How To Survive Your First Year Postpartum: A Guide For First Time Moms Postpartum Recovery

Trish ~ Labor Nurse Mama
May 7, 2023

Postpartum recovery is a crucial stage of parenthood and a word that may intimidate most new mothers.

When it comes to pregnancy, most of us are focused on the baby that is growing inside; who is she/he, what will she be like, what type of mama will I be?

But what about what happens after? What about when your baby is here? And for many of you, postpartum is something you think is just those first 6-8 weeks after baby, but truly it is the first year after baby, and words can not explain it.

This is a conundrum I face inside my postpartum membership on a daily. How do I explain to mamas outside our membership why they need us? How do I share what we offer inside that they don't even know they need?

Well, let me start by sharing some insight on the postpartum recovery journey here in this post.

What is Postpartum Recovery Life Like?

What is postpartum recovery like? It’s what happens after your little one is born. It is the period where you, the mother, recover physically and mentally from childbirth. Many changes happen during pregnancy, and once it’s over, your body either gradually goes back to the closest thing to its pre-pregnancy state or adjusts to its new norm. And both is okay. It's how to navigate it that we find so damn hard.

Different cultures have different after-birth practices and traditions with different time frames. 

Latin American countries have cuarenta AKA the 40-day postpartum recovery period where mothers avoid any kind of strenuous physical activity or rapid movements, such as exercise, sex, and housework.

China has “sitting of the month”, where mothers stay indoors, dress in warm clothes, and consume only hot food and drinks so they can retain the heat that “escaped” their bodies when they gave birth.

Cool, right?

How Long Does the Postpartum Stage Last?

The initial postpartum recovery period takes about six weeks, and if there are going to be delays, it may last as long as 6 months for some physical recovery. During that time, it is a challenging and a gradual process for the body to return back to its pre-pregnancy state. Sometimes, it never goes back at all for some mothers. Again, that is okay but may take time for you to adjust.

How long does it take? It differs from mama to mama and depends on many variables, such as:

    • How much collagen the body has; 
    • The size of the infant; 
    • How the delivery occurred (whether by vaginal delivery or C-section); and 
    • The degree of perineal trauma (whether natural or operational).
What Weeks are The Most Complicated with a Newborn?

The first six weeks are the hardest, especially the first two weeks when you’ve just given birth, and movement might be difficult. 

And it’s not just for you, but also for your baby. Your baby, used to the safety of your womb, is now exposed to the real world–and they’re crying, sleeping, and eating. Now you have to adjust your time to align with feeding your child every 2-3 hours. You also sleep accordingly and make sure your baby gets their sleeping patterns right, as they sleep 18 hours a day with no distinction of the day from night. 

Common First-Year Postpartum Problems

So many physical changes occur during the first year of postpartum recovery, including but not limited to the following:

    • Breast enlargement and swelling: It’s normal and expected for the breasts to grow bigger as they get filled with milk, but sometimes they grow a bit bigger than you hoped, and it gets painful.
    • Afterbirth cramps: The uterus contracts as breastfeeding releases oxytocin. The more babies you have had, the more afterpains you will experience.
    • Postpartum bleeding: The first three weeks involve bleeding and many maternity pads. During the 1st week, the heavy bleeding calls for one pad per hour. The load gets lighter around the 2nd week as the discharge changes to a pinkish-brown or yellowish color. Postpartum bleeding around the 3rd week is light, and it ends there.
    • Post-delivery healing: It takes two weeks for vaginal deliveries to heal. The vagina stretches out during the first week, but there is less pain, and the soreness resides during the second week. As for C-section deliveries, the incision heals in two weeks and requires some cleaning.
    • Stomach pooch: During pregnancy, the abdominal walls separate to adjust for your fetus. Over time, this is lessened by some exercise, physiotherapy, and support garments.
    • Hormonal changesChanges in hormonal levels can produce several side effects both physical and mental, such as mood changes, night sweats, bladder control issues, and postpartum hair loss.
How Can I Make my Postpartum Recovery Life Easier?

You can deal with postpartum with ease through the following methods:

    • Have a postpartum plan, this is why we include the postpartum recovery class in our membership
    • Rest in between the 2-3 hours feeding window period
    • Take care of yourself (and your baby) by eating healthy meals and taking light exercise
    • Have a mental check-in with yourself every day
How Long Should a Mom Rest after Giving Birth?

It takes around six weeks for the body to heal around the postpartum stage, so the first six weeks are crucial in giving the body time and enough energy to regain after childbirth. Some doctors recommend a full week of bed rest depending on the post-pregnancy condition of the mother.

I love the 5-5-5 rest plan. Basically, it is 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed, and 5 days in the bed. This gives you permission to rest. YOU NEED REST. The LNM mamas inside our membership are guided to plan for their postpartum recovery plan, and rest is a huge part of this. You can grab my free download 5-5-5 plan here.

The healing period also depends on the method of delivery–for vaginal deliveries, it takes about 3 weeks with no tear, 6 weeks if with a tear; and for C-section, it takes 3-4 days of recovery in the hospital and about 4-6 weeks to return to normal. This should also be taken into account when considering how long a mom should rest.

Other variables may factor in how long the resting period should last, such as other children, the presence of a support system, and the mother’s health status.

The Belly Is Gone, But The Hormones Remain…

Still, dealing with hormones? It takes 2-3 weeks for hormones to return to their pre-pregnancy levels, which will be gradual. 6 weeks might be a challenging time as postpartum depression takes it up a notch. But by 6 months, your baby starts weaning and eating solid food–so prolactin, the hormone making milk, starts decreasing by then. The hormones get back to normal.

