The memories I have of giving birth to my children are absolutely some of the best of my life – but that postpartum recovery period is shocking!
There are so many things that I didn’t realise would happen that took me completely by surprise.
I don’t think I appreciated quite how knocked out it
You may also like:
The guide to staying in hospital after giving birth
Tips for the first week with a baby
How to heal down there fast after giving birth
would make me feel, and on top of that I had a new baby to get used to.
That postpartum struggle is real! Here are 11 things that totally shocked me.
This post may contain affiliate links.
1. The bleeding is heavy
I knew I would bleed for a bit after giving birth, but I didn’t appreciate that changing the maternity pads would feel a bit like a full-time job!
The bleeding was steady for a good few days afterwards, and didn’t stop for a few weeks.
I found myself changing my maternity pad really frequently because I had stitches for a second degree tear and I was so determined to encourage my body to heal without getting an infection.
When you’re shopping for your hospital bag and picking up other postpartum essentials, please do not forget to pick up extra maternity pads! If you think you’ve bought enough, throw another pack in for good luck!
Don’t forget that any you don’t use can be used during your next period, so it’s not a waste of money.
Stock up before the birth, so that you have them to hand straight away and don’t forget to pack the maternity pads in your hospital bag!
There are more tips for what should be in your postpartum care kit here.
2. Cramps are shocking
As your uterus contracts back to its normal size, you get period-type cramps.
They can be particularly strong when you’re breastfeeding, as the letdown reflex triggers cramping.
The best way to deal with the cramps is a hot water bottle, support your lower back when sitting down and painkillers (ibuprofen is best when breastfeeding).
3. The smell is grim
That postpartum smell is so bizarre. It’s totally unique, not gag-inducing, but not particularly pleasant either.
I found for me the best way to tackle it was to change my maternity pads as often as possible. I also made sure I was changing my underwear frequently too.
Apart from the smell of blood and general grime, breastmilk that’s crusted to your skin doesn’t smell particularly great either.
Take a bath as soon as you can after giving birth. Showers can feel a bit harsh on the skin, especially your boobs, if you’re feeling a bit sore.
Add some special postpartum bath soak to the tub to help with the healing too.
TMI alert! I had haemorrhoids during my second pregnancy and they were awful! Then after giving birth they seemed to double in size. It was horrendous.
The only thing that helped was this cream called Anusol. Can we just talk about the name for second, why did they call it Anusol? Who wants to go into a pharmacy and ask for that? A more subtle name would be much appreciated please manufacturers! If you don’t like the name, try this cream instead.
Anyway, don’t forget to see your doctor if the haemorrhoids are causing pain, discomfort or stopping you from using the loo. They go down eventually but urgh they are the worst thing.
There’s a whole post about healing fast “down there” over here.
5. That first poo is scary
Following on nicely from the haemorrhoid discussion, let’s talk about the first poo.
It’s scary. It’s like reliving the birth again. You feel like you’re going to burst.
I was so scared of mine that I held off doing it for about a week. Big mistake. It gets 20 times worse if you leave it, especially if you are on iron tablets for blood loss!
My advice. Get it over with as soon as you have the urge. Take your time (ask your other half to have the baby for half an hour). Press a damp cloth to your stitches if you have them, this can just make you feel a little more secure and help with the discomfort.
6. Breastfeeding is NOT easy
Whoever said breastfeeding was 100 per cent natural was lying! It’s not easy to get breastfeeding right straight away. You need to practice, and you need to realise you’ll be in for a bit of pain.
The main thing that helped me with discomfort was this amazing nipple cream that really eased soreness.
Check out my post about beginner’s breastfeeding for lots of tips.
7. No one warned me about night sweats
Waking up feeling like you’ve been in the shower, then realising it’s actually sweat. That’s just another magical gift of postpartum for you!
The night sweats were really bad for me. They kicked in about a week after giving birth and continued for another fortnight or so.
I remember waking up utterly drenched.
I recommend having a spare pair of PJs by the bed so you can change in the night if you’re really uncomfortable. Oh, and change the sheets a bit more often (obviously get your other half to do this!) so that your bed doesn’t feel too grimy.
8. The baby cries even after they’ve been fed
The crying is intense and stressful. I remember when I had fed my baby, and made sure she had some sleep, but she still cried, being really confused.
Sometimes your baby will just cry and fuss because they want you to understand that they are feeling a bit annoyed about this whole being born thing.
I’ve got a whole post about dealing with crying over here, check it out.
9. Weird flashbacks to the birth strike without warning
I remember lying in my hospital bed after giving birth and flashing back to the pelvic examinations and moment of giving birth.
I was reliving all of the sensations. It felt quite scary and brought back all of the worst bits of the birth.
10. The emotions
The baby blues are definitely a thing and although it might be funny with hindsight, at the time it’s not!
I remember crying about silly things like feeling overwhelmed or not having built the baby’s bouncy chair yet, even though she was a whole five days old.
It’s silly the things that get to you after you’ve given birth. If you do find yourself feeling really emotional, remember that it’s normal and it will pass.
If you’re still feeling out of sorts, sad, overwhelmed and really down after eight to 12 weeks, do speak to your doctor or health visitor to see if it could be something more serious. Get the help you need, you don’t need to feel embarrassed or worry that anyone will judge you.
11. You feel like you’ve been hit by a lorry
My overwhelming memory of the days after giving birth is feeling like my entire body had taken an extreme beating.
Everything ached, my stomach felt all out of sorts because it wasn’t back to normal and there was a huge gap where the baby had been.
I shuffled around the hospital after giving birth trying to get exercise but feeling like all I wanted to do was lie down and hide from it all.
The good news is, although it’s such a hard experience, it does get easier.