What to expect postpartum

What to expect postpartum

Welcoming a baby into the world is a joyous moment for many parents. However, during the postpartum period, the weeks following the delivery of a baby, it is common to experience physical, social, psychological and emotional changes.

“A few of the challenges a new mother may face include lack of sleep, fatigue, pain, breastfeeding difficulties, stress, mood changes, new onset or exacerbation of mental health disorders, urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and lack of libido,” says Dr. Kristin Kniech, an OB-GYN physician at Aurora Health Care.

But there are ways you can prepare for these challenges. Dr. Kniech’s biggest piece of advice is to work with your care team to come up with a course of action postpartum. This plan can include a support system, primary care provider, pediatrician, lactation support, and, if warranted, social services and home visits.

Cesarean section versus vaginal delivery recovery

Your expectations for recovery should be based on the method of delivery: cesarean section (C-section) or vaginal delivery.

“C-sections are considered a major yet routine obstetric surgery,” Dr. Kniech explains. “Patients should expect to have abdominal and incisional pain, but abdominal binders can aid in this discomfort.”

Patients who undergo a C-section will have lifting restrictions to decrease the chances of complications with the incision site. They may also have a delayed return of bowel functions.

After a vaginal delivery, you may experience uterine cramping, vaginal bleeding, delayed return of bowel function, fatigue, vaginal pain or burning with urination if you undergo a vaginal repair.

Common postpartum restrictions

Postpartum recovery may look different for everyone, Dr. Kniech says. Generally, restrictions include no heavy lifting over 10-15 pounds for the first 2-3 weeks, no penetration or intercourse for six weeks to allow the cervix to heal, showers instead of baths, and no driving for two weeks. In most cases, all postpartum restrictions are lifted at six weeks.

Postpartum depression

After giving birth, it’s common to feel as though you are on a rollercoaster of emotions. With a sudden change in hormones, as well as exhaustion and stress, it is very common to get the baby blues. After a prolonged period of time, the baby blues might lead to postpartum depression.

“Postpartum depression can be seen in about 10-15% of women post-delivery,” says Dr. Kniech. “It can include feelings of sadness, anxiety, or even despair, and usually will impact women from doing their daily tasks.”

Postpartum depression is typically seen in the first few weeks after childbirth but can last up to a year.

There are warning signs that you can recognize within the first three days of being postpartum. Signs include feelings of anger, depression and anxiety, along with intense emotional reactions or difficulty with daily tasks. If the signs do not improve within the first two weeks, you may be experiencing postpartum depression, Dr. Kniech says, noting there are treatment options to get you the help you need.

“At 12 weeks, the postpartum term is at its end. By this time, patients should have had a comprehensive exam by a provider,” says Dr. Kniech.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.