Entering the world of post-birth is akin to embarking on a profound journey of discovery. Not only have you just introduced a new life into the world, but you're also navigating the transformative changes of your own body and mind. From the immediate physical aftermath of childbirth to the tidal waves of emotions and the mysteries of postpartum recovery, there's a lot to take in. As you tread these uncharted waters, it's essential to prioritize self-care. Whether it's relishing a comforting meal or indulging in a therapeutic massage, remember to take moments for yourself. And amidst the cacophony of baby cries and well-wishers, setting boundaries is paramount. This is a time of adjustment, bonding, and finding a new rhythm. Cherish it, embrace the changes, and always remember: this journey is uniquely yours.
The period of time immediately after birth is compounded by a myriad of both physical and emotional factors. To break down the immediate physical impacts of birth, below we focus on three major aspects; The Body, The Brain and The Bowels.
Right after birthing your baby the umbilical cord will be clamped and cut. The baby will then be laid on your chest for skin-to-skin, a moment in time that may feel incredibly surreal. Some mothers will feel an instant and deep bond with their baby but others will not. Neither is ‘normal’ as every experience is completely unique. The benefits of skin-to-skin have been shown to include regulating your baby's heartbeat, their temperature and their blood sugar. Skin-to-skin can also be a positive initiation to breastfeeding.
From here you will birth your placenta and then pending whether you birthed via a vaginal delivery or a caesarean, your midwife or obstetrician will stitch up any wounds resulting from a tear, an episiotomy or an abdomen incision (i.e. a caesarean).
In the minutes, hours and the days following the birth, you will experience an overwhelming rollercoaster of hormones. Oestrogen and progesterone will drop while oxytocin and prolactin will rise. If you experience random highs (surges of endorphins) or moments of unexplained sadness, this can often be explained by your changing hormone levels.
You may also notice a direct correlation between noticeable emotional shifts and the heaviness of your bleeding. After birth (both vaginal and caesarean deliveries), you’ll bleed for a period of weeks. The bleeding you’ll experience is referred to as lochia and it’s your body's way of readjusting by expelling blood, mucus and uterine tissue. As you engage in moments that draw out emotion such as breastfeeding (where the body releases oxytocin), you’ll notice your bleeding becomes heavier. In this instance, the oxytocin causes your uterus to contract, promoting an expulsion of lochia.
The colour of lochia will appear a dark shade of red in the earlier days, fading to a darker brown overtime. If you notice continuous clots or excessive blood loss (for example, if you soak more than two pads in a period of 1 to 2 hours), it’s advised to make contact with your midwife or obstetrician.
Recovery is defined by; ‘a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.’ While physical recovery is important (i.e. caring for your scar), allowing space, patience and time for the entirety of your mind and body to recalibrate is an integral part of the postpartum period. Focus on finding your own rhythm. It won’t come overnight, but it will absolutely come with time.
Making time for yourself to lean into nurturing self care such as postnatal massage is a helpful way to nurse your fatigued and vulnerable body back to health. Mother Roasting is another self care ritual worth looking into. Mother Roasting is based on traditional restorative technique that involves ‘warming’ the postpartum body while providing deep, relaxing, restful, restorative massage. It’ll allow your physical self to unwind which is exactly what you need during this all-consuming time of life.
Nourishing your body with warm, rich and comforting foods is a no brainer. Nutrition plays a pivotal role in digestion, lactation, energy (including sleep) and physicality. It’s unlikely you will have the opportunity to shop, cook and serve delicious nutritious meals directly after birth. Instead, outsource! Ask your partner and family and friends if they can bring you a meal (fresh or frozen). 9 times out of 10, the answer will be, ‘Of course!”. Another great option is to engage in a meal delivery service like Golden Month or New Bub Club, who specifically cater for women in postpartum.
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Returning home with your new baby can be many things. It can be exciting, overwhelming, stressful, exhilarating … exhausting. While some new mothers will experience a bubble of utter love and deep connection to their baby, others may feel slightly detached from ‘life as they know it’ as waves of ‘newness’ entangled with sleep deprivation leave them feeling like a fish out of water.
Regardless of how you feel, claiming personal space and family time is important. Make sure to set times or designated days where you feel comfortable inviting visitors. There is no rush and plenty of time for meet and greets. For now (and for as long as you need it), your recovery comes first. Take time to bond, adjust, rest and just ‘be’ without worrying about anything else. This time is yours.
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