You’ve just given birth to a baby, and your body needs time to heal. Beware of life-threatening problems that can occur days or weeks after delivery, such as hemorrhage.
Expect vaginal bleeding and discharge (called lochia) that can last up to six weeks after delivery, even after a c-section. It may be heavier at first and then taper off.
Rest and recover
It’s important not to push yourself too hard during the first six weeks after delivery. This is a time to get used to the new baby and your body’s hormone changes. If you are feeling overwhelmed or emotional, talk to your healthcare provider right away. It’s also a good idea to accept any reasonable offers of help from friends and family members. It’s important to eat healthy meals and drink plenty of fluids. During this time, it’s also a good idea to take it easy on the exercise front; avoid jumping back into your normal routine too soon and opt for walking or other low-impact activities instead.
If you are experiencing feelings of sadness or depression after your baby’s birth, contact your healthcare provider. It’s also important to tell your healthcare provider if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. If these thoughts persist, call 988 or visit a crisis centre for support. You may find it helpful to journal or draw your thoughts and feelings. A therapist can help you process these feelings.
Eat a healthy diet
Pregnancy is a time of high energy and nutrition is important for both mother and baby. But a healthy diet can be difficult to maintain when your focus is on caring for your new baby.
Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods helps you get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs during this critical period. You may also benefit from taking a postnatal supplement that provides a high-quality source of vitamin D, folate, iron, choline and omega-3 fatty acids.
It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of fluids and eat fibre-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholemeal or brown breads, cereals and pulses. This can help prevent constipation, which is common after giving birth.
Exercise is another key aspect of postnatal recovery. It can help you feel more energetic, relax your back muscles and strengthen your pelvic floor and tummy. If you can, try to find an exercise class that is suitable for new mothers and babies. Many postnatal classes are designed with newborns in mind, and some even let you use a pram or buggy.
Get plenty of sleep
Getting plenty of sleep will help you stay healthy and strong and is especially important when you’re breastfeeding. Try to go to bed around the same time each night and sleep when your baby sleeps. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, ask family or friends for help. They may be able to babysit, run errands or cook meals for you.
If you experience the ‘baby blues’ – a period of emotional upheaval and mood changes that are caused by hormonal changes following childbirth – give yourself time to feel this way, as these symptoms will pass. However, if these feelings persist and you have other symptoms of postnatal depression, it is very important that you speak to your midwife or health visitor as soon as possible.
Once you are feeling up for it, exercise can help you stay fit and feel more energetic. Start off with light exercises such as walking, gentle stretches and pelvic floor and tummy exercises. You can also join a postnatal exercise class – there are many that allow you to bring your baby along with you, but make sure you wait until after your six-week postnatal check before you take part in any high impact exercise.
Postnatal exercise can help speed up recovery, and aids in muscle strength and toning. However, it’s important to take your time and listen to your body.
As a new mum, it can be easy to get caught up in unrealistic expectations and fantasies of your “perfect” body, especially when you see instagram highlights of fit people running or doing strenuous workouts. Remember that everyone’s body recovers differently and that it’s normal for some women to take months or even years to return to their pre-pregnancy physique.
Generally, you can start exercising gently (such as walking) within a few days of giving birth, but it’s usually best to wait until after your six-week postnatal check to restart high impact exercises like aerobics or running. It’s also a good idea to ask your midwife, health visitor or GP about safe and suitable exercise options for you.
Take care of yourself
While most of your time will be spent looking after your baby, don’t forget about yourself and your needs. Make sure you get enough rest and drink lots of fluids. Also, try to do one “normal” thing each day — such as going for a walk, having a shower or seeing friends.
You may experience a lot of emotional ups and downs in the weeks following your delivery, especially if your birth wasn’t what you expected. This is normal and usually goes away after a few days, but if you feel overwhelmed, anxious or depressed for more than two weeks talk to your GP or contact Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.
It takes a long time to recover from pregnancy, labour and childbirth. It’s important to be patient and not compare yourself to how you felt before you became a mother. Your body will heal in its own time and will never look the same as it did before your pregnancy. By the six-week mark, your vaginal and perineal healing should be complete and your uterus should be back to its original size. Postnatal recovery