Everyone's postpartum recovery timeline can look vastly different. Recovery can depend on a variety of factors. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery as well as your support system play a role in recovery. Read on to learn more about the first two weeks of postpartum recovery. In addition, we'll go over some things that are normal and not as well as what to do to improve recovery.
There are a variety of things to consider within your postpartum recovery timeline. For instance, physical recovery, mental/ emotional recovery, and safe and effective exercises and activities.
Postpartum Recovery Timeline: Birth-Week 2
- Vaginal pain is normal. This can vary depending on the tearing/ episiotomy or if you had an instrument assisted delivery.
- Uterus contracting back to normal
- Pain at the incision
- Difficulty with movement
- Getting in and out of bed/ sitting to standing/ bending may be uncomfortable
- Uterus is contracting back to normal size as well
Mental/ Emotional Recovery
The baby blues in the first two weeks postpartum is common. This happens due to a significant fluctuation in hormones postpartum. Weepiness and fluctuating moods can be normal. However, if this gets worse or does not improve after two weeks, this could be a sign of a more significant problem. If the feelings become overwhelming or unmanageable, it's important tor reach out to your provieder.
When it comes to exercise, balancing activity with rest is key. There are many benefits to exercise during the postpartum period, but a balance is important. I recommend a rule of thumb when it comes to exercise immediately postpartum. For example, for every 10 minutes of exercise/ activity, rest for at least 10 minutes. Additionally, the intensity of activity or even just walking is important. If you think of a 0-10 scale for exertion, 0 is no exertion or sitting quietly and 10 is it feels like a sprint. In these first few weeks postpartum, we want you to be around a 4 or 5 maximum with activity. Furthermore, you should be able to carry on a conversation during any activity you do in this period.
- Sitting or standing in a comfortable position, draw the chin downward towards the chest. Hold this for 20-30 seconds. Repeat x3.
- Bring the right ear towards the right shoulder, hold for 20-30 seconds, repeat x3. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Focusing on deep, diaphragmatic breathing by expanding the belly and the rib cage as you inhale slowly for a count of four, release and exhale for a count of 4. Repeat x10, multiple times throughout the day.
Shoulder Blade Squeezes
- Sitting or standing comfortably, draw the shoulder blades back, keeping the shoulders away from the ears. Hold for 3 seconds. Repeat x10
- Without any major complications following delivery, walking is one of the best forms of exercise. Start with 5-10 minutes of walking in the first few weeks. You should be able to carry on a conversation as you walk. This will ensure you're not working too hard. As this starts to feel easier, add a couple of minutes on each week. For each interval of time that you walk, be sure to balance it with rest afterwards.
Suggestions to Improve Recovery
There are also some key products that can help improve your postpartum recovery. These essentials are meant to help improve comfort and promote healing in the early weeks postpartum.
- Ice pads/ "Padsicles" for vagina
- Tylenol/ Advil as directed by your doctor
- Stool softeners
- Abdominal binder after c-section for comfort
- Squatty Potty
Postpartum Recovery Timeline: RED FLAGS
While most recover from delivery without any complications, there are some signs to pay attention to. Some are important to be aware of while others are reasons to call your doctor or midwife.
Signs of Over-Doing It: Signs of over-doing it with activity can include a large increase in pain. While it's normal to have some discomfort in the early stages, if pain increases by more than 2-3/10 with activity, this can be a sign of too much or too intense. If you experience a large increase in cramping or vaginal bleeding, this could be a sign of too much activity. Take some extra rest time and adjust next time you're moving
Infection. Signs of infection are important to be aware of and to immediately contact your provider. Foul smelling, yellow/ green discharge either from a c-section incision or vaginal stitches could be signs of an infection. Additionally, a fever, increased redness or swelling around any incision could be sign of an infection. Lastly, a general feeling of malaise along with the other signs and not associated with sleep deprivation could also be indicative of an infection.
- A headache that does not improve with over the counter medication or rest.
- Pain, redness, swelling in the breast. This could be a sign of mastitis.
- Severe pain in your lower leg.
- Having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
The first two weeks postpartum can be a trying, magical time. It's important to give yourself grace and time to recovery and enjoy your new baby. Remember, not everyone's recovery is the same. It's important not to compare your journey to others.