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Things No One Tells You About Postpartum
So you want to know about postpartum recovery? You’re in the right place if you want the cold hard truth! I am writing this post while in the midst of my second C-section recovery, three weeks out to be exact so it’s all fresh in my head.
This is my second c-section, my first was an emergency cesarean delivery after 36 hours of labor and my second (this one) was a planned cesarean. The recoveries thus far have varied slightly but I will say taking labor out of the equation has definitely helped with my recovery this time around. Think about it as I had spent 36 hours straight working out (your uterus is a muscle) and then was given major abdominal surgery. It’s no question that a c-section after labor is going to be a harder recovery so keep that in mind!
My number one thing I wish someone told me? That it’s possible to love your body and be proud of your body even in this new state of being. Your postpartum body is beautiful too, always remember that <3
That said, let’s get right into it! Here are Things No One Tells You About Postpartum Recovery.
Check out these related posts as well —Postpartum Must Haves, C-Section Recovery Tips, Breastfeeding Must Haves, Tips for Breastfeeding After a C-Section, & How to Survive the First Weeks of Breastfeeding.
1. Walking & Coughing
You won’t want to do it but it’s imperative for recovery, the nurses will get you up and walking 12 hours after birth. This is hard because your legs will be shaky and your abdomen (in the case of a cesarean) will be sore. You CAN do this though, I promise! And the more you do it the better you will feel. It just gets everything flowing again — blood, pee, gas, poop. This is the start of recovery and you will feel much better after getting up and doing that first walk!
Coughing on the other hand, NOT my favorite. They want to make sure your lungs are clear so my nurses had me hold a pillow against my incision and let out a cough. Yes, you’ll feel like your incision is splitting open but it’s already started to heal and you’ll be ok. My incision did bleed a tiny bit, just know it’s totally normal, the nurses will be watching for anything that’s not normal!
2. Uterine Massage
Oh this was funnnnn. Immediately after delivery the nurses will massage your uterus and give you pitocin through your IV in order to promote contracting in the uterus. This helps expel the placenta and starts the healing process/stops the bleeding.
After that initial massage the nurses will come in about every hour after you deliver and press on your belly, they are checking to see the height of your uterus and to make sure it’s contracting don. Heads up they will also check your vagina at the same time to see if/how much blood comes out when they push. It’s definitely not fun and pretty uncomfortable, but necessary!
3. The First Pee
This applies to any mom who had an epidural and had a foley catheter put in. Yikes man, that first pee is rough. They take the catheter out around 12-18 hours after delivery and that’s when the fun starts. You’ll have to try to pee on your own but it will feel like your bladder doesn’t work. Kind of like a UTI, ugh. The nurses will tell you you have to fill this little bed pan thing in the toilet, you have to let out a few hundred milliliters of urine in a set amount of time and if you don’t they may have to straight-cath you, another ugh.
So my advice is try hard to get that pee out, it took me several hours but I finally did it. Some advice: run the water, spray your vag with the peri bottle (warm water), one drop of peppermint essential oil in the toilet, and as hard as it is — stand up and sit down on the toilet continuously. I think it was the compression of my bladder during that movement that finally did it and forced the pee out, just remember to use your arm strength or have someone help you since your core is out of commission!
4. Gas Pains
HOLY. I’ve never known gas pains like post-cesarean gas pains. Because of the surgery air an get trapped inside your body and air bubbles can travel to random places. I had the most insane pain in my shoulder this time around, it was crippling!! Luckily it was on day one while I was still in the hospital so the nurse gave me Gas-x and straight Simethicone which finally helped dissipate it.
The there is the gastro pain. Again yikes, these pains for me were as bad, if not worse, than labor contractions. I have more advice in the poop section below but I highly recommend at least taking a stool softener to ease the gas pains. I’m not saying this to scare you, just letting you know the pain isn’t over after birth. Moms go through so, so much during birth and postpartum and I want to be real about it!
5. Diapers for Everyone
Thank you again to the nurses! Especially during the first 24 hours when the anesthesia is still wearing off, the nurses will physically be changing your pads for you. It’s easy to feel embarrassed but don’t worry, they do this day in and day out and are literally the sweetest people! This is why we get them gifts!
Oh, and yes, you still bleed after a c-section! Your uterus sheds no matter what kind of delivery you had.
6. Postpartum Contractions
Ohhhh, postpartum contractions, no one told me about these and I wish they had! These mostly happen while nursing or pumping because the oxytocin your body releases makes the uterus contract, but the second time around I actually experienced these while nursing and not. Also the second time around these contractions are more intense and they are lasting longer, I’m still getting them at three weeks out.
