All Things Pregnancy

Postnatal Health

Recovering after childbirth can be a challenging and emotional experience. Still, understanding the postpartum recovery timeline, recognising common postpartum symptoms, and being aware of potential complications can ensure a smooth and healthy postnatal recovery.

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Your Guide to Postnatal Health and Well-Being ...

After giving birth, your body will need time to recover from the physical stress of pregnancy and childbirth. After all, it’s just pushed out a whole human! The postpartum recovery timeline can vary from person to person, but generally, it can take several weeks to a few months for your body to heal completely. Depending on how smoothly your delivery went and how you gave birth, this could be a much longer process. Here’s a rough timeline of what you can expect in the weeks just after giving birth:

  • Day 1-2: You'll experience bleeding, cramping, and discomfort in the first few days after giving birth as your uterus contracts and shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size.
  • Week 1-2: After a week or two, your bleeding will decrease, and you may feel more energetic. You may also experience breast engorgement as your milk comes in during this time. For more guidance, see our article on getting started with breastfeeding.
  • Week 3-4: Your bleeding should have stopped by now, and you may feel more like yourself again. However, you should still take it easy, avoid strenuous activities, and remember that recovery is a process.
  • Month 1-3: Over the next few months, your body will continue to heal, and you'll gradually feel more comfortable. However, listening to your body and avoiding overexerting yourself is important. Here are some things to think about when exercising after giving birth

During the postpartum period, it's common to experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms.

Postpartum symptoms are so common that the first six weeks after giving birth is called the fourth trimester. Any symptoms you experience should gradually improve over these weeks, and it's important to be kind to yourself throughout this time. Here are some of the most common postpartum symptoms:

  1. Breast engorgement: Your breasts may become swollen and painful as they fill with milk.
  2. Perineal pain: If you had a vaginal birth, you might experience pain and discomfort in your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus). Remember to keep any stitches clean and take pain relief if the pain is too intense.
  3. Urinary incontinence: You may experience temporary bladder control problems due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. For help with this, see our top pelvic floor muscle exercises. If you experience any severe or persistent symptoms, it's important to contact your GP or health visitor right away and speak to a medical professional.

While most women have a relatively smooth postnatal recovery and can feel their symptoms improving by the 6-week mark, some new mums can experience complications that require medical attention after giving birth. Here are some of the most common postnatal complications:

  1. Postnatal haemorrhage: This is when you experience heavy bleeding after giving birth, which can be life-threatening if left untreated. If you’re bleeding this much, you will likely feel dizzy and light-headed too, and you’ll need to be treated right away.
  2. Night sweats: It’s thought that declining hormone levels after giving birth might have something to do with it, but many women experience excessive night sweats after giving birth. Keep hydrated if you’re suffering from night sweats, and speak to your GP if it doesn’t resolve itself.
  3. Back pain: Postnatal back pain is something that many mums wish they could escape. During pregnancy, hormones relax your muscles and loosen your ligaments in preparation for childbirth, so it can take some time to regain full strength.

While it’s just as good a way to welcome your little one into the world, giving birth through a caesarean section (C-section) is a major abdominal surgery requiring longer recovery than a vaginal delivery. As a new mum, you must care for yourself and your body to ensure a successful and comfortable postpartum recovery. Here's what you need to know about postpartum recovery after a C-section:

  1. Taking care of the incision site: To help the incision site heal properly, keep it clean and dry. Follow your doctor or health visitor’s instructions on how to care for the incision, such as washing it with soap and water and changing the dressing regularly.
  2. Managing pain and discomfort: You should be prescribed pain medication to help manage the pain, and you should always take the medication as directed. You can also use cold compresses to ease the pain and reduce swelling around the incision site if this helps.
  3. Eat a balanced diet: A healthy and balanced diet can help you recover faster after a C-section. You’ve been through a serious surgery, and your body needs goodness to recover quickly.

Becoming a new parent is a significant and exciting event in anyone's life. Still, especially in the first few months with a baby, it is also a challenging time filled with many changes, adjustments, and uncertainties.

The first few weeks after the baby arrives can be particularly tough. You may be exhausted, emotional, and struggling to adjust to your new role. But with some support and guidance, you can successfully adapt to your new life as a parent.

As a new parent, you may feel like you need to do everything yourself. However, accepting help from family and friends can be a significant relief. Feel free to ask for assistance with household chores or a break so you can rest, and take a look at our advice on how to deal with unsolicited parenting advice.

If you’re looking to make friends with other new parents, consider joining a parenting group or attending parenting classes can be a great way to connect with other new parents and seek support.

Postnatal mental health is an essential aspect of your postpartum recovery, and it can be one of the most difficult issues that many new parents deal with. While many women experience "baby blues" in the first few weeks after giving birth, postnatal depression is a serious mental health condition that can affect up to 1 in 7 women after childbirth.

Postnatal depression can show itself in many ways, meaning it can sometimes be difficult to recognise. PND is often seen as sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness that persist for weeks or even months after giving birth.

It is crucial to seek professional help if you experience symptoms of postpartum depression or other mental health conditions. Your GP or health visitor can refer you to a mental health professional.

In addition to seeking professional help, there are also steps you can take to support your mental health during the postpartum period. See our tips for postnatal health and well-being.