It seems like shortly after having a baby, the traumatic memories of childbirth quickly fade. I soon forgot about all of the pain and torture that labor was, both before and after delivering the baby. However, childbirth recovery may be one of the things that sticks with you for awhile.
After recently delivering my second baby, I wanted to share some of the symptoms that I experienced that no one really tells you (including the doctors). Now, not every woman will experience it the same way. However, for me, my experience was pretty similar for both deliveries. Also check out my post on Postpartum Recovery Kit for all the items you will need for recovery.
Sorry ladies, you’re not done with contractions after your baby is born. Did you know that since the uterus has expanded so large during pregnancy, that after you delivery the baby, it works on contracting itself to shrink back down to the tiny size it was before you got pregnant? Sure this is a great thing for us women because it is what makes our tummy flatten back (which we all can’t wait for), but man does it hurt!
For me, these contractions were just as bad as my labor contractions (pre-epidural). No joke! What I also found out this time around was that they get worse with each pregnancy. So since this was my 2nd, I definitely felt it a lot more intense, but the 1st delivery, I had them pretty bad too.
They mostly occur while your baby is nursing, as this helps to produce the oxytocin in your body which naturally causes the uterus to contract. These intense pains can last for a few days to a couple weeks and Ibuprofen is the best treatment for it. Have your doctor prescribe you prescription strength Ibuprofen for maximum relief. I thought deliveries should get easier with each pregnancy, not harder!
Body Aches & Soreness
The majority of my pain after birth was actually body aches from my arms, shoulders, and down through my back. At first, I had no idea why I felt so sore and attributed it to the awful hospital beds they make you sleep on.
Low and behold, I realized, my body hurt so bad because I was using literally every muscle in my body to push out this baby for an hour and a half. Some of these muscles I haven’t ever even used so it’s no wonder why they were sore- I felt like I just swam a marathon! It’s no joke that labor is hard work! Next time, I’m going to work out a bit more during pregnancy and get myself in shape for childbirth.
Chapped and Sore Nipples
Your nipples are not used to such hard and frequent sucking and within 24 hours of beginning to nurse your little one, your nipples will really feel the difference. They start to get cracked and red and can hurt even more every time your baby suckles on them.
My best tip is to use the Ameda Gel Pads. They are a life saver! Buy them before you go into labor so you can bring them with you in your hospital bag. They also work even better if you refrigerate or freeze them.
You can also use Lanolin Cream for healing, Medela Soft Shells (these go in your bra and keep it from rubbing against your nipple), and just air them out by not wearing a top while you’re home. I used all of these tricks and they all helped significantly.
Swollen Genital Region
Yeah, it does not look pretty down there. My suggestion is don’t try to look at it! It can be all puffed up because the trauma it just went through. This inflammation should go down within a day or 2 though and NSAIDs (Motrin, Advil) help to reduce the swelling.
Swollen Hands and Feet
If you experienced swelling during the last couple months of pregnancy (or even if you haven’t), you’ll probably see the swelling of your hands and feet during childbirth recovery too. Mine lasted about 3 days and was even worse than when I was pregnant. I was on an IV for about 24 hours after delivery with a lot of fluids because my blood pressure was low and I had an epidural so that was the primary reason for my swelling.
Just try and stay off your feet and keep them elevated, as well as moving your hands and fingers around (you can use retrograde massage to push the fluid back up to the heart) to reduce the swelling.
These are no fun, but just another thing caused by the baby and all your organs being pushed around down there. Not to mention, when you’re pushing out the baby, they tell you to push like you’re having a bowel movement so no wonder why your insides feel like they’re coming out.
Preparation H ointment really helps with the pain in that area as well as stool softeners so it doesn’t hurt as bad when you use the bathroom.
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, you could have been in labor for 10-20 hours. Childbirth is hard work and takes so much out of your, leading you to just be plain exhausted afterward. Initially you’ll be running on adrenaline and just so excited to have your baby in your arms, but very shortly the exhaustion will hit you in the face like a brick wall.
Between having to feed your baby and wake up every 2-3 hours, visitors at the hospital, and just recovering from your body being basically torn apart- it seems like you will never catch up on sleep.
So nap during the day when your baby is napping, let your partner or anyone who volunteers to help out to watch the baby do it, and send your baby to the nursery. You’ll need all the sleep you can get because once you’re home, the work doesn’t stop!
Rock Hard Breasts Once Your Milk Comes In
Did you know that when your milk comes in, your body starts producing enough for a small army of babies to eat? Your body doesn’t know how many kids you have or how much they’re going to need to eat so it just keeps producing milk until your baby gets it regulated on his or her feeding schedule.
So when you produce this much milk, your breasts fill up and can become engorged which makes them feel like rocks. This only should last the first couple days and you can get relief by taking a hot shower and manually expressing the excess milk. Try not to pump it out though because that will indicate to your body that it needs to keep producing this much and you will continue to have that same problem.
You’ll continue to bleed for several weeks following delivery while your body gets rid of all the extra blood and fluids from the baby and placenta. The first couple days of childbirth recovery, while you’re still in the hospital, it will be very heavy and you’ll need to use heavy pads.
Once you go home it should have eased up a bit and you may only need to wear a light pad or even panty liner. Just make sure you still wear one at all times (even if you think you’re done bleeding), because it may surprise you.
Especially if you’re nursing, you will become extremely thirsty. Always have a large glass or bottle of water near you once you start nursing because you’ll definitely be reaching for it and with a sleeping or nursing baby on you, it’s difficult to get up and get one!