5 Shocking Postpartum Recovery Realities No One Talks About
Postpartum Recovery Reality: Bladder After Pregnancy
Two words. Stress incontinence. That’s that annoying part of postpartum recovery when a little bit of pee starts to release when you run, jump, sneeze or laugh. You get the picture… But do you really?
“Stress incontinence can happen for a variety of reasons,” explains Pregnancy Physiotherapist, Rosie Moore. “It usually starts in pregnancy due to the weight of baby on the bladder, the pelvic floor muscles being put under strain, and hormonal changes. That said, it sometimes continues postpartum.”
According to Rosie, while women who have had C-Sections can be affected by stress incontinence, it is more likely to affect those who have had a vaginal delivery. “This is because of the pelvic floor muscles being stretched,” says Rosie. “It’s also common for those who have had perineal tears or an episiotomy, which is an incision….
While stress incontinence may seem inevitable during your postpartum recovery, there are ways it can be managed with the help of a pelvic health physiotherapist.
“If you’re noticing stress incontinence pre-birth you can seek advice from a specialist,” explains Rosie. “I encourage women to do regular pelvic floor exercises and show them the best techniques.”
For those who are postpartum and finding stress incontinence to be a problem Rosie recommends having a postnatal check up. “Sometimes we need some help to get the pelvic floor muscles functioning. Massaging the tissue around any tears or an episiotomy scar will also help to decrease any pull on the pelvic organs and pelvic floor muscles.”
Postpartum Recovery Reality: C-Section Scar Healing Phases
A C-Section is major abdominal surgery and whether elective or emergency the healing process can have lots of twists and turns during your postpartum recovery. Itching, a pulling sensation and phantom pains are all common responses and it’s not unusual for a scar to stay visible long after you’ve given birth.
“A scar take up to two years to reach maturity and during this time it changes constantly,” explains Hannah Poulton, Womens Health Physiotherapist and C-Section Specialist at HLP Therapy.
“The first six to 12 weeks it will be very red and purple and then it should start to fade. However, if it doesn’t, we recommend using a scar balm and if it’s not progressing then speak to a scar therapist for advice.”
As for those itching, pulling and sometimes painful sensations, there are a few things you can do during the postpartum recovery phase. “The itching and phantom pains can last for up to six months and in some rare cases even longer,” says Hannah.
“Itching is often a sign that the scar is healing, but it can also be a sign that the scar is dry and dehydrated. For that reason it is important to drink around two liters of water a day.”
Hannah also recommends choosing your clothing wisely in order to avoid rubbing, which can hinder recovery. “Be sure to wear big pants that go over your scar and where possible opt for natural fibers which allows the skin to breath.”
We also recommend treating yourself to a Caesar Easer Care Kit to help you through those first 6 weeks.
Postpartum Recovery Reality: Sex After Birth
If you’ve ever been to a new mum group, you’ve likely been privy to a conversation or two peppered with scary anecdotes about having sex for the first time during your postpartum recovery.
The lingering pain from delivery, vaginal dryness and raging hormones… None of it makes the experience sound very appealing. That said, while sex might feel different; it doesn’t have to be painful. “After giving birth your pelvic floor has changed so sex and intimacy might feel different,” says Hannah.
“Things you can do to lessen any discomfort include using lots of lubricant, changing positions so that it is more comfortable and making sure you feel physically, mentally and emotionally ready for sex.”
Postpartum Recovery Reality: Postpartum Poop Pain
There’s no getting away from this, the first time you poop during your postpartum recovery it is kind of, well, awful. This is because your stomach muscles, which help you poop, have become stretched and weakened, while your bowel itself may have had a tough time during delivery.
“Regardless of the delivery you’ve had, you are likely to also be dehydrated. If you’ve had an elective C-Section you will have been nil by mouth beforehand and if you have had a lengthy labour, you might not have had a chance to eat and drink properly during that period.”
“Try to drink lots of water and add high-fibre ingredients such as flaxseed and chia seeds to your food,” advises Hannah. “Tummy massages also help and any kind of heat – such as a hot water bottle or a warm bath can relieve pain.”
Postpartum Recovery Reality: Periods After Birth
You may have heard people talk about how they didn’t have periods for well over a year after giving birth but it’s important to note that this is not the case for everyone. If you’re not breastfeeding, your periods will likely return after about six to eight weeks into your postpartum recovery.
Likewise, don’t make the mistake of assuming that breastfeeding is a reliable contraceptive, because this is not always the case. Fertility can return while breastfeeding, and this is because every woman’s body responds differently to the hormones of lactation.