The things no one talks about post birth.
Everyone talks about the pain of birth, and then you get lulled into this false sense of security thinking that the worse is over. Well its not. It’s time to get real.
I’m sharing with you today some of the things I wish I had known about and prepared for post birth. Some of these you will know, but other were an unpleasant revelation!!!
- Re-contraction of the uterus
So giving birth is all about opening the cervix and pushing the baby out. You are left with a belly the same size as when you had a baby in it. It takes time for it to re-contract. Nature has a handy built in mechanism. When you breast feed, it triggers the muscles to contract and shrinks the uterus back to its normal size.
Its pretty cool concept, but it does hurt in the beginning, not as bad as labor, but its not nothing either. Then after the first 1-2 days that settles down to be just a sensation of it contracting when you are feeding.
- Breast feeding is a skill that needs to be learned by both the mother and baby.
We both have the tools and instincts but neither the mother or baby have ever done it before. Breast feeding the first time, regardless of how many books you have read or classes you have attended can be very stressful (add exhaustion on top of that) and is actually quite a skill you have to learn. It shouldn’t hurt. If its hurting then it is a sign that the latch is incorrect. If this is happening get to a lactation consultant as soon as you can. (I saw mine on day 3 and wish I had seen her earlier). For people in New York My Lactation consultant: Marie Clements Ph: 212595 4797 web: http://thebreastfeedingsalon.com/ She was excellent and I highly recommend her.
If the latch is correct, you get sensation on the nipple when they are sucking, but no pain, because they actually latch to the areola not the nipple. The areola doesn’t have all the nerve endings that the nipple has, and you get so much more milk out when they are latched to the areola not the nipple.
Be aware you will have people telling you that it is normal for it to hurt, to just grin and bare it and the pain will go away. Yes the pain will go away as the baby eventually (although in some cases not always) works out how to latch correctly. But you shouldn’t have to put yourself through so much pain in the first place. Pain is because of a poor latch. Poor latch leads to bruises, cracked nipples, opens the body to infection and can escalate into mastitis. Not fun at all! Amazingly they do heal very quickly. I used a lot of Young Living Claraderm Spray and Young Living Rose Ointment on my nipples in the beginning till I saw my lactation consultant.
**Oh and for people in the USA you can get a breast pump for free through your insurance. Although you don’t want to start pumping till at least 2-3 months to give your body time to get your milk production in a good rhythm, and great latch happening!!
- Welcome to windy gassy town.
I’ve never farted so much in my entire life. I was told by my physical therapist that it is because the muscles are not sending the correct signals. Everything was stretched and moved around to accommodate the baby. It has to resettle back into place and this takes time. I was a gas machine, a smelly one at that, for just over 2 months, so warn your partner and any visiting people. It’s normal and will settle down!!
- The period that last for 4-8 weeks.
Stock up on pads. You have to shed the lining of the uterus. For some women this is a quick process, and for others it can involve clots of blood up to the size of a golf ball (the midwife said I should be concerned if it is the size of my fist, otherwise its normal). The hospital will probably send you home with a bag of pads, although they aren’t the best quality ones. Also when you feed you will find that you will have a flush of blood coming out as the feeding contracts the uterus and pushes blood out.
- You get to live in a bra 24/7
If you are breast feeding, be aware that you will need to sleep in your bra. There are several reasons for this.
1. It makes it easier to feed with the bra on providing some support for the breast tissue, and putting one on in the middle of the night… screaming baby… You get it.
2. You put pressure on the breast in your sleep and you leak everywhere. If you don’t have a bra on it will run all over your body, keep on waking you up, and and its quite sticky! (That was a long night till I gave up and put on my bra.)
By the way it’s normal to wake up in a puddle of milk, it doesn’t happen every night, but it does happen! (I suggest putting your old sheets down and even a water proof liner for your mattress under your sheets.)
- Hemorrhoids … a lingering pain in your butt
The pressure of pushing out a baby = hemorrhoids. This is true for it seems 99 % of women. Some experience them before even birth. There is so much blood flow happening around that area combined with constipation that any straining can result in blood vessels tearing and bulging and leaving you quite inflamed in that area. Stool softeners and Essential oils was my solution and they really made a huge difference. See my blog post for the Essential Oils and supplements I used to treat them.
