Body After Baby: The Recovery
July 11, 2016
One of my biggest fears during my pregnancy was my post-partum body. Not my weight or looks, but just the recovery aspects of it. I didn’t care about labor pains, didn’t even think twice about how a 7lb baby can come out of my body, all I thought about was how I was going to be able to pee afterwards. I think the main reason I felt this trepidation was because it’s not a subject a lot of people talk about. I read about the need of pads in your hospital bag, but didn’t know the extent of the bleeding. I knew they would push my placenta out, if didn’t come out on it’s own, but didn’t know they kept scraping your belly for the next few days. So for those who are curious, here’s my experience with my body after birth. Warning: some of it might be TMI for some. Also, sorry for the length!
Quick birth recap: induction > epidural > vacuum extraction > baby. My full recap is over here
After the actual birth of Olivia, she was placed on me while she got cleaned up. Next thing I know my doctor was stitching me up. The epidural was starting to wear off, so I could definitely feel the discomfort and some pain. I had a partial tear on both labia (inner and outer), so it took a little while to get it all done. My biggest fear, how much it would sting when I peed, was not necessary; UTI’s burn a lot more. By the way, get ready to pee with nurses in the bathroom watching you, they want to make sure you’re ok to walk and are there to help you and you’re wobbly legs.
Cleanup consists of using a squirt bottle, which the hospital provided, to rinse off (this does sting a little) and pat drying. Witch hazel pads and stool softener were used to take care of those pesky hemorrhoids. And no, having a bowel movement was not as scary as I expected. Back at home, I kept using the bottle, witch hazel pads and stool softeners until my wound felt well and the swelling had gone down.
I was definitely swollen and used the ice pack they provided to relieve some of the discomfort. I don’t say pain because it either never really hurt and/or the pain meds were doing their job. The logistics of the ice pack was a cold wet frozen diaper you place inside your mesh undies. Not the most comfortable thing in the world, but you’re lying in bed most of the time anyways. Back home I never did a sitz bath, although I might try them next time. Showers felt great. My first actual walk in the hospital was probably about 30 hours after labor. It wasn’t painful, just a bit awkward walking with that huge pad. Also, it was at a pretty slow pace. Once back home, I walked around the house quite a bit, but did spend most of the time lying down. Rest is amazing during recovery. My first walk around the block was about 4 days after labor and only about 15 minutes. Pacing yourself is the best way to recover without complications.
Remember when I talked about your stomach getting scraped? Yep, that hurt a lot. I didn’t even notice when they took everything out after birth, but I did feel these checkups. Basically, the nurses press hard on your stomach to make sure your uterus is contracting as it should and that there is no concerning bleeding going on. The first time they do it, you’ll bleed a lot. The gush is strong and it feels like a kiddie pool was just emptied at once. Ok, I might me exaggerating a little, but it’s a lot. Afterwards, they keep checking you a few times a day and the pain never really gets that much more tolerable. I was stoked when they came in the room to check up on me and said they didn’t need to “massage” me anymore because my body was recovering nicely.
The bleeding. Yes, there’s bleeding, but in my case it was never as much as I expected or heard off, other than when they push everything out of you on that first uterus checkup. I used the huge 3” pads provided by the hospital for the three days I was there and for about two more at home. After that, I was able to just use long overnight pads, still uncomfortable, but much more tolerable. I only stained once at the hospital when I moved to the rocker and the pad shifted. Other than that, I was never a heavy bleeder. I moved on to panty liners within three weeks of giving birth. I was discharge free after five weeks.
(The pic above was taken the night after I gave birth in the morning. Yes, you’ll still have a belly!)
The stitches for my tear healed up relatively well. Mine fell off, which was a surprise to me. When they said they would dissolve, I thought they would magically disappear. The last one came out about five weeks after birth. At my six week checkup, everything looked ok and I got the go ahead from my doctor to go back to normal, including exercise and intercourse with a warning that it was going to be uncomfortable.
She was right. I waited until about 8 weeks port partum to have sex and it was not the most pleasant experience of my life. After what my body went through, that should’ve been expected. You basically have to retrain your lady parts for intercourse again.
At about 12 weeks post partum, I started to get a clear discharge again. After a week or so I decided to do a quick visual check and noticed that something didn’t look right, some of the skin on my scar was red, yet I wasn’t bleeding and it didn’t hurt. So off to the doctor I went. Turns out I had developed granulated tissue, basically extra skin on my scar. She treated it with silver nitrate right on the spot. Some women don’t experience any pain. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones. I stayed in the car about 20 minutes because the burning pain was too uncomfortable to drive. I followed her directions: take pain meds if necessary (you bet I did), no intercourse for at least three days (more like two weeks for me), and to go back in two to three weeks if it still didn’t look right. My extra skin fell off the next day and it healed up nicely, so I didn’t need to go back for a second treatment or surgery, which is needed in some cases.
Twenty weeks post partum, I can say that my body is back to my new normal. I’m now armed with information and experience for the second time around. In a few years…
Is there anything you wish you new about the recovery before giving birth? Any different experiences you had that might inform other moms-to-be out there?