When we are pregnant we (naturally) focus a lot on pregnancy, labour and birth. We read all the books and parenting forums about what to expect when we’re expecting and what labour and the journey after birth and postpartum will be like. But, often, what comes next is a bit of a shock. It’s as if we didn’t turn the page to read on to discover what to expect postpartum . What it will really be like in those first few hours, days, weeks and months after birth?
Postpartum and what happens after birth can come as a shock for so many mums.
We asked mums in our Facebook group about what was most unexpected about their experience postpartum. These are the key points they raised:
The pain of stitches down below
If you have an episiotomy during labour the pain of the wound and the stitches might come as a bit of a shock. Obviously it’s a very sensitive area and even going for a wee can sting. Nicola from Team Happity says:
“I winced every time I sat down postpartum. My midwife gave me a surgical glove and suggested I fill it with water, freeze it and sit on it to ease the pain. Her tip was a lifesaver in the early days after birth. Even if it did feel a bit odd She also told me to rinse with a warm jug of water after a wee instead of wiping. And that really helped”
Nobody ever warns you about after pains – do they? We focus on what contractions might feel like and how we can get through them but after-pains are something that is not talked about enough. After pains (when your womb contracts) can be really sore. It feels like very intense cramps. It’s just your uterus contracting to shrink to its original size. But if you didn’t expect it – it can feel alarming
One mum said:
“The pain! I couldn’t stand up without pain for more than a few minutes of time. The cramps were insane. I took painkillers and it got better after a couple of weeks. But nobody had told me it would be so sore after birth”
Styling out a HUGE maternal nappy!
The discharge after birth is a bit of a shock!. Who knew we would have to rock HUGE postpartum nappies or ginormous sanitary towels in those days and weeks after birth? Often quite how much postpartum bleeding occurs and for how long can be something we didn’t quite expect.
Sore and cracked nipples
We might expect breastfeeding to be natural and plain sailing. But nobody tells us about the sore and cracked nipples that we might experience along the way. Every new mum is on a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding. If your baby doesn’t latch on correctly your nipples can soon become super sore and even cracked. With support new mums can be guided to make sure their baby is latching on correctly and find ways to soothe any pain. But it seems that there’s still not enough support available when new mums need it most.
The intensity of your emotions
Of course having a baby is life changing but the intensity of emotions that hit you can be a bit of a shock!. You can find yourself overcome by emotions – both happy and sad. And the wave of strong emotions you feel can hit you like a rock. One mum spoke about this swing of raw emotions:
“I was so emotional after labour. I kept looking at my newborn and crying. I felt such a wave of love. And it was intense. I was suddenly in charge of this tiny human and the responsibility made me panic”
Being able to function on so little sleep
Before birth the world and his wife advise you to get as much sleep as you can because you’ll lose out on so much sleep once your little bundle arrives. You smile and nod but you don’t quite get it until you give birth and experience sleep deprivation like never before!
You might be surprised by how you can function in the early days and weeks on so little sleep (new mums are protected by hormones which help them feel like supermums!). You feel like you are buzzing and invincible. But after a few weeks the exhaustion kicks in – big style!
The shock of the new
Becoming a new parent is a new experience and something we can never fully prepare ourselves for – no matter how many books we read. We focus so much on the labour and birth that what happens next can feel like a bit of shock.
It’s normal and natural. Be reassured that you will learn as you go. Every hour and day you spend with your baby you will learn. And, when you have questions or are unsure – ask! Ask your mum, your friends, in parenting forums or in our Facebook Group. And trust your instincts.
Disclaimer: We have researched and included robust sources to provide information in this article. However, we are not health or medical professionals and you should always seek medical advice if you are worried about you or your baby’s health.