coughing, sneezing, laughing, running up and down stairs or jumping all may make them wee a little bit. This is entirely normal and can be sorted out by practising a few pelvic floor exercises every day for a month.
The most common question I get asked by my close girlfriends who are either expecting or have had their baby is what is sex like after having a baby. I had an episiotomy and then issues with my stitches, so I was terrified of sex. I left it months (my poor other half, I know), but I was genuinely scared of what it was going to be like or how painful it would be. My advice is to talk to your partner, wait until you feel ready and take your time. I can happily say that after having two babies, sex is just as enjoyable as it was before. I would highly recommend practising your pelvic floor exercises every day to help get everything “back to normal” quicker as they make a massive difference. If you struggle with your pelvic floor exercises you can always buy a pelvic floor exerciser* to help you out. I have used one and would recommend them to new mums.
I hope this helps anyone out there going through their postpartum recovery. Please feel free to leave comments or questions below.