- Inability to sit comfortably… this can lasts for weeks… a month… possibly longer
Tearing during birth is common and some women get an episiotomy. You get sewn up straight after birth (thankfully they numb the area first) but healing takes time. You may need to end up sitting on a rubber doughnut for a few weeks. Sits baths are a great way to sooth and heal the area. I also used a Young Living spray called Claraderm. It was awesome for healing my scar and I’ve had no post scar pain. You can read more about it on my other blog post.
You will also be given a water bottle that you need to use to flush your stitches when you pee. (Hint use warm water.. lol the first time I didn’t think and used cold water.. not so much fun!!)
- Exhaustion at a level you never dreamed was possible and yet you still manage to function.
Labor is exhausting, the adrenalin rush keeps you going for a while, but the slight joke on you is that when you wind down enough to sleep, you have moved onto baby time and that long stretch of sleep you so desperately desire is really only a thing of your dreams. The good news is that your body does get used to it. It took me about 3 weeks after birth to feel like I had recovered enough sleep to repay the sleep deficit for the birth and the few subsequent days.
- Your partner can help with parts of breastfeeding.
The one thing that really made a difference was that my hubby got involved as much as possible. He was home with me for the first 2 weeks and this system really worked well for us and helped to give me confidence in the beginning.
I breastfeed my son. So our routine went like this, especially at night:
1. Baby would wake up
2. Husband would get up and change diaper/nappy. I would go to the bathroom and then get myself settled and ready to feed.
3. Husband handed over baby, set out the wrap for me to swaddle our son once we finished and then he went back to bed.
4. I would feed my son (this normally took around an hour)
5. I would then swaddle my son and put him down to sleep.
6. If he didn’t go to sleep straight away I would wake my husband. Hand over my son.
7. I would go to sleep and my husband would sooth my son and often sleep on the chair with him.
8. I feed my son every 3 hours so then when the Baby would wake to feed; we would repeat.
- Waking up drenched … Night sweats
For some women this lasts the entire time you are breast feeding, for others it goes aways after the first few weeks. Because of the shift in hormones it is most prevalent after birth. Be prepared to wake drenched, and sometimes your temperature will fluctuate from hot sweats to shivering cold! (This happened for me the first few days.)
- Your abdominal muscles
Rehabbing you ab muscles is important. The upper abs split when you are pregnant to give the baby room (that why when you are pregnant and you sit up it makes a weird alien bulge in the center. For some women after birth (and the subsequent months) they don’t fully come back together. A friend described it as feeling like her her guts are coming out the gap. Go and see a physical therapist who specialises in post partum and they can help you to rehab your body. Doctors will often say that surgery is the only solution, its not. But it will take some effort on your behalf to find the time to do the recommended exercises.
For those in New York – Renew Physical Therapy http://renewpt.com They specialise in pre & post partum therapy. I have found them to be excellent and I am so grateful to have these wonderful women to work with to speed my recovery!
- Lower abdominals.. where did they go?
Sitting, lifting, carrying, coughing, sneezing.. all things that actually use your lower abs and post birth they are totally stretched out and it takes months for them to come back.
- Your vagina will never be the same again.
It is important to keegle after birth and work with a physical therapist to rehab your muscles post birth. Some women comment that everything down stairs is so loose that they can’t hold in a tampon in after birth. For others it is so tight they are locked in to spasm Yes it’s never going to be the same again, but I highly recommend you see therapist who specalise in post partum and get them to work with you to retrain the muscles of the cervix and get you pretty close to a pre birth vagina. (Vagina is not a word really said much in our daily lives till we have a baby!)
For those in New York – Renew Physical Therapy http://renewpt.com/ Are excellent at treating you post partum (Their prenatal care is excellent as well)
- The hormonal roller coaster.
You thought you cried a lot before birth.. well the waterworks comes so much easier for me post. I think high levels of exhaustion contributes to that as well!
Expect to get the blues, for me not all the time but I have my days. Your body is lowering levels of some hormones and increasing levels of others.
Make sure you have friends you can call & talk about what is happening for you and how you are feeling. Plus getting a sane voice helps me to step out of the emotional cloud I’m in and view things from a different angle.
Having a baby is a big adjustment. You are changing the way you view the world. What you value and put your time into is changing and it takes an adjustment period. Also you will find that the things that you valued the most will have shifted so there is also a bit of grief for the old you as you welcome the new mummy you. Make sure you keep doing things for you that you love that don’t involve your baby. It will aid you to keep on track with living you and not getting lost in your baby.