Preparing to have a baby is a huge undertaking. There are countless decisions to make when it comes to pregnancy and labor, and somehow education on the postpartum period – besides breastfeeding – falls to the wayside.
Being a prenatal nutritionist, I loved learning everything about pregnancy and postpartum. I went into my postpartum as prepared as can be…or so I thought. It turns out a few things still things took me by surprise.
Here are four things that many of us mamas experience that aren’t widely talked about:
I remember waking up in the middle of the night about two weeks after having my son, completely drenched, laying in a pool of my own sweat. The next morning, I texted my mom friends asking if this was normal. I was pretty concerned, I’d never experienced anything like that before. They all responded with a resounding, “Oh yes!” to which I responded, “Why did no one tell me about this?!”
As our hormones adjust and estrogen nosedives postpartum, some of us sweat a lot. This is our body getting rid of the extra fluid we have been storing. I had to sleep on a thick beach towel for a few weeks until the night sweats subsided. There isn’t too much you can do to help this except make sure you aren’t too hot at night. And have your beach towel ready!
Down There Recovery
It’s well known that no matter how you deliver your baby, there will be recovery needed. Whether it’s for your abdominals and/or for your vaginal area, you’ll need to take it easy for a few weeks (at least). For a vaginal birth, the degree of trauma greatly varies woman to woman.
Before giving birth, I knew there would be healing required but I greatly underestimated the extent. I had a 30+ hour labor and needed an episiotomy, so the trauma down there was extensive. Even still, it wasn’t even as bad as it can be for some women. For the first week or so, I couldn’t stand up for more than a minute without feeling immense pressure down there. And since we are all friends here, I’ll confide that my bladder would almost completely empty each time I did stand up (that was fun).
The good news is that things go back to normal. But it’s on you to take extra good care of yourself so you heal well. Rest as much as you can the first couple of weeks. Your body simply needs time to recuperate, so be gentle on it. Additionally, there are great organic perineal sprays that can soothe, encourage healing and reduce swelling down there. There are also sitz baths that help promote healing — it’s a device you put it on your toilet and add warm water to with special bath herbs. It feels a little weird but it really does help!
A common postpartum side effect is severe constipation. To add insult to injury, hemorrhoids are a common occurrence as well. I wish I could say I escaped these two, but alas, Ducolax became a good friend of mine. (Next time around I’ll opt for more natural remedies like Natural Calm.)
There are a few things you can do to help everything move along more smoothly. Drink a lot of water as well as healing liquids like bone broth. As I mentioned, Natural Calm is a magnesium supplement that can help move things along. A common constipation recommendation is adding fiber, but adding too much can cause more discomfort than relief. To help with hemorrhoids and general healing, the perineal spray I spoke about for down there recovery is helpful as well.
The term “postpartum depression” gets talked about a fair amount. It’s a very real and serious issue that affects a number of women. What I feel like doesn’t gets talked about enough is all the emotions in between that aren’t as serious as PPD. It seems they categorize women into two categories: “experiencing PPD” or “totally fine.”
Giving birth is a life-changing event unlike anything you’ll experience. Add in plummeting hormones, lack of sleep and the stress of not knowing what you are doing, and you have the perfect recipe for a huge roller coaster of emotions. There is this sense of shame if you aren’t feeling wonderful and happy all the time, but it’s OK to feel strange and not like yourself for a few weeks. It’s OK to not feel love at first sight with your child. It’s OK to cry at every sappy commercial (I still do).
The first few weeks are total survival mode and it’s an important time to lower all exterior stressors. Do your best to hunker down and take care of yourself and your child the best you can. Accept when people offer to help, nourish yourself with nutrient dense good and don’t go crazy with caffeine (since it can increase anxiety). If after a number of weeks you still continue to feel not yourself, consider getting outside help.
While I didn’t have PPD, I went to a therapist who specializes in helping women postpartum. I went to her to help me work through my traumatic birth and it was incredibly healing. You don’t need to have anything crazy happen to you to want to talk to someone. Taking an hour to yourself to openly talk to a third party about navigating this new experience can be helpful for any woman.
I hope this helps you better prepare for your postpartum period. If you have had a baby, what postpartum symptom did you experience that people don’t talk about?