You might have thought that your pregnancy, labor, or delivery were the hardest parts of having a baby. There's no arguing that the journey is not easy, but the time immediately following your child's birth can be just as tough as, if not more so, any other pregnancy experience. That's why there are quite a few things OB-GYNs desperately want you to know about postpartum recovery, and it's not just about your changing body.
Knowing what to expect, which symptoms are actually red flags, and how to handle it all can do wonders for you — both physically and mentally. With all the pressure to "bounce back" quickly after birth, it's no surprise that so many of my mom friends have felt like they can't live up to the impossible standards of being a "supermom" who can do it all. Taking the time to listen to your body's unique needs — and when to reach out for help — is something that it seems all of the medical professionals who spoke with Romper agree is of the utmost importance. To ease your mind and feel more prepared, check out these things your OB-GYN wants you to know about postpartum recovery.
1. Pay Attention To Your Perineum
As author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way and OB-GYN Dr. Allison Hill tells Romper, "after delivery, your perineum will be painful and swollen, even if you didn’t have an episiotomy or tear." The area between your rectum and vaginal canal can be quite tender and make a small task, like going to the bathroom, seem daunting. "Fill a water bottle with warm water," Hill says. "As you urinate, squirt yourself with the water to rinse the urine from the skin immediately." For additional relief, Hill suggests you "take stool softeners, increase your fiber intake, and drink prune juice to prevent constipation." Taking these steps will help make recovery a little less uncomfortable.
2. Remember Postpartum Is A Range Of Time
"From the moment the baby is delivered until the body completely recovers is the true postpartum transition," Dr. Sherry A. Ross, author of She-ology and OB-GYN, tells Romper. "The exact time for this period varies with each woman." So don't feel like you're in a race to recover.
3. Talk To Your OB-GYN
"Just because you delivered doesn’t mean they stop being your doctor," Dr. Angela Jones, resident sexual health advisor for Astroglide and OB-GYN, tells Romper. "If there are any concerns about bleeding, pain, or depression, your OB-GYN is just a phone call or an office visit away." After all, an internet search is not an adequate substitute for getting actual medical advice.
4. Do Your Kegels
Your entire body went through a huge overhaul when you carried and delivered your baby. So it makes sense that the plumbing might need a little help recovering, too. Hill tells Romper that, "half of women experience urinary incontinence after childbirth, which occurs because pregnancy and childbirth weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor." As it turns out, Kegels help postpartum. "Kegel exercises are the most commonly prescribed treatment, but a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic therapy can also help," Hill adds.
5. Don't Sacrifice Sleep Unnecessarily
"Sleep is crucial for every aspect of recovery," Ross tells Romper. "Let your partner take a feeding in the middle of the night so you get the rest you desperately need." Whether it's snagging a nap whenever you can or carving out time specifically for rest, sleep should be a top priority in your postpartum recovery.
6. Don't Ignore Postpartum Depression
"One quarter of women have emotional changes that can be classified as postpartum depression (PPD), but less than 15 percent of these women seek treatment," Hill says. "Postpartum depression is linked to the sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone at delivery, and it can happen to anyone." Don't be afraid to ask for help.
7. Ask For Assistance
Speaking of asking for help, finding support from friends and family is a big part of postpartum recovery, too. "The saying 'it takes a village to raise a child' is never more true than in those first few days after bringing home your baby," Dr. Brooke Schexnaildre, an OB-GYN, tells Romper. "Whenever anyone offers you help, take them up on it." Aside from providing some much-needed relief, what is another benefit of asking for help? "When trusted friends and family come to visit, take a nap," Schexnaildre says. "Getting an adequate amount of sleep can be a major help in decreasing the risk of postpartum depression."
8. Monitor Swelling
"Swelling post delivery is par for the course," Jones tells Romper. "Don’t be surprised if you wake up one morning after being discharged to home and your legs look like tree trunks." But when does swelling go from being a bit of an inconvenience to a cause for alarm? "As long as the swelling is symmetrical — one leg isn’t bigger than the other — and there is no calf pain — both can be signs of a blood clot — it should resolve itself," Jones says. So asymmetrical swelling and pain in your calves mean it's time to call a physician.