My advice? Stay on top of your pain meds and try the postpartum contraction roller recipe I shared in this post! But know that this is a good thing, your body is doing what it’s supposed to and your on your way to healing internally.
7. Blood Clots
Wanted to mention this one for c-section moms! After you have surgery you’re at a higher risk for blood clots so the nurses will give you a daily Lovenox shot. This was a shock to me the first time, the nurse came in to the room and just jabbed me with a shot to my belly, not fun!
We actually found a blood clotting disorder in my blood work up just before my pregnancy with my daughter and I had to give myself a Lovenox shot daily throughout the pregnancy/for 6 weeks postpartum so I was used to it this time. My advice would be to ask them to give it to you in your love handle — much better than straight to the belly!
8. Breastfeeding Effing HURTS
I said it. Breastfeeding hurts and it’s effing hard. There’s so many things to pay attention to and it can cause a lot of self-doubt and frustration in mama. I will say the second time around was easier and less painful, I knew what I was doing and understood baby’s cues more but with my first there was a lot of sore boobies, cracked nipples, they even bled at times, there were clogged ducts and things called blebs. It was really wild and totally unexpected. I feel like everyone always talks about how beautiful and natural it is (which maybe it is for some women) but in reality it’s hard and it hurts. It does get better though as time goes on! My advice is to take advantage of the knowledge from the nurses and lactation consultants in the hospital and, if you can (some insurances cover it), have a lactation consultant visit you in your home and give you a personalized assessment.
9. Leaving the Hospital is a Shitshow
We were not prepared for discharge day the first time around. You’re exhausted, and all you want to do is go home to your own bed. But first, you and baby must complete a gauntlet of physical and bureaucratic tests. The baby has to poop and pee a certain amount of times, pass a hearing test and scream through a brutal number of foot pricks for some test that will seriously stress you out.
You have to prove to numerous people that you can breastfeed and care for yourself. Then there is the paperwork—mountains of paperwork: birth certificate, discharge release, I don’t even know what else. I just kept filling them out and signing my name. Finally, you get baby into her special going-home outfit and all buckled into the infant seat, which you must prove you know how to use, and, oops, not so fast! That whole process took too long, and now baby has a poop explosion and wants to eat again. Clean, feed, repeat, until you can FINALLY go home. And then it hits you, you are taking this tiny infant home, alone, no nurse call button. And while it is daunting and emotionally exhausting, it is ultimately great to be home.
C-section Pro Tip — bring a pillow for the car to hold over your abdomen for the car ride, bumps in the road hurt.
10. No Bending, Lifting, Sneezing, Laughing, Driving & More
This time with having a planned c-section I luckily knew a little more of what to expect but with my first since it was an emergency I was really caught off guard. I had no idea about all the things I wasn’t going to be able to do until I fully recovered which wasn’t until 6-8 weeks postpartum.
Here’s a list of things you won’t be able to do after your cesarean delivery (and take this seriously! If you don’t you’ll only prolong your recovery):
- Bend over (so no cleaning things up or picking things up on the floor, no putting your socks on or tying your shoes, I even had to have Alex help me put my leggings on for the first 2-3 weeks postpartum)
- Sit down and stand up without help (at least for the first 1-2 weeks)
- Cough, laugh, sneeze, yell (if it happens just grab the nearest pillow and hold it against your incision!! I felt more ok with these things around 3 weeks pp)
- Go up and down stairs (for the first few weeks then I felt I could handle it)
- Lift anything heavier than your baby (believe me DO NOT try this, you don’t want to split your incisions — both internal and external. Yes it sucks you can’t pick up your toddler or get on the ground to play with him.)
- Drive (I was told I could drive at 6 weeks pp but not sooner)
- The normal postpartum things that they tell you not to do after a vaginal delivery/anything remotely strenuous!
Honestly just take it really slow, do not push yourself — you just birthed a human AND had major abdominal surgery. I for sure feel guilty that I can’t pick up Luca or play with him, or help around the house with normal things but YOU HAVE TO RECOVER. Ask for help, that’s what I did, both from friends and family and we hired a postpartum doula the second time around — 100% worth every penny!
11. Vaginal Delivery Truths
I haven’t had a full term vaginal delivery but here are some things my friends have told me, again sorry if it’s TMI I just want you to have all the info if you want it!
- You’ll need to ice your vagina with padsicles to ease the swelling and pain, also may need to sit on a donut pillow for a while
- Hemorrhoids will happen, as my friend graciously explained, her “butthole exited her body”
- Your stitches will sting and peeing will burn and they’ll feel like they might rip open — use the peri-bottle and witch hazel wipes to ease discomfort!
