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What to Expect After Giving Birth

You’ve finally put 40isch weeks of pregnancy and long hours of childbirth behind you, and you’re officially a mother. Congratulations! A woman’s body goes through full-body changes and adaptations when growing a little one.

Your delivery may have been complicated or easy. You may have had a cesarean birth (C-section) or vaginal delivery. You may have labored for a few hours or a few days. No matter what your delivery looks like, one thing remains true: the body goes through a lot!

Immediately after delivery and into the post-partum months, there are changes to get the body regulated and back to pre-baby normalcy. Keep reading to learn what to expect from right after birth to ongoing postpartum recovery.

Vaginal or cesarean delivery

To highlight the topic of what to expect after giving birth, it's essential to understand the nuances between vaginal and cesarean deliveries. While both approaches share the goal of bringing a healthy baby into the world, they differ significantly in procedure, recovery time, and associated risks. It enables informed decisions and optimal care tailored to individual circumstances.

The choice between vaginal delivery and cesarean delivery depends on various factors, including the mother's health, the baby's health, the presence of any medical conditions, previous childbirth experiences, and the recommendations of healthcare providers. Ultimately, the safety and well-being of both the mother and the baby are the primary concerns in determining the most appropriate method of childbirth. Here are the main differences with both its own advantages, disadvantages, and considerations:

  • Vaginal Delivery:

    • In a vaginal delivery, the baby is born through the birth canal.
    • It is the most common and natural method of childbirth.
    • Recovery time is typically shorter compared to a cesarean delivery.
    • Less risk of surgical complications compared to cesarean delivery.
    • The mother may experience tearing or episiotomy (a surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina) during vaginal delivery, which may require stitches and longer healing time.
    • Can be associated with less pain and discomfort during recovery compared to cesarean delivery.

  • Cesarean Delivery (C-section):

    • In a cesarean delivery, the baby is delivered through an incision made in the mother's abdomen and uterus.
    • It may be planned (elective) or performed as an emergency procedure if complications arise during labor.
    • Recovery time is typically longer compared to vaginal delivery.
    • Higher risk of surgical complications such as infection, blood loss, and blood clots compared to vaginal delivery.
    • May be necessary in cases of breech presentation, placenta previa, fetal distress, or other medical conditions that make vaginal delivery risky.
    • Women who have had a cesarean delivery may have limitations on physical activities and lifting during the recovery period.
    • Subsequent pregnancies may be affected, and there is an increased risk of uterine rupture and other complications with future deliveries.

What is the recovery time after giving birth?

Transitioning from pregnant to post-partum is more than adding a newborn to the mix. No matter how you gave birth, the first six weeks postpartum are considered a recovery period. Even if you sailed through your pregnancy and had a smooth delivery, your body has been stretched and stressed to the max. It needs a chance to regroup.

For vaginal deliveries, the initial recovery period typically lasts about 4-6 weeks. During this time, women may experience bleeding (lochia), soreness, perineal discomfort if there was tearing or episiotomy, and fatigue as their bodies heal.

For cesarean deliveries, the recovery period may be longer, typically around 6-8 weeks. In addition to the general postpartum discomforts, women who have had a cesarean delivery will also need to recover from the surgery itself, which involves healing the incision site and possibly managing additional pain and discomfort.

Regardless of the type of delivery, it's important for new mothers to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, eat nutritious foods, and follow your pediatrician's guidance for postpartum care. It's also essential to listen to your body and seek medical attention if you have any concerning symptoms or complications during the recovery period.

What to expect during your postpartum recovery

What to expect during your postpartum recovery

During your postpartum recovery, you can expect a variety of physical and emotional changes as your body adjusts to its pre-pregnancy state. It's important to note that your postpartum recovery won’t be just a few days. Fully recovering from pregnancy and childbirth can sometimes take months. Although many women feel mostly recovered by 6-8 weeks, it may take longer than this to feel like yourself again. During this time, you may feel your body has turned against you. Try not to get frustrated! Remember that your body is not aware of your timelines and expectations. Here are some common aspects of postpartum recovery:

  • Vaginal Bleeding (Lochia): You will experience vaginal bleeding, known as lochia, for several weeks after childbirth. Initially, it will be bright red and heavy, then gradually decrease in flow and color over time.

  • Perineal Pain and Discomfort: If you had a vaginal delivery and experienced tearing or had an episiotomy, you may have discomfort or pain in the perineal area. This discomfort can persist for a few weeks as the area heals.

  • Breast Changes: Your breasts may become swollen, tender, and engorged as they begin producing milk. You may also experience colostrum or breast milk leaking, which is normal.

  • Uterine Contractions: You may feel mild to moderate uterine cramping, especially during breastfeeding, as your uterus contracts to its pre-pregnancy size.

  • Fatigue: You will likely experience fatigue as your body recovers from childbirth and adjusts to the demands of caring for a newborn. Getting adequate rest is crucial during this time.

  • Emotional Changes: Hormonal fluctuations after childbirth can contribute to mood swings, baby blues, or postpartum depression/anxiety. It's important to seek support from loved ones and healthcare providers if you're struggling emotionally.

  • Urination and Bowel Movements: You may experience difficulty urinating or having bowel movements in the immediate postpartum period. Staying hydrated, eating fiber-rich foods, and using stool softeners can help alleviate constipation.

  • Healing Incisions (if applicable): If you had a cesarean delivery, you will have an incision in your abdomen that requires care and monitoring for signs of infection or complications.

  • Pelvic Floor Recovery: You may experience weakness or discomfort in your pelvic floor muscles, which can affect bladder and bowel control. Performing pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) can help strengthen these muscles.

Overall, postpartum recovery is a gradual process that requires patience, self-care, and support from loved ones. Be kind to yourself as you overcome the physical and emotional changes of the postpartum period. 

Tips for a smooth postpartum healing process

Every woman's postpartum experience is unique, and it's okay to ask for help and prioritize self-care during this transitional period. Listen to your body and give yourself grace as you navigate the journey of new motherhood.

Tips for a smooth postpartum healing process

Here are some proven tips that can help you for a smooth postpartum healing process:

  1. Rest and Recovery: Allow yourself plenty of time to rest and recover. Sleep when the baby sleeps and avoid overexertion.

  2. Nutrition: Eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Adequate nutrition supports healing and boosts energy levels.

  3. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if breastfeeding.

  4. Accept Help: Don't hesitate to accept help from family and friends. Allow them to assist with household chores, meal preparation, and caring for the baby so you can focus on recovery.

  5. Pain Management: Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for pain management, whether it involves over-the-counter pain relievers, prescribed medications, or natural remedies like ice packs or warm compresses.

  6. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Perform gentle pelvic floor exercises to promote healing and strengthen the muscles that support pelvic organs. Consult with a healthcare provider or physical therapist for guidance on appropriate exercises.

  7. Perineal Care: Practice good perineal care if you experienced tearing or had an episiotomy during childbirth. Keep the area clean and dry, and use sitz baths or peri bottles to ease discomfort.

  8. Emotional Support: Seek emotional support from your partner, family members, or support groups. Postpartum mood disorders are common, and it's important to prioritize your mental health.

  9. Breastfeeding Support: If breastfeeding, seek support from lactation consultants or breastfeeding support groups to address any challenges and ensure proper latch and milk supply.

  10. Monitor Your Body: Pay attention to your body and communicate any concerns or unusual symptoms with your healthcare provider. It's essential to address any issues promptly to prevent complications.

Checklist for your postpartum recovery

Here's a postpartum recovery checklist of a few things you’ll want to stash away while you’re still pregnant to make your postpartum recovery go as smoothly as possible. By preparing in advance and having essential supplies on hand, you can help ease the transition into motherhood and focus on your recovery and bonding with your newborn baby.

  • Comfortable Clothing: Stock up on loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that is easy to nurse in if you plan to breastfeed. Consider purchasing nursing bras, nursing tops, and comfortable bottoms.

  • Maternity Pads: Purchase a supply of heavy-duty maternity pads to manage postpartum bleeding (lochia). Avoid tampons or menstrual cups during this time.

  • Perineal Care Products: Invest in supplies for perineal care, including witch hazel pads, peri bottles for cleansing after urination, and soothing creams or sprays to relieve discomfort from perineal tears or episiotomy.

  • Stool Softeners: Consider having stool softeners on hand to ease bowel movements and prevent constipation, especially if you had a vaginal delivery or episiotomy.

  • Pain Relief Medications: Talk to your healthcare provider about safe pain relief options for postpartum discomfort. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be recommended.

  • Breastfeeding Supplies: If you plan to breastfeed, gather supplies such as nursing pads, lanolin cream for sore nipples, and a breast pump if needed.

  • Healthy Snacks: Keep nutritious snacks and easy-to-prepare meals on hand to fuel your body during the demanding postpartum period. Consider preparing freezer meals ahead of time for added convenience.

  • Hydration: Stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle nearby at all times, especially if you're breastfeeding.

  • Supportive Underwear: Invest in comfortable, supportive underwear that accommodates maternity pads and provides gentle compression to support your abdominal muscles.

  • Emotional Support Resources: Identify sources of emotional support, such as trusted friends, family members, or online support groups for new mothers. Consider seeking professional help if you experience postpartum mood disorders or emotional challenges.

  • Rest and Recovery Space: Create a cozy and comfortable space at home where you can rest, bond with your baby, and recover from childbirth. Arrange for help with household chores and childcare to minimize stress and allow for adequate rest.

  • Postpartum Care Kit: Assemble a postpartum care kit with essential items like diapers, wipes, baby clothes, and newborn essentials to streamline baby care tasks during the early weeks. 


The postpartum period is a time of incredible transformation and growth for both mother and baby. It's a time to cherish precious moments, bond with your newborn, and witness the beauty of parenthood unfold. Remember to embrace the support of loved ones, prioritize self-care, and trust in your body's ability to heal and adapt. While postpartum depression can be challenging, it's essential to remember that help and support are available. Remember, each day brings new joys and discoveries, making the postpartum journey a remarkable and rewarding experience.

Please note: This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a mental health professional if you are concerned about your mental well-being and to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.