Importance of Postpartum Recovery: Timeline of What to Expect

Mother in hospital holding newborn baby

Importance of Postpartum Recovery: Timeline of What to Expect

Just like pregnancy, postpartum recovery is different for every woman. It is a chapter full of profound changes — both physical and emotional — that are a true testament to the remarkable strength and resilience of mothers. 

Whether you’re a new mom embarking on this journey or want to support a mother in your life, understanding more about this transformative phase is essential. So join us as we navigate the postpartum recovery timeline and share postpartum recovery tips that can help foster well-being and celebrate the beauty of motherhood.

The Postpartum Experience: Understanding the Transition

While the postpartum period is different for every woman, there are some common changes most women experience in the first six weeks after delivery. 

Physical Changes

Delivering a baby is hard work! Your body has been growing another life for nine months, which requires a lot of changes. Some common physical changes after childbirth include:

  • Vaginal soreness and discharge 
  • Engorged breasts and sore nipples 
  • Constipation and/or discomfort when urinating
  • Cramps

Physical changes and postpartum recovery can also differ depending on if you have a vaginal birth or Cesarean delivery (C-Section). For instance, keeping the C-section scar clean during recovery is a consideration for the latter.

Other physical changes may also include hair loss, sweating, and skin changes that can happen as a result of hormonal changes. 

Emotional Changes

Speaking of hormones, in the weeks postpartum, moms also experience many emotional changes. After baby is born you may feel intense emotions ranging from joy and excitement to sadness and anxiety. These mood swings are typical due to hormonal changes.

These mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping are often called the baby blues, according to the Mayo Clinic. If these feelings are more severe and last longer than two weeks, it may be a long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. 

Lifestyle Adjustments

Along with these changes, new moms also make lifestyle adjustments to accommodate baby. Breastfeeding itself can be an exhausting experience, and on top of nightly feedings and dirty diapers, it can be difficult to juggle life’s responsibilities and find time to take care of yourself. 

Having a baby is a life changing experience! While a lot of emphasis is placed on body postpartum recovery, it’s also a transformative time of bonding and settling into a new routine with baby.

The Postpartum Timeline: What to Expect

Baby next to mom on bed with postpartum stomach

How long is postpartum recovery? Most experts agree that the healing process postpartum typically takes six weeks. However, this depends on your delivery and what you expect from recovery. Body postpartum recovery may take upwards of 12 weeks if you want to include weight loss as part of your plan. 

Let’s take a closer look at the postpartum recovery timeline week by week.

Week 1: All About Recovery

The first week postpartum is all about recovery. According to Verywell Health, this time is often the most intensive in terms of adjustment since you’re not only taking care of a baby, but your organs need to shift back into place, your hormone levels are changing rapidly, and your body is preparing to breastfeed.

This week is all about small milestones on the road to recovery. Vaginal bleeding is normal during the first few days postpartum as is uterine cramping. Many women also worry about their first bowel movement after giving birth and may take a stool softener to help the process. 

It’s important to check in with your doctor during this time to ensure everything is healing properly. You may also want to work with a lactation consultant to ensure your milk production is coming in and baby is getting enough nutrients.

Week 2: Take it Slow

After a week, it’s still important to take things slow. You may still experience some uncomfortableness in your pelvic floor and vaginal discharge. Take this time to take care of yourself and baby.

Week 3-5: Activity Time

At the three-week mark you’re halfway there! By this time you may be feeling more like yourself and slowly start going back to normal activities. During these next few weeks, you can start building your strength back, but don’t do anything too strenuous!

Week 6: Postpartum Check-Up

At the six-week mark you likely have a check in with your doctor to see how things are going. By this time, your body has mostly recovered and your doctor may give you the go-ahead to exercise and have sex. 

Supporting Moms Through Postpartum Recovery

Postpartum recovery can feel like a long and overwhelming process. While it’s important to focus on the body’s postpartum recovery, new moms and loved ones shouldn’t overlook the importance of overall wellness.

As a partner, family member, or friend of a new mom, you can also help support them with these postpartum recovery tips:

Postpartum Self-Care

New moms need to take care of themselves during the postpartum period! Of course