However, hormonal imbalance is also inevitable for some. Symptoms include:

    • Anxiety & depression
    • Chronic fatigue
    • Cysts/fibroids
    • Low libido
    • Weight gain

This could be an effect of another condition such as thyroid problems or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If a hormonal imbalance occurs, consult your doctor for the medication to regulate your hormones.

How Do I Learn to Love My Postpartum Recovery Body?

First off, YOU'RE NOT ALONE!

I have a lot of mamas (both my mama members and non-members) come to me feeling all sorts of negative emotions toward their postpartum bodies, like:

    • Feeling super insecure about their C-section scars
    • Not loving the extra softness that stayed behind after the baby came out
    • The sight of the stretch marks on their stomachs is not making them happy.

It's called having a negative body image. And that's totally normal. Your body is different. You have stared at the same thing for a long time, and now it is not the same, and I get it. I have had a hard time processing the same with my postpartum body.

Postpartum body image is a sensitive spot for mamas. You inevitably feel uncomfortable with body changes post-pregnancy, which can affect your self-esteem. But always remember that growing and delivering a healthy child is no easy feat. Every mother’s body recovers in its own ways and at its own pace–also, healing and recovery are not done overnight. 

We talk a lot about this on our weekly postpartum hangout inside my membership (which, by the way, is powerful and unique, I can't say enough; it is $19 a month and has so much value to offer).

Don’t be so hard on yourself! Shower yourself with that mama love you have. This is all a part of motherhood that every woman experiences. Starting today, I want you to remember this: love your body in all its phases. All the insecurities you have right now are hardcore proof YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES to be a great mom… and no words from other people can diminish that.

I am a firm believer in therapy and mindset strategies. Therapy has been a game-changer for me and my journey as a mama. One of the greatest tools I've learned is gratitude, and I have since put it into practice with my mamas inside my private membership, Calm Mama Society.

It is so simple yet so darn profound.

I want you to do this in the morning when you wake up or whenever you can, especially if your thoughts are berserk.

First, write down 3 things you are grateful for. Keep it simple, trying to be complex can kill the exercise.

I am grateful for the day.

Thank you for the sunshine.

I can get up and walk.

Now, Spend a couple of minutes in the mirror. Look at yourself and with conviction, I want you to speak to yourself with love and speak out loud affirmations to yourself. Say these things out loud, whichever one suits what you are feeling most or maybe not feeling but needing to:

    1. I am strong, resilient, and deserving to be called a good mom.
    2. I love my body in all its shapes and sizes. 
    3. I can raise my baby into the beautiful human being he/she will be.
    4. I am not my insecurities.
    5. I will get through this.
    6. I will survive this and whatever else is to come with motherhood.
    7. I am confident, loving, and loved.
    8. I am allowed to make mistakes.
    9. My mistakes and shortcomings do not define my capability as a loving mother.
    10. You are doing a great job.
    11. Be patient with yourself.
    12. All this is temporary. I claim a future where I am free from postpartum.
Tips on How To Survive Postpartum Recovery

You can succeed in surviving postpartum with the following tips:

    • Set routines: Your baby loves some structure and set routines. Please pay attention to their patterns and stick to one that works for both of you.
    • Sleep around the baby’s scheduleMaximize your sleeping schedule! Whenever your baby sleeps, try taking a nap too.
    • Practice mindfulness & meditation: Clear your mind by observing your surroundings and senses. Try grounding by verbally describing what you see, touch,, and feel the objects around you, or meditate with positive visualizations and give yourself affirmations. This will help you have some patience toward bonding with your child.
    • Check-in on yourself: Don’t forget to take note of how you’re feeling in the moment, and don’t repress any emotion or thought that might rise up. Reflect upon it with self-awareness and tenderness–don’t beat yourself up over these emotions.
    • Manage expectations: Reality can differ from what we expected and dreamed motherhood would be. It can also be daunting when you have other children to take care of or other family members living in the same house as you and your spouse are in. Talk to them beforehand to let them know that you won’t always be available, but you can connect with them at your own pace.
    • Find your tribe: Having your loved ones as a good support system is great. Finding a new mom’s online group, like our Calm Mama Society Mama Membership Community, can be really helpful and resourceful. It’s a good way to know you’re not alone in this experience.
Will Postpartum Depression Ever Go Away?

On the mental health aspect, one of the most significant side effects of after-birth is postpartum mental health disorders. Postpartum depression differs from regular depression, and it can be tricky to navigate during postpartum recovery.

Influenced by hormonal imbalance, postpartum depression symptoms include: 

    • Anxiety toward the baby 
    • No interest in the baby
    • Feeling inadequate and insecure
    • and/or having trouble meeting basic needs

Some factors can increase the length of postpartum depression, such as stress, an unsupportive partner, or a history of abuse. Professional help is needed if the depression lasts longer than two weeks and hinders the ability to care for the baby.

If left undealt without any progress for a long time, it can lead to postpartum psychosis or even suicidal thoughts. To prevent this, it is best to seek help from a therapist as soon as possible.

Postpartum can be a tough cookie to deal with. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it feels like it can take forever to deal with the aftermath of childbirth for a year. But after 9 months of carrying a child and delivering them in a healthy state is a big win in itself. 

If you could take care of your baby well before you could see them, what more when they are already right in front of you? Another year would be another win for you as a mom. Give yourself credit and the love you so deserve for caring for yourself well throughout the process. 

If you went through or are going through postpartum right now, feel free to share your experiences and story with me by sending me a message! 

Let’s help each other and other moms see the beauty in this challenging time of motherhood and postpartum recovery.

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labor nurse mama trish ware

Just a little Disclaimer: As always, I am just writing my thoughts and what I’ve learned along the way. Although I am in fact a labor and delivery RN, This is not medical advice. You should always seek and follow the advice of your care provider.

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