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When I got pregnant, naturally, I began to do my research like a crazy woman. I wanted to be as prepared as possible. So, I downloaded all the apps, attended all the classes—you know, normal things every pregnant woman does.
I felt I knew all I needed to know about pregnancy and labor.
I was wrong!
WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME HOW PAINFUL AND AWFUL POSTPARTUM RECOVERY IS?!
No, seriously. I didn’t hear a single word nor was I given a single piece of advice on the recovery process after birth! It was literal hell, ladies! Now every chance I get, I tell all pregnant women and women who are just thinking of getting pregnant the truth about postpartum life.
Here’s what postpartum recovery is really like
1. The dreaded “uterine massage”
When you hear the word “massage,” you automatically picture yourself laying down surrounded by soothing music. You’re ready to feel the nice touch of some warm hands work out those sore areas of your body; bringing you ultimate relaxation.
Well, this “massage” is anything BUT that.
I delivered my daughter naturally, so I can’t speak for those women who had C-sections (though I imagine it’s 10x more painful!)
After giving birth, your uterus needs to contract in order to minimize bleeding and cramping. Makes sense and it’s actually a good thing, but boy is it painful. Your nurse comes by every 10-15 minutes for the first couple hours after delivery and “massages” your uterus. What it really is, is painful squeezing and pushing of your stomach and uterus that’s incredibly uncomfortable. Remember: a baby literally just came out of there. Ouch party of 1.
2. Diaper ice packs are a thing and you’re going to love it
It’s no secret that after giving birth you’re going to be extremely sore, swollen, and bruised down there.
Cue the diaper ice packs, aka perineal pads.
These literal godsends are thick pads with built-in ice packs! Simply fold the pad until you hear a distinct “pop” and then shake. They instantly become cool and feel oh so good on your vajayjay! Plus they have this really cushiony padding that makes sitting down extremely comfortable.
If your hospital doesn’t provide these, you can buy them here.
Pro Tip: If you happen to run out and need a quick solution, simply throw a regular pad into the freezer. It’s not as comfortable as the diaper ice packs, but it works in a pinch!
3. Mesh panties are a must
You’re going to need a good pair of mesh panties to hold all the pads, diaper ice packs, and any other layers in place. They’re extremely breathable, stretchy, and most importantly disposable!
Grab a few extra before leaving the hospital if you can, otherwise, you can stock up here.
4. Breastfeeding and the “let-down reflex”
I’ve talked to my aunts, sister-in-laws, and friends, but surprisingly, none of them were able to successfully breastfeed their babies. So I was on this journey alone.
Let me just say, while I was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed my daughter, it’s really hard (and painful!)
Your milk won’t come in until about 2-3 days after delivery, but when it does, you’ll know. Your boobs get really big and heavy. If your baby has a good latch, you’ll instantly feel cramping in your uterus. This is because breastfeeding releases hormones that help to shrink the uterus back to its normal size. This caught me by surprise at first, but it’s totally normal.
Once your supply has been established, you’ll begin to experience what’s known as the “let-down reflex.” After about 1-3 minutes of baby latching and sucking, this motion triggers your body to release the milk in your milk ducts. For the first couple of weeks (for me it was a month) this “let-down reflex” is painful. You’ll feel a tingling sensation in your breasts similar to when your foot falls asleep, followed by a cramping and hardening of your breast. The milk releases all at once and you can actually feel it flowing inside your breast.
While a unique sensation, the pain eventually goes away and breastfeeding becomes a lot easier.
Just remember to try and not allow your breasts to get too engorged as this is extremely painful and can lead to an infection. Regular feedings and pumping (when necessary) should help you avoid this problem.
5. You’re going to be hungry, like all the time
It’s not uncommon to want a huge meal after giving birth. After all, labor and delivery is like running a marathon. Not to mention, you’re only allowed to have ice chips the whole time.
But this feeling of never ending hunger can last for days and even months after leaving the hospital. Especially so if you’re breastfeeding.
Producing breastmilk takes a lot of energy and you’re going to want to eat ALL.THE.TIME.
And you know what? DO IT! This isn’t the time to worry about weight. Eating is going to help keep your milk supply up and your energy levels up. Breastfeeding women typically need around 500 extra calories a day, but this depends on your individual needs which may require more.
Enjoy this time—it’s the only time you can say that slice of pizza is going into your baby’s thighs rather than yours!
6. A peri bottle is your best friend
Your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) is going to be incredibly sore after giving birth, making going to the bathroom uncomfortable.
Whether you have stitches or not, peeing is going to sting for the first week or so. This is where the peri bottle comes to save the day.
It’s a squirt bottle with a curved tip to help clean and soothe your vag postpartum. It’s really simple to use, too. Fill with warm water, and squirt over the areas that are sore. To lessen the sting, squirt the bottle while you’re peeing as it helps dilute your urine, not to mention the warmness just feels great.
Use this as opposed to toilet paper for the first few days/weeks as wiping is abrasive and can hinder the healing process.
Remember: Squirt so it don’t hurt!
7. Say goodbye to those thick locks—postpartum hair loss is real
Did you notice your hair became extra thick, shiny, and just downright gorgeous during pregnancy? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but your hair will begin to fall out a few months postpartum.
We normally lose around 50-100 hairs a day, but pregnancy hormones coupled with prenatal vitamins allows us to slow or even stop the hair loss process. This is what gives us the appearance of full, luscious hair.
After delivery, your estrogen levels start to change back to normal and all those hairs that stayed in the growth process longer, begin to fall out. This results in a noticeable amount of hairs being shed, sometimes even coming out in clumps. While this may seem concerning at first, just know it’s completely normal and won’t last forever.
8. Postpartum pooping is terrifying
This is the #1 thing I wish I knew about as it was (for me) more painful then the actual delivery itself. Not only is the first poop postpartum often referred to as “the second labor,” mine was particularly painful as I also had an episiotomy.
I was so caught up in the whirlwind of becoming a new mom that when I got home, poop hadn’t even crossed my mind. When I finally felt the urge to go, I went to the bathroom, peri bottle in hand, assuming it was going to be uncomfortable because of the stitches, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
I WAS SO WRONG!
It instantly burned and I felt as if my stitches were going to tear! I was taken aback and tried to hold it in, which made the pain even worse! And then I literally started to panic. I was not ready and no one, not even the nurses, warned me about this! I sat there on the toilet, crying my eyes out, lightheaded from the sheer pain of it all.
The only way I can describe it, (and I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not), it literally feels like pooping glass. Yes, glass.
It was hands down the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but I made it through, and you will too. Just remember, to take a stool softener as soon as you can and eat high-fiber foods.
While I now see why nobody told me about this part as it’s not exactly “conversation-friendly,” I feel every expecting mom NEEDS to hear the ugly truth about postpartum pooping.
At the end of the day…
Us women are superheroes. There’s no doubt in my mind. You’re going to get through pregnancy, you’re going to be a rockstar during labor, and you will survive the postpartum recovery process like a boss.
Nobody said motherhood was pretty, but when you look down at your baby, all that pain becomes instantly worth it. You got this, mama!