Regardless of whether you had a vaginal or C-section delivery, your body will recover in its own time. Every woman’s experience is different.
You may have a vaginal discharge, lochia, which is bloody and heavy at first, then becomes lighter in flow and color. It will go away after a few weeks.
The first week
In the first week after your baby’s birth, it’s normal for your hormone levels to be on a roller coaster. This can produce feelings of sadness or depression that are a part of postpartum recovery and should pass. If these feelings last more than a couple of weeks, talk to your healthcare provider to make sure that you aren’t suffering from postpartum depression.
You may also notice changes in your vaginal discharge, or lochia. It will usually start off bright red and then begin to change color to brown or yellow. It can take a while for your lochia to disappear, especially if you had a c-section or a perineal tear from delivery.
In this first week, it’s important to rest and sleep as much as possible. Try to eat healthy foods, but don’t overdo it on the exercise. It’s fine to walk around and do light exercise, but avoid high-impact activities.
The second week
By this time, your body is starting to feel more like normal. It’s important not to rush the healing process, so take it easy and allow yourself some rest. It’s also a good idea to let your partner and friends help you with the baby and household chores so that you can focus on your recovery and getting to know your newborn.
It is normal to continue to feel emotional at this stage. Hormones can cause you to feel irritable or cry for no reason, but this should pass after a few days. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, anxious or depressed after 2 weeks, contact your GP or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby for support.
It is also common to still have vaginal bleeding and discharge, known as lochia. This will usually stop by the end of this week, but it may continue for a longer period of time if you are breastfeeding.
The third week
By this week, you’re probably starting to feel better and have lost most of your “delivery weight,” although it may take some time for your tummy to return to its pre-pregnancy shape. You’ll also start to get into a routine with breastfeeding or bottle feeding, and it’s common for your breasts to feel tight, full, and tender as they begin to produce milk.
You’ll still bleed from your lochia, so continue to use sanitary towels or super absorbent liners. You should also continue to drink plenty of water and eat lots of fibre (fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, wholegrain breads and cereals) as this can help prevent constipation.
It’s common to experience a temporary mood change around this time – known as the baby blues or transient depression – but this should improve within two weeks. If you have persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety, talk to your GP.
The fourth week
It’s normal to feel sore around this time, especially if you had a cesarean delivery or experienced tearing during a vaginal birth. It may help to take pain relief medication as needed. Also, it may be a good idea to let some lesser tasks slide this week so that you can focus on your baby.
Many new moms experience mild feelings of depression this week, often called “baby blues.” The mood changes are normal, but if the symptoms worsen or you think about harming yourself or your baby, contact your healthcare provider right away.
During this week, you should be scheduling regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider. These visits are critical for postpartum recovery. The visits give your healthcare provider the opportunity to monitor both you and your baby for any health concerns. They will also be able to provide you with important breastfeeding support.
The fifth week
During this week, your healing process is well under way. Your energy levels should be improving and you may find that low-impact exercise – such as walking – gives you a big boost in your mood.
This is a good time to ask for help with household chores or errands so you can focus on the baby and yourself. It’s also normal to experience a rollercoaster of emotions this week, as your hormones change. This is called the baby blues and usually goes away by itself but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed it could be a sign of Postnatal recovery depression and you should seek help.
You’ll probably have your six-week postnatal check this week. Your doctor or maternity care provider will do a pelvic exam to look at your perineum or incision site (if you had a caesarean) and may take blood tests, depending on what’s needed.
The sixth week
By this week, your body will have started to heal from childbirth. It is common to feel tired at this stage, but you should try not to get disheartened if some aspects of your recovery are slower than others.
If you’re still sore from the vaginal delivery or a C-section, try to walk around as much as possible, and take pain relief medication as needed. It is also important to start getting some lower-level household chores done this week, to help relieve stress and allow you more time to relax or focus on your newborn.
Make sure you have your six-week postnatal check with your GP or maternity care provider. They will examine your uterus, perineum and incision line (if you had a C-section), as well as ask how you are feeling and answer any questions you may have. They will also recommend contraceptive options for you if necessary.