We spend a lot of time thinking about giving birth; we do a birth plan and hopefully do a good birth prep course. But once birth is over… what then? You’ll experience big physical and emotional changes (and sometimes challenges). Feeling a bit more prepared for this postnatal period can help it to be a smoother experience and less unsettling. Our Expert Rebecca from Birth and Baby Hub shares a few tips with you here about physical challenges, emotional challenges AND postnatal hospital stays!

Physical Challenges After Birth

You’ve grown a baby for 9 months. Accommodating that baby has squished your internal organs, it’s put pressure on certain parts of the body (haemorrhoids anyone?), and it has stretched your uterus and your tummy. Birth may have presented physical changes, perhaps with stitches around the perineum or surgical recovery after caesarean birth. Do remember this: you’ll have grown a baby, and you’ll have birthed a baby. Even those people who say they’ve ‘snapped back quickly’ have NOT done so internally.

Whatever type of birth you have, you will bleed for up to 6 weeks post birth (called lochia). This is why maternity pads are an essential part of postnatal life in those first weeks (tampons are not suitable).

Your first wee or poo after birth can be a nervous experience. Ask your midwife for tips, but pouring a jug of warm water over your vulva while weeing can be helpful the first few times. Birth can mess with our digestion, and remember all your organs are shifting back, so constipation can occur easily. And being constipated after stitches or caesarean is absolutely not something you’d want! Eating soft, warm, high fibre foods can be helpful (think soups, stews), and certainly avoid foods that make you bloated and gassy. Mint tea can be soothing.

Emotional Challenges After Birth

Nobody can tell you exactly how you will feel in the days, weeks and months after birth. Certainly planning for birth, being informed and good support can reduce the chances of birth trauma, but even with a straightforward birth, the hormones and emotional adjustment of having a newborn can be disconcerting for some.

Hormones are wonderful things for the body, but can have an unsettling effect on our emotions! I remember spending the first days after birth feeling so overwhelmed with gratefulness and just crying all the time (happy tears, but it was still a bit disconcerting). You may feel deliriously happy. You may feel like you’ve made a huge mistake having a baby. You may feel both multiple times a day.

If you breastfeed, your milk is likely to ‘come in’ around day 3-5. This can coincide with a huge emotional overwhelm for some people, which is to do with the changes in hormones.

And of course, you’re now readjusting to the world as a parent. Your world has changed overnight. You’ll be figuring yourself out as a mother, navigating your relationships with this new identity, and feeling the responsibility of keeping a human being alive 24/7!

Some people find this period wonderful, some people find it incredibly hard, but there’s no RIGHT or WRONG. It’s worth lining some support up now to help you through this time – perhaps that’s emotional support from your partner or close friend, or perhaps it’s practical support from a postnatal doula, or a cleaner or dogwalker for example.

Postnatal Ward Stays After Birth

I couldn’t write this without quickly drawing your attention to postnatal ward stays after birth. Even if you’re giving birth at home, it’s worth thinking about this.

Postnatal wards are not the easiest places to be. Midwives are stretched beyond belief due to staffing shortages, there are people constantly coming and going, babies are crying and it’s always quite bright (and often boiling hot).

If you do have to spend any time on a postnatal ward, my main tips are about your comfort. Have an eye mask so you might be able to get some sleep. Take a nice pillow spray, and definitely have your own pillow and your own blanket. Hospital sheets are so starchy and they can irritate the skin over time. Have some lip balm and a good body moisturiser!

And snacks… make sure you have so many snacks (you can even Deliveroo to hospitals)!

How Else Can You Prepare for After Birth?

All of my hypnobirthing families receive a video on What To Expect After Birth, filled with info and tips to help this crucial time go a little smoother. Your fourth trimester is such a precious time, and can affect your long-term physical and emotional health. I did NCT, but I really wish I’d watched a video like this when I was pregnant!

I’m here to help you feel more prepared for birth, breastfeeding and baby. You can explore more about my offerings here. It would be a pleasure to support you on your pregnancy journey.

Rebecca x