In the first instalment of our two-part series on postpartum recovery, we spoke to our resident midwife Erin Gregory and postpartum doula Addison Landry about the physical changes that can be experienced during this time and how expectant mums can prepare.
The first six weeks after giving birth is known as the postpartum period, a time when the body undergoes many emotional and physical changes. Midwife and childbirth educator Erin Gregory and postpartum doula and founder of Uplifted Collective Addison Landry are experts at helping new mums understand these changes. Here, they explain some common – and less common issues that might be experienced during postpartum recovery and share their tips on how expectant parents can prepare.
What happens to your body during the postpartum period?
Erin: The moment your little one is born, your body begins to heal and recover. Even when birth is straightforward, there is significant healing to be done. The first time you pass urine after birthing will feel weird and may even sting a little; your midwives can suggest ways to make it more comfortable. Most women won’t feel the need to open their bowels for 24 hours after birth, however it is important that you are eating good amounts of fibre and drinking lots of water to keep your bowel motions soft.
Addison: There can be light to medium bleeding for a few days to a week after birth, releasing any blood or tissue that was needed for the baby’s growth. The organs begin to move back to their original positions, a natural process that can be supported with belly binding and massage. The uterus will start to contract and can continue to do so for a few days to a week. This can be accompanied by cramping, when heat packs and high-quality essential oils are helpful. Your milk will come in anywhere from two to five days after the birth, so the breasts begin to change in shape and sensation to allow for this influx.
How long is the postpartum recovery time?
Erin: Your recovery from pregnancy and birth will be unique. At times my body still feels ‘postnatal’ and I birthed 16 months ago. It is common for women to have little to no blood loss after two to three weeks, it may continue for up to six weeks, though this is less common. I never left the house without wearing a maternity pad until my little ones were three weeks old, just in case. Your pelvic floor muscles will need TLC for several months after you birth.
Addison: I see the value in viewing postpartum recovery time as similar to the time of your pregnancy journey. It’s taken you nine months to grow and birth your baby, so giving yourself nine months to fully transition into motherhood is a kind and compassionate way to support yourself. If you experience tearing while giving birth and require stitches, this will, if given the right environment, heal in the first few weeks. C-sections take one to two months if taken care of well.
What are some of the injuries or issues that can occur during the postpartum period?
Addison: Be mindful that injuries and issues can occur, and this list is not to be feared but more to inform. These include mastitis; swelling and heaviness in the body; uterine and bladder prolapse; anxiety and depression; cracked nipples; and C-section scarring. Uterine prolapse can take one to four months for recovery, depending on the treatment. If you notice any of these issues, reach out to your health care provider or midwife. There are alternative ways of supporting and healing the body after birth, first ensuring that nothing requires medical attention. These include Chinese medicine, acupuncture, reiki, energy healing, emotional clearing, kinesiology, and chiropractic.
What are some of the ways expectant mums can prepare for postpartum?
Erin: Have the contact details for a great family GP, lactation consultant, osteopath, chiropractor and women’s health physio. It is far less stressful to reach out for support when you already have a reliable resource. Be aware that your partner may not always be the best person to support you in the early days, as they’re adjusting to the demands of parenting, too. Be open to conversations during your pregnancy about who else is available, whether that’s your mum, aunt, sister or cousin.
Addison: The key is to focus on support that will allow you as a family to rest, connect and recover. This includes supporting yourself with nourishing meals; writing a list of things to delegate around the house; creating breastfeeding stations; and if you have multiple children, organising childcare support from family and friends. Female support and connection is so healing during this time, either from a postpartum doula or a close friend or family member.
In Part 2 of our postpartum recovery series, we speak to Addison and Erin about the emotional changes that can occur during the postpartum period; their go-to recovery resources; plus top tips for self-care and reconnecting with our bodies during this time.
Addison Landry is a Melbourne-based postpartum doula, energy nutritionist, chef and founder of Uplifted Collective, helping women navigate their way through one of the most redefining moments of their lives – motherhood.
Erin Gregory is tooshies’ resident midwife expert and the founder of kinsho, a childbirth education platform that empowers birthing mothers and partners to create positive, joyful outcomes, with less negative emotional and physical implications.
Related articles with Erin: Becoming parents during a pandemic
Related articles with Addison: Navigating the first 40-days post birth with a doula