The ultimate postpartum recovery timeline: what to expect

The ultimate postpartum recovery timeline: what to expect

The postpartum period can be equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. Between getting to know your new baby and navigating sleep and feeding schedules, there is a lot going on. And you can’t forget your own recovery.

There is so much emphasis on preparing for birth that it can be easy to forget about the healing period afterwards. Keep in mind that the postpartum recovery timeline can stretch out for up to six months and knowing what to expect in the days, weeks and months after birth can help you prepare.

The postpartum period is filled with happy and challenging moments so be sure to draw upon your support network when needed and have some handy postpartum care items at the ready to ensure your recovery is as smooth and quick as possible.

The postpartum recovery timeline

Postpartum recovery is often used to describe the first six to 12 weeks after birth but there isn’t a hard and fast rule about this recovery timeline. Your physical and mental recovery from both pregnancy and birth can take much longer and there’s no race to bounce back.

Here’s what to expect in the days, weeks and months following birth.

The first few days

Congratulations on the birth of your baby! The next few days will be filled with ups and downs so take care of yourself. Here’s what you might experience:

  • Pain: Feeling pain and discomfort in the days after birth is completely normal. From perineal pain to sore nipples and afterbirth cramps, your body will be incredibly tender, and you’ll need to rest as much as possible to help with the healing process.

  • Breastfeeding: If you choose to breastfeed, your midwife will help your baby latch within the first few hours following birth. Your nipples can become sore and tender pretty quickly and expect some bruising to occur. Be sure to have breast pads on hand to soak up excess milk and a nourishing nipple cream to soothe cracked nipples.

  • Vaginal recovery: Your vagina will be incredibly sore at this point, which is to be expected. Depending on whether you experienced vaginal tearing during birth, treat your vagina like an open wound and care for it as such. A peri bottle will be your best friend at this point, allowing you to clean your vagina without wiping. Cold pads are a lifesaver to help soothe and numb any aches, while a witch hazel perineal foam helps to heal the delicate skin.

  • C-section recovery: You will likely have to stay in hospital for longer with a C-section delivery as this is major surgery. Rest is incredibly important post C-section so try to take it as easy as possible in the first few days following birth. The incision will feel quite delicate, and doctors often recommend holding your abdomen while sneezing or coughing. This is where a belly band can come in handy — it protects the incision and helps abdominal muscles heal while also reducing swelling.

The first few weeks

By this point, you might be feeling a little more like yourself and have a handle on the day-to-day demands of having a newborn. Keep in mind that it’s still early days and this is only the beginning of your postpartum recovery timeline. Things to expect in the first weeks include:

  • Bleeding: You’ll experience a lot of postpartum bleeding in the weeks after birth. After three weeks, the colour of the blood will change from bright red to dark brown and you’ll begin to experience a decrease in flow before it disappears.

  • Pain: You will still experience discomfort in your perineum and nipples (if you’re breastfeeding) at this point. Your perineum wounds should be healing nicely but be sure to reach out to a healthcare professional if you think there might be an issue with this.

  • C-section incision: The incision will still be healing and you won’t be cleared to drive until around the six-week mark so you’ll need to be delegating tasks to family and friends where possible. Using a peri bottle on the wound will keep it clean, while a belly band will help support loose tummy muscles.

One to three months

  • Exercise: You will be cleared to exercise during this time period so you can start engaging in light activities like walking. Hit the pavement with your baby in a pram and reap the benefits of walking, which include preventing blood clots, helping with constipation and aiding the overall healing process.

  • Breastfeeding: As your baby grows, you’ll experience periods of cluster feeding where it feels like they are constantly feeding for 24 to 48 hours straight. This is normal around this time and helps to increase your breast milk production to keep up with your growing bub. While you’ve probably established a feeding routine by now, you may still experience fits of hot and lumpy-feeling breasts, which could be the beginnings of mastitis. Try popping heat packs on the breasts or use a lactation massager to unblock ducts and keep milk flowing.

Three to six months

Well done on getting to this milestone! Your baby will be engaging with you and the world by this point — laughing, smiling and making noises.

You should also be feeling more like yourself. Your perineum pain should have subsided, and your C-section incision might feel numb or itchy but is largely healed. Your period may have already returned but if you’re breastfeeding, you might still be period-free.

Postpartum hair loss is most likely making itself known and you’re probably dealing with the growth of baby hairs around the front of your face. You can help encourage this growth and general hair health with a postnatal supplement that includes ingredients like biotin, zinc, vitamin D and vitamin K1.

You’re also probably feeling pretty exhausted right now. You might still be working out a sleep schedule for your baby and you’re pretty far from feeling well rested. Postnatal depletion is common during this time and means that you’re sapped emotionally, physically and mentally.

Making sure you’re getting the right nutrients can help with postnatal depletion and taking a high-quality postnatal vitamin filled with key nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, zinc, choline and selenium to support your energy levels, boost your immune system and stabilise your mood.

Six months to one year

You did it! You cared for a small human for a whole year.

In the six to 12-month period, your breast milk will be well and truly established or, if you’ve stopped breastfeeding, your milk will have dried up. Your postpartum hair loss should have stabilised and you might be getting more sleep at night with a sleep schedule and less night feeds.

Postpartum depression can occur at any time within the first year of having a baby, so be sure to monitor how you’re feeling and reach out for support if you need it.

The bulk of your postpartum recovery journey is now over but remember that growing, carrying and birthing a human is a huge feat — one that can take months to years to recover from. Postpartum recovery isn’t a linear process, and it won’t be the same for everyone. Take care of yourself and give yourself as much time as you need to heal.

Kin Fertility is here to help you navigate your first few months with your baby with everyday essentials designed for the fourth trimester. Head to Kin for all your postpartum care needs.

Article supplied by Kin Fertility.