There is so much info out there about what you can expect when you are expecting, but no one talks much what you can expect from the postpartum recovery and the fourth trimester. And many mums are unprepared. Not only do they have to learn how to look after this new little human, but they also might have to deal with many issues themselves.
I put together a list below, based not only on my own experiences but also on those of my clients. However, you do not have to experience all of the below. I had experienced some of them after my first birth and some after the second.
It might not be pretty, but hopefully this will make your postpartum journey less overwhelming. And if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
- Back pain and pelvic pain
OMG, I can still remember the upper back pain I suffered for the first few weeks from breastfeeding and carrying the bub! I really recommend breastfeeding lying down when possible. Even if you try to keep good posture when sitting up and breastfeeding, you are in this position for a long time and you are not able to sit with a great posture for that long. Also stretches and mobility exercises for the upper body can help with pain relief.
I personally didn’t suffer from pelvic pain. However, postpartum pelvic pain is quite common. Unfortunately, it’s part of the pregnancy package for some women. That doesn’t mean you should put up with it. Go and see a women’s health physio.
A hemorrhoid is a painful swelling of a vein in the rectum. Many women develop them after having a baby (sometimes even during the pregnancy). Symptoms include pain, rectal itching, bleeding after having a bowel movement, or a swollen area around the anus.
I didn’t suffer from hemorrhoids during or after my first pregnancy, nor during my second pregnancy. So it came as a very unpleasant surprise when I got them a few days following my second delivery.
Some home treatments that can bring relief and help the healing are: sitz bath, lie down as much as you can to take the pressure off your backside (feeding while lying down comes in handy again), over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments, keeping the area clean, pelvic floor exercises, relaxing pelvic floor during the bowel movement, and making sure you have enough fibre in your diet to help stool consistency.
- Using the toilet can be scary
Both, first wee and poo can be scary. Wee can sting/burn. To make the experience bit easier, pour warm water on that area whilst doing the wee. And when you are going for number two, try to relax and not strain. You can take a stool softer to make it more comfortable (also as with hemorrhoids, your diet is very important here).
I didn’t have any issues after my first birth. But after the birth of my daughter, my bowel movement is not the same even six months later!
- Stitches and pain from delivery
If you have a vaginal delivery, things down there can be quite sore after, especially if you have a tear or episiotomy and stitches. Even sitting down and walking can be uncomfortable/painful. Try to lie down and rest as much as you can (again, I recommend feeding while lying down).
- Weeing your pants
Pregnancy and giving birth can put lots of strain on the pelvic floor. You might leak while you cough, sneeze, or jump. You might even feel heaviness and dragging in your pelvic floor. Even though these symptoms are common, they are not normal. So start working on your pelvic floor strength as soon as you can, and I highly recommend all mums see a women’s health physio post-birth.
If you want to learn more about my issues with pelvic floor, please check this blog.
- You can still look pregnant
To some of you, this might come as a surprise, and some of you might think it’s obvious, but I thought it’s worth addressing here. You might look pregnant just for another few weeks or another few months. This is really individual.
Firstly, your uterus needs to shrink back, and that can take up to six to eight weeks. If you have issues with emptying your bowels, this might also be a reason why you still look pregnant. Sometimes your alignment could be to blame, if you are tucking your bum under at the same time you are pushing your belly out. You could also have an abdominal separation (also known as diastasis recti or DRA). DRA is the stretching/weakening of the linea alba and the entire abdominal wall that occurs during pregnancy. It usually happens during later stages of pregnancy and sometimes doesn’t go back together afterwards, which is why you still have that “mummy tummy.” A women’s health physio can assess you for abdominal separation and can also prescribe rehab exercises in case you need them.
This video will show you how you can assess yourself for the separation.
- Night sweats
These came as a surprise after having my second child (I didn’t have them after my first one). I would wake up soaking wet from sweat in the middle of the night and I had no idea why. But it’s totally normal. Your body is just getting rid of all those excess fluids that supported your body and the baby during pregnancy.
- You can look like a porn star
Some of you might think this is obvious, but it can be really surprising how big your boobs can get! I thought my boobs were big with my first one, but with my second one they were just massive! And that could have been another reason why I had horrible back pains.
- Breastfeeding is natural but not necessarily easy
Don’t get stressed if this won’t be as easy as you thought. I was lucky as even though I had no idea what I was doing, both of my bubs did. Saying that, with my first one, I kept thinking that I was doing something wrong as it was a bit painful. I kept checking with the midwives; they kept saying all looked fine. But I read somewhere that if it’s painful, something is not right. And finally one of the midwives told me why it might feel like that… “cuz no one sucked on your nipple for an hour in the past!”
- Emotional roller coaster
OMG, where to start with this one?
One minute you might feel happy and in love with this little human. Next minute you might feel fear and doubt and you might cry. This is totally normal, as long as these feelings are in balance. If you feel more sadness and anger and it’s not passing, reach out and speak to a health professional or someone close to you.
Also sometimes you might not feel that overwhelming love straightaway. Don’t feel guilty about it. That’s totally normal, and you are not the only one feeling like that. That was me after I had my first baby. I can’t remember when I actually felt it first, but it wasn’t straightaway. I remember looking at my son and thinking, “Who are you and what am I supposed to do with you now?” I had just given birth. I was exhausted and I just wanted to go to sleep. It was late; I knew that my hubby was going to go home and sleep in our comfortable bed and I had to stay at the hospital and look after this little thing and I didn’t even know how.
- It gets better
It will. Even though it might not feel like that at the beginning.
I remember after my second one how challenging the first six to eight weeks were! I can’t remember feeling this overwhelmed with my first one (saying that, after I had my second, I found my older son to be more challenging than the baby). And then suddenly one day her feeds were more spread out, she was feeding quicker, was awake bit more during the day and less during the night…
You will feel more like a human again. You will figure it all out.