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Episode 34: Postpartum Physical Recovery

postpartum Mar 11, 2022

This week we're talking about physical recovery postpartum, and what to expect.

It's important that you are prepared for your postpartum recovery period. It's important that you know what to expect and that you know what realistic expectations of yourself might be. 

We talk about preparing for postpartum quite a bit in the Brave Journey Birth Preparation Program, along with checklists for what to do and how to prepare. We also discuss the importance of building a support team. Knowing what to expect physically during your first week or two postpartum will help you have a better idea of how to prepare.

Full Transcript:

[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the next episode of your free weekly. Brave Journey Birth Preparation Videos videos, where I pick a topic related to birth or postpartum and I talk about it. This week. We're talking about physical recovery postpartum. Next week we'll talk about emotional recovery, but this week we're talking about physical recovery.

So we'll go over some of the things you can expect physically in your postpartum time. It's important that you were prepared for this postpartum recovery period. It's important that you know what to expect. That you know, what realistic expectations of yourself might be, and this will help you prepare your support team.

And we talk about this a lot in the Brave Journey Birth Preparation Program, preparing your support team and preparing for your postpartum. So knowing what to expect physically will help you get there. I'm Cara Lee, I'm a birth doula and a childbirth educator, and let's get started.


Now, first off, a little caveat, your postpartum experience, may be super intense and super difficult. Your postpartum experience, maybe full of ease and joy and love. Your postpartum experience may include. Depending on the day. Unfortunately, and fortunately, just like everything else in life. We're not going to know what your postpartum experience is going to be like until you're going through it yourself.

So it's important for you to recognize that you may have a really, really, really challenging time postpartum, or you may find it a time full of ease and joy. And a lot of that may have to do with some of your circumstances postpartum that you just can't control. So it's important to be prepared for some of these physical recovery symptoms and some of these physical recovery processes, but you just don't know whether those, these will be in conjunction with a rather joyful and easy postpartum or a rather intense and difficult. For a period of time I was prepared for. Everybody for [00:02:00] really intense and difficult postpartum period. And then I had people coming back to me and saying, well, actually it was really lovely. And I expected it to be so much worse than it was. So it's good. Maybe it's all about expectations. I don't know, but you can expect it to be intense.

And you can expect your postpartum to be a time of learning, how to be a parent, to this particular infant. Of learning, perhaps how to feed a baby from your body. Uh, and your infant is learning how to be a human and breathe, breathe air, and drink milk. Uh, it's a time of learning, but it may not necessarily be as intense as you expect, or maybe it'll be more intense you just don't know.

So let's dive right into these physical recovery elements. First off, your body is recovering from a major intense experience, whether your baby was born via cesarean or whether your baby was born vaginally, your body has gone through a massively physical intense experience and is in recovery. So just keep that in mind when you approach anything postpartum for the first few weeks, your body is recovering.

You [00:03:00] may be, in addition to recovering from having been pregnant and no longer pregnant, which includes a massive hormonal shift, you may also be recovering from a vaginal birth, which may include some perineum soreness or re or some sutures in your perineum. You may also be recovering from a cesarean birth, which would be a major abdominal surgery.

So in addition, regardless of how your baby's born, your hormones and your body have shifted entirely from the mode of pregnancy to the mode of potentially making milk- if you're choosing to feed your baby from your body- so this shift, but no matter what, you're no longer pregnant. So there are massive hormonal shifts and it is really intense time in your body.

It is one of the most dynamic times of your for your hormone levels at any point in your life, where you go from the last day you were pregnant, your hormone levels fluctuate wildly to where you are about a day or two later. And your whole body has shifted from growing a placenta and a human to shifting to milk production.

So it's a massive shift. In addition, potentially you're [00:04:00] healing from a major abdominal surgery. At the very least you're healing from some perenium stretching, perhaps some tearing that your body is healing. So it's huge.

Another thing that's going on is within your your uterus, the placenta has detached from the uterine wall. So once that, that placenta detaches all the blood vessels that were connecting the placenta to your body, which was how your baby was getting all the nutrients from you, going through the placenta and in, through the umbilical cord to the infant. And also then the infant was giving their waste back to you for you to disseminate through your own waste removal systems.

But all those blood vessels I have been, um, broken so to speak, the placenta has separated. So all these blood vessels in your womb are healing. And so this is a massive, massive, massive healing process. It's totally normal. It is something your body has been built to do, for once that placenta removes the uterus clamps down, and then those, those blood vessels heal and close, [00:05:00] but it's a huge transition.

So I just, I can't say it enough, what this physical recovery postpartum is really, really massive process for you physically. Next week, not even talking about emotionally, next week, we'll get into the emotions. But today we're just talking physical.

So one of the major symptoms that you need to be prepared for is bleeding. Lochia. Lochia discharge is similar to a menstrual cycle, but it's different in terms of its actual function. But this is the uterine lining within your uterus is, is. Uh, shedding, what's the word? Shedding. So you'll go through four to six weeks of bleeding after you've had your baby.

