There is no denying it, childbirth can take a toll on the human body. It doesn't matter how calm you make the labor room, how many childbirth classes you've attended, or how many births you've experienced previously, the fact that a living being is exiting your body is bound to cause some damage, or at necessitate a prolonged time of change and healing. But how long does it actually take to recover from delivery? Of course, every woman, every birth, and every postpartum recovery process is different, but there's an average post-birth recovery time every soon-to-be mom should familiarize herself with, if only to get a general idea as to what to expect once that precious babe of hers is born.
According to WebMD, in generally takes around six to eight weeks for a woman's body to recover from childbirth. More specifically, six to eight weeks is about how long it takes for your body to contract your uterus back down to it's pre-pregnancy size. In that time period, according to WebMD, a postpartum woman should expect to experience the following changes: contractions (called after-pains), sore muscles (especially in the arms, neck, and jaw), bleeding and vaginal discharge for two to four weeks, and for up to as long as two months, vaginal soreness, and breast engorgement. If a woman undergoes a C-section, WebMD says she will also experience pain in her lower belly, that will probably require pain medication, for up to two weeks.
Your periods will usually take a little while to return, too, as The Office on Women's Health at The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states:
"Your period could return in six to eight weeks, or sooner if you do not breastfeed. If you breastfeed, your period might not resume for many months."
You may also experience swelling in your hands and feet, and suffer from constipation or a general full-body pain depending, on how your birth experience panned out. If you had a C-section you'll also be dealing with, again, wound management and the after effects of major abdominal surgery.
Six weeks of recovery time may well just be the minimum us postpartum women should expect it to take to recover from birth. Janis M. Miller, from the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan, conducted research on postpartum mothers, and told the Guardian the following:
"Our data shows a wide range of time for women to complete their healing after a very strenuous birth. Women are not given permission to have more time to recover after childbirth.”
In other words, six to eight weeks is not a hard-and-fast childbirth recovery time. If it takes you longer to feel like your "old self" post-labor and delivery, there's nothing atypical about you and/or your experience.
The physical recovery after birth is undeniable, but what many people fail to consider is the psychological impact. Not only can the influx of post-birth hormones cause a range of emotions, but simply adapting to suddenly being a parent can be quite the challenge.
In fact, Dr. Julie Wray, of Salford University, interviewed women after they had given birth and found their experiences varied widely. She told the Daily Mail that we, as a society, need to have more realistic expectations of the post birth experience:
"Women feel that it takes much longer than six weeks to recover and they should be supported beyond the current six to eight weeks after birth."
Recovery periods vary from woman to woman and will depend on a variety of factors, such as birth experience, interventions or medical complications, and the amount of support made available to the laboring woman. The important thing to remember is, just like labor and delivery itself, your postpartum experience is your own. Now's not the time to compare. Now's the time to heal.
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