What people don’t tell you about giving birth & postnatal recovery…

Knowledge is power. But as a society we’re not so keen on sharing knowledge that relates to body parts and bodily functions. And this lack of openness often results in women feeling scared and shocked when the reality of their birth experiences and postnatal recovery don’t match the shiny, smiley, back in my skinny jeans images on Insta.

So this is me being honest about a few things that you might never have heard before. And if there’s anything else you feel should be added, please do let me know!

  • If your waters break naturally be prepared for the fact that the water can just keep on coming!
  • Contractions when you get to the business end of things and start pushing may well feel like you need or are doing a poo.
  • It is very common and perfectly normal to feel ‘the fear‘ when baby’s birth is close and to feel like you really can’t do this anymore. You absolutely can.
  • It is quite common to shake (sometimes quite violently) after having a baby (particularly if you’ve had some kind of spinal pain relief)
  • You’ll experience significant bleeding post baby, however your baby was delivered, for 2-6 weeks and will likely pass some clots too. Normal sanitary towels just won’t cut it, tampons are not an option and disposable pants really come into their own here. (Note: should the blood loss be very sudden or severe, however, get yourself checked out to rule out any postpartum haemorrhage.)
  • Going for a wee will likely sting and be painful, so drink lots of water to dilute your urine, use a jug to pour warm water on yourself whilst having a wee and don’t make a habit of weeing in the shower when things return to normal as your bladder might make an association between the running water and the need to wee, which might create/worsen urge incontinence.
  • Your vulva will likely be swollen after birth and you may well experience perineal pain (pain in the area between your vagina and anus). Donut shaped cushions can be a godsend and you can make your own cool packs to help the swelling by smearing aloe vera on a sanitary towel, spraying on some witch hazel and popping them in the freezer in a freezer bag. Never let ice actually come into direct contact with your skin though to avoid ice burns and have a rest between applications. Tea tree and lavender essential oil baths can be helpful too.
  • The first poo postnatally can be quite scary and painful, however you’ve birthed your baby, so stay hydrated, eat lots of fibre and get your knees higher than your hips when you go. If you’ve had a c-section you may also feel better pressing a clean pad against your scar area.
  • Certain movements can be extremely painful immediately post c-section (like getting out of bed), so take the painkillers and adapt to where you body is at (log rolling is definitely your answer for getting in and out of bed). See here for more info on C-section recovery.
  • Piles are common post birth and often disappear quickly, but please see your GP if they don’t and follow the same logic as above and avoid straining. Shushing or growling whilst pooing can help, honest!
  • You may well experience urinary and/or faecal incontinence after giving birth. Whilst this is common, it’s not normal and lots can be done to improve the situation. Skip over to this article on breathing for more info on your pelvic floor and the support that’s available for you.
  • Your stomach will unfortunately deflate slowly like a balloon.
  • You’ll likely experience a whole host of emotions and feel quite tearful at times. This is perfectly normal. It’s also quite an experience watching your current baby meet the “new baby” if you have other children. If you’re feeling very anxious or depressed, however please contact your GP for support.
  • Breastfeeding can be really difficult and painful and your breasts may well become engorged (lumpy/hard, painful and hot) a few days after giving birth. The most effective way to deal with this is to feed or express and if you need any help at all with breastfeeding know that amazing teams and volunteers do exist. You might just need to hunt them out.
  • All that lovely luscious additional hair that you’ve grown recently may well fall out.
  • If you experience any swelling or pain in your calf, chest pain, difficult breathing, blurred vision, severe headaches, vomiting or a fever, please do get advice asap.

This post wasn’t intended to scare anyone or to put anyone off, so I hope you’ve taken it in the spirit it was meant. Instead I hope to have managed your expectations suitably and to ensure that you don’t feel scared or panicked if and when these things happen to you.

It’s a good job these babies are cute given all we go through for them isn’t it?!

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