There's different stages of lochia. It's not like a full blood or menstrual cycle or menstrual blood the whole time. So it'll start out red, like menstrual blood, and then it'll become a little bit pink or, or, um, Or brown, and then it are moving to a white or yellow stage. So it's not a really, really strong flow the whole time. In the beginning though, it's a pretty heavy flow. And again, this could last four to six [00:06:00] weeks.

Another element of physical recovery is likely excessive fatigue. So you're doing everything you can to prevent excessive fatigue, but you're dealing with sleep deprivation. Infants are designed to eat and need care every two to three hours. That is how their bodies are built when they are newborns. Every two to three hours they're expecting to receive nourishment and their bodies are so small that they need that kind of regular nourishment. So what that means is every two to three hours includes overnight. Which can lead to some severe fatigue and some severe sleep deprivation. So we talk about this in the Brave Journey Birth Preparation Program,, but some tactics you should be prepared with some tactics for trying to minimize the amount of the excessive fatigue. But fatigue is unfortunately, and sleep interruptions is unfortunately an element of the postpartum period. And it's something to be aware of. Sleep deprivation doesn't sound so awful when you're just talking about it prenatally, but talk to anybody who's been postpartum recently and ask them about what sleep deprivation feels like. And you may get an ear full. It can [00:07:00] feel really, really challenging, truly, truly challenging.

something else you're going through physically postpartum, potentially, might be a little bit of constipation. So this isn't everybody, but particularly if you spent some time pushing or your baby came out via your vagina was born vaginally, then your, um, where your bowel movements are, is really close to where your baby emerged. The perineum is the skin in between the vaginal canal and where your, your solid waste emerges. My nine year old was talking about the polite way to talk about pooping yesterday. And she said, you can call it 'solid waste.' So 'you can thank my nine-year-old for that phrase I just used. But constipation is no joke, especially if you're nervous about having a bowel movement after having either pushed for a long time and or your baby being born vaginally. Because even if you've had a cesarean birth, even if your baby was born via as a cesarean, if you spent a long time pushing your perineum\, it's still going to be sore. And, um, in recovery.

Something else that you may be going through physically in postpartum is working through learning how to body feed. And I love the [00:08:00] phrase 'body feed'. Not only is it inclusive to all different genders and, and, and, and helps people feel included and welcomed here at Brave Journey.

But body feeding also is a more accurate representation of what it feels like to feed babies milk from your breasts. Because it is a whole body experience. Your nutrition, your energy levels, your rest, what you're eating, how much water you're drinking, how much you're exercising or not, this all can impact your milk supply. So does it absolutely a full body experience. So I love the term body feeding. It feels more resonant for me and what that experience was like for me. So if your body feeding, you're learning how to feed an infant from your breast. Your infant is learning how to get milk from a breast, and it's a very physical experience.

And you may experience sore nipples as your body adjusts. And I have some tips for you in the Brave Journey Birth Preparation Program for how to ensure an optimal latch. And we'll be talking about this a little bit in the coming weeks too, some tips for body feeding, but your body is going to be adjusting. It's a massive [00:09:00] physical adjustment to making milk and then learning how your, to help your baby remove it effectively from your body.

And I've already mentioned it, but you may also be experiencing a sore perineum. Whether or not your baby was born via cesarean, if you spent a significant amount of time pushing. Or your baby was down low against your perineum, your perineum may be healing. The good news is that your vulva and your perineum are wonderfully resilient and healing is often very, very straightforward and this just wonderfully resilient part of the body. However, it's significant and it can be very, very sore and difficult. So it's important to be prepared for how to care for your perineum in your postpartum time.

And then a few other symptoms you may experience are after pains. And those tend to get worse with the number of babies you're at. So usually for the second and third, and so on however many babies you're going to have that. That it could be more intense, but after pains are contractions, after you've had the baby, and most often they're associated when you're feeding the baby from your [00:10:00] body.

So when you release milk and when an infant is at your breast, your body increases in oxytocin production. Oxytocin. If you remember, when we talked about hormones of labor, and we talk about this a lot and the Brave Journey Birth Preparation Program, is associated with contractions.

So when you're nursing your uterus will continue to contract, even though there's no longer an infant or placenta in there, but it can feel very sore. So sometimes it's minor and people don't even notice it. And sometimes it may be really intense when you're just having to really breathe through a few cramps. Is what it feels like, intense cramps when you first begin nursing.

And luckily this fades over time. Um, but it can be a real experience something to expect.

And then the other thing is night sweats. And this seems minor when I list these things out, but the nights sweats can be. It can be like a massive amount of sweat. So it's this huge hormonal shift that you're going through again and night shifts, arch nights shifts, night sweats, are a part of this massive shift that you're going through so night sweats are a typical [00:11:00] part and sometimes uncomfortable. And I don't want you to be surprised by it. So that's something to expect.

Okay. So that's it for today. A little bit of a summary of some of the things you can expect physically when you are postpartum and some things to keep an eye out for and prepare for.

I'll see you next week.



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