12. Giant Boobies, No Sex Drive
When the milk fairy arrives, you will look exactly like you just underwent elective surgery on par with Dolly herself. We’re talking giant, rock-hard knockers. How can they even get that big!?
Your husband will likely think it’s pretty great. Trouble is, your extra-buxom bosom is almost never off duty. And when you do get a break from nursing, that’s exactly what you’ll want—a boobie break. I did not want anyone touching my boobs while I was still breastfeeding. Even when you get the green light from your doctor to be intimate, you might not be into it. Many factors make romance a struggle in the early months postpartum, namely: exhaustion, lack of showers, shyness about your changed body and, last but not least, apprehension about actually, you know, doing it. It’s totally normal to have some trepidation, be gentle with yourself. Oh, and you really are going to want to do those Kegel and breathing exercises.
13. The First Poop (AKA Second Labor)
File this under “The Worst Thing No One Told Me.” Ladies, prepare yourself. Your abdominal muscles are shot, your incision stings, not to mention the gas pains feel like labor contractions.
It didn’t even occur to me that using the restroom after having a baby would be so fraught with fear and discomfort. The truth is, going poop after having a baby is almost as difficult as having the baby itself. I wish I was exaggerating, but it really was scary and painful. In fact, it was brutal. Tears were shed, moaning and birthing breaths were used. I think it was even worse because I wasn’t mentally prepared for such torture, I just kept thinking, Why didn’t anyone tell me? I would have eaten more bran and packed some prunes. Fiber is your friend, ladies!!!
And while it wasn’t pretty, I did survive and so will you. Bowel movements, thankfully, don’t often find their way into polite conversation, but seriously, expecting moms need to know the truth about postpartum pooping.
Number one – eat fiber-packed foods and drink as much water as you can (literally drink a TON) so you’re hydrated (it will be easier to pass this way, the stool will be softer) and practice your birthing breaths. Trust me – it was literally like labor all over again and I no joke used my hypnobirthing skills!
Other things you can try are Senna tea, Miralax and Colace but check with your dr first!
Also, check out this Postpartum Constipation story aptly titled Poopgate HERE — it’s intense but a good laugh!
14. You’ll Still Look Pregnant and Swollen
Your belly doesn’t magically shrink in a day, no matter what your mom or aunts tell you. Anyone else have an aunt that “walked out of the hospital in her regular jeans?” I just have to think that that generation gave birth so long ago they’ve forgotten the true facts. There was no way I was putting jeans on, my belly still looked 7 months pregnant leaving the hospital!
Also, your body is still swollen, especially after c-section — both from the IV fluids, birth and the surgery itself. Not to mention your abdomen will be sore and tender to the touch for weeks (nope not just your incision, your actual abdomen, be gentle!!). Your belly will shrink more and more everyday, especially if you’re nursing or pumping, but at three weeks out I still look about four months pregnant.
Wear the Abdominal Binder
I will say I LOVE my postpartum abdominal binder, it helps me feel like my insides are staying put and protects my incision and sore belly so I highly suggest it if you feel that way too! They gave me an adjustable one at the hospital and I’m still wearing that one, eventually when my abdomen is less sore I’ll switch to my Bellefit corset like I did with my first!
And then there’s THAT swelling…
So with my first I was in labor for 36 hours and his birth ended up being a c-section. My body was BEAT. And apparently so was my vagina even though I didn’t deliver vaginally. This might be TMI but I was so swollen down there, my labia looked like they were going to no joke POP from I guess all the fluid and pressure that had been going on. For about the first week it felt like I was walking with twinkies between my legs! I joked with my friend, they didn’t hurt at all but it was SO uncomfortable and awkward, I legit felt like a dude🤣
15. There’s A Lot of Blood
Bleeding was scary to me, even this time (my third time), and I’ve called the doctor more than once in the last three weeks to double check because it freaked me out. I didn’t bleed much or have clots at all during the first week or so of my recovery this time. Then around the start of week two I started bleeding more and passed a few half dollar-sized clots. It was a LOT of blood. I called the doctor and he said it was likely because since I was physically starting to feel better I began doing more household things (dishes, laundry, vacuuming, making the bed) and that could have triggered more bleeding. It was a reminder to continue to slow down because internally I’m still not healed and I won’t be until the earliest 6 weeks postpartum. Some women bleed on and off for eight weeks, so keep that in mind.
Also, reminder to never feel embarrassed for calling the doctor, no question is a dumb question, postpartum recovery is a bitch, it’s no joke and it can be scary even the second, third, fourth time around! It’s always better to call even if it’s just for peace of mind!
16. It’s All About the Baby (but should be about YOU too!)
And let’s be real, that kind of sucks. You’ve just been through this insane ordeal—you’re healing, trying to adjust, caring for your little one around the clock and coming to grips with your new role as a mom. And whether you are struggling with all of that or thoroughly enjoying it, you deserve and require just as much attention and care as the tiny human you just brought into the world.
Our culture is very baby-focused, so much so that the new parents are often neglected. You don’t need someone to stop by and hold the baby so that you can get some dishes done, you need someone to come do your dishes so that you can snuggle up with your new baby.
It’s such a stark contrast to pregnancy. When you are pregnant, everyone rushes to open your door and makes sure you’re not doing any heavy lifting. But once that baby is out, you’re seemingly on your own, as if you should hurry up and start pulling your weight already, stitches be damned. I encourage you to speak up and ask for the help you want and need. Most people would love to lend a hand, but they won’t think of it on their own. Even hiring help like a postpartum doula could be a good option!
17. Your Baby *Might Not* Be A Dream
If he is, great, soak it up! But hear me out. I feel like all you see on Instagram is beautifully curated photos of newborns and captions like, “Soaking up all the snuggles!!” or “We are loving every second!” Well, I’ll be the first to admit these posts made me feel like crap when I was postpartum with my first because I did not feel like I was soaking up any snuggles or enjoying any of it. Luca cried more hours in the day than not and didn’t sleep unless he was on me (the Sollybaby wrap ended up being our saving grace for nap time). But having a traumatic birth story and a colicky baby made my transition into motherhood really hard. I felt really guilty for not loving every second, in fact I mostly did not love it. But how could I feel that way? Especially after my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful though, it’s that it was really, really hard and there’s no shame in admitting that I didn’t love the newborn stage.
So I want to tell you that not every newborn is a dream baby and that’s ok. It may suck, you may question everything, just remember all your feelings are valid. Feel them, let yourself feel them all. I found that pushing those hard feelings away/ignoring them only made it worse for me. And I know it sucks to advocate for yourself, but you can ask for help. Ask your OB to recommend a therapist or psychiatrist, ask in local mom groups for recommendations for a mother’s helper, ask a trusted friend or family member to come over and stay with the baby while you take a break for a little bit. The crying can make you feel like your going insane and a break can make all the difference in your mental state.
18. The Emotions: Highest Highs, Lowest Lows
If you follow me over on Instagram you know I’m no stranger to expressing ALL the emotions — the good, the bad and the ugly. Postpartum is no different, especially for me this time around my pregnancy was a pregnancy after a great loss. That in itself comes with heavy, heavy feelings and my only advice is to let yourself feel them all, be gentle with yourself and don’t beat yourself up for feeling something you might think you shouldn’t feel. For example I am feeling mostly happy right now in this postpartum experience and it’s coming with a lot of guilt — guilt that the baby I lost isn’t here but I am still feeling this happiness, and guilt that my first postpartum experience was SO different/not enjoyable (read: colicky baby).
I am grieving the loss of my second son, grieving the loss of the birth experience I thought I would have, grieving the loss of not enjoying the newborn days with my first and still feeling joy and love for my new baby and where our lives are at right now. It’s a lot and the best I can do is live in the moment, acknowledge ALL the feelings as they come and remember it’s ok to feel conflicting emotions at once.
19. Lonliness & the Importance of Mom Friends
No one told me how important it is to have mom friends. The value of even just one other mom that you connect with can be the difference between a sad and lonely postpartum experience and an enjoyable, even social one.
They also don’t tell you that making mom friends can be difficult. There is a very high-school-esque vibe to many playgroups and baby classes. Sometimes, it feels as though everyone already knows each other, or that everyone is too busy judging each other to actually get to know anyone new. My advice is to persevere; if one group is full of catty bitches, try another. And don’t be afraid to stick your neck out. It’s not unlike freshman year of college: Everyone is new and everyone is in the same boat, although admittedly, there is a lot less beer and lot more responsibilities. But it’s more important that you like the person than their parenting style. Don’t let perceived judgment, shyness, or frazzled nerves stop you from making mom friends. Having someone you can empathize and laugh with does wonders for postpartum recovery.
I hope this post was helpful, thank you so much for reading! Is there anything you wished someone had told you about postpartum recovery that I didn’t have on this list?? Leave them in the comments below!