Once your bundle of joy is born, the hardest part of your pregnancy may be over, but your postnatal journey is just beginning. Your body is changing, yet again, and it’s important to greet this time with patience and continued grace for yourself. Childbirth recovery takes time and rushing that timeline will likely lead to injury and frustration.
What Should I Expect Right After Delivery?
Aside from a wave of relief, surge of joy, and profound love for the new life you have ushered into the world, here are a few things you can expect after delivery.
Immediately after childbirth, you may be dismayed to notice your belly still looks pregnant. Remember, during pregnancy the uterus, abdominal muscles, and skin stretch significantly to house your growing baby. It’s no wonder that it can take weeks, or months, for your belly to shrink after giving birth. The uterus takes about 6 weeks to fully contract to its pre-pregnancy size so be patient.
Storing excess weight in the first 24 hours after birth is common and you may also notice extra swelling if you’ve had a C-section as a result of the IV fluids. Fortunately, this is mostly water weight and it is not yours to keep — you’ll start dropping it within a week after delivery.
Bleeding & Soreness
With childbirth recovery comes vaginal bleeding, which consists of leftover blood, mucus, and sloughed-off tissue from the lining of the uterus. The bleeding may be heavy in the first few days postpartum and will gradually taper off over the next week or two.
If you deliver vaginally, your perineum will be stretched, swollen, bruised, and possibly torn. And, if you have a C-section, you’ll be recovering from major abdominal surgery, which typically causes soreness around the incision as well as surrounding muscles.
Cramps & Mood Swings
Once the baby arrives, your uterus starts to tighten as it returns to its pre-pregnancy size and location. Just think of these pesky cramps as a reminder that things (namely, your uterus) are getting back to normal.
Emotional highs and lows are very common during your childbirth recovery. Hormonal changes, physical pain, and lack of sleep can all trigger mood swings. To help cope, ask for help, rest whenever you can, and if you continue to feel down please talk to a loved one and seek professional help.
How Long Does it Take to Recover After Giving Birth?
Every birth and every body is different so there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to childbirth recovery. The general consensus is that it takes 6 weeks to recover after a vaginal delivery and 8-10 weeks after a C-section. Please note that “recover” does not mean “look like your pre-pregnancy self;” it is simply an indication of when it is considered safe to increase your activity level.
When Can I Start Postpartum Yoga?
After your doctor gives you the all-clear, you can start postpartum yoga. This is at least 6-weeks post-childbirth and could be longer. Ease yourself back into your yoga practice, keeping in mind that childbirth recovery is a process. Have your doctor or midwife check for diastasis recti (abdominal separation) which can affect how you approach your return to working out.
Your postpartum yoga instructor can help modify poses to work for you but our online postpartum yoga classes are a great place to start too. As a general rule, you will want to avoid poses that add stress to the midline, hyperextend the chest area and pull on the midsection, require excessive core strength, or increase pressure on the belly and internal organs.
Here are our top 7 poses to avoid, or significantly modify, as you start your postnatal yoga practice:
2. Deep Twists
5. Bow Pose
The bottom line is that childbirth recovery takes time so be patient and don’t rush this process. Get access to 14-days of free yoga when you are ready to resume your yoga practice and have a variety of classes that can support your postnatal journey. Even better? Join us in the studio when you’re ready and get access to free child care while you practice. Sign up today!