No two births are the same and your postpartum recovery timeline will probably look a little different from mine. But no matter how you delivered, how easy or hard the birth process was, or how amazing your doctors were, recovering from childbirth simply takes time. My goal with this post is simply to give new moms an idea of what postpartum may look like and share the things that surprised me so they don’t surprise you too! Remember, six weeks is just the minimum amount of time it takes to heal and everyone’s experiences will be a little different! Listen to your body and know you aren’t alone.
This post is all about my postpartum recovery timeline and the things that surprised me along the way! I hope this helps put your mind at ease and lets you know that you aren’t alone if these things happen. (or if they don’t!)
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Disclosure: Before reading my postpartum recovery timeline, please remember that I am not your doctor and you should always seek the advice of a medical professional. My goal with this article is to help you feel supported and let you know you are not alone in your postpartum journey.
Postpartum Recovery Timeline
Postpartum in the Hospital
You'll Probably Get the Shakes
Don’t be freaked out if you shake after birth, especially when you try to get out of bed. I needed help every time I got up at the hospital because my body simply wouldn’t stop shaking! Labor is incredibly hard and it is a shock to the system! Your hormones are shifting and your blood is replenishing, that’s a lot of work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Also know that the shakes can make it incredibly hard to pee, especially because you are probably already nervous to do any amount of pushing. I know I was. After struggling in the bathroom a few times after labor, I finally told a nurse and she told me to blow through a straw while I went to the bathroom! Let me tell you, it was an absolute game changer! So if you get the shakes too, ask for a straw for your bathroom breaks.
Not All Massages are Pleasant
After you give birth, the nurses will have to do something called a fundal massage of your uterus, why essentially consists of them pressing on your stomach. This is to make sure that your uterus contracts and it helps prevent hemorrhaging, so it is very important. While it might be uncomfortable, know that it will only last a few seconds each time.
The Second Night Might Be a Long One
Baby’s second night will be full of cluster feeds and falling asleep two seconds after they start eating. As a first time mom, I know I was freaking out and thinking every night was going to be like that one. It won’t be, I promise. Just know that, “second night syndrome” is a thing and this night is not an accurate picture of every night with your baby. I highly recommend bringing a touch night light and sound machine (Hatch Rest does both!) to the hospital so you can quickly have light when baby wakes up and drown out some of the other hospital noises through the night.
Breastfeeding May Not Come Naturally at First
I remember thinking that breastfeeding would come naturally, since it is in fact a natural process… but no. Breastfeeding was really hard for us at first! I almost gave up a few times before I even left the hospital and I’m so glad I didn’t! It was 100% worth it all! That’s coming from someone who left the hospital with bruised nipples too! I’d also love for you to check out my “35 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms,” which are all things that I wish I would have known going into breastfeeding and postpartum life.
You May Not Feel a Connection Right Away
Before having my son, I was told by everyone around me with kids that I would have this immediate moment of sheer joy the first time I held my son. The truth is, I didn’t. I was excited but I was also equally tired and couldn’t keep my eyes open after labor. That first day, I found myself so completely intimidated by the little seven and half pound miracle that I was now responsible for keeping alive. It’s okay if you’re scared and it’s okay if it takes you a second to fully feel the joy of the little blessing you get to bring home. Don’t feel pressure either way. Feel how you feel and don’t feel guilty about it. The bond will come!
The First 6 Weeks Postpartum
Embrace the Night Sweats
Night sweats are probably in your future when you get home from the hospital postpartum. Your body is trying to settle its hormones and heal from an incredibly stressful event it just went through. No amount of air conditioning or fans will keep them away. Just embrace it for a few weeks and make sure you change your sheets a little more often.
Breastfeeding Can Cause Cramps
It takes between six to eight weeks after birth before your uterus goes back to its pre pregnancy size. Unfortunately, as it shrinks, you will still have some cramping. It varies in intensity for different people but it was always less than period cramps in my experience. These cramps may intensify a little bit when you breastfeed as well.
The First 6 Months Postpartum
You Might Smell Like Onion
In high school I would play an entire basketball game and hardly sweat at all. Things changed when I got pregnant and even more so postpartum. I started sweating a lot more and that sweat smelled a lot more postpartum. Your body will create a natural odor to help your baby find their way to breastfeed. Unfortunately for you, that natural odor is the same natural odor an onion has. So, you may want to invest in a good deodorant and perfume.
Your Hair May Fall Out
I didn’t see a whole lot of change in my own hair, but hair changes are definitely common with postpartum. One of my friends had significant hair thinning for a while and my sister got progressively curlier hair with every kid she had! So, if your hair goes straight to curly or curly to straight, it’s possible that might be here to stay. However, if your hair thins out or falls out, try not to stress out too much. It is a common and temporary postpartum symptom. Your hair will return back soon, so try to avoid pulling any more hair out until then. The best thing you can do if you have any hair loss is to avoid using heat to style your hair, use loose hair styles, eat well, and supplement with special vitamins for hair growth.
You Aren't Just Going to "Bounce Back"
Everyone expects to bounce back after pregnancy. We see celebrities (and no one else) bounce back and we expect to do the same. The truth of the matter is that your body spent nine months building a human and it might take another nine months to feel fully yourself. I really didn’t start to feel fully myself again until month six or seven. And even after those six or seven months, things will be a little different. Some body changes will be permanent. For instance, I had to get rid of some things even after I was below my pre pregnancy weight because my rib cage widened! Your hips have probably widened and your boobs are changing every other day. However, when you see those changes, don’t let it discourage you. Continue working hard to take car of your body and let those changes be a reminder of just how truly capable you are and all that you can accomplish!
As I said at the beginning, my postpartum recovery timeline will be different from yours. Trust your body. Trust your instinct. Don’t be afraid to call your doctor if you have questions. Postpartum will test you both physically and mentally, but childbirth has already taught you that you are so much stronger than you know! Trust yourself during this whole process and be proud of how much work your body has done (and is doing now too!) Congratulations on your sweet little one! I hope your postpartum journey goes smoothly and is packed with tons of newborn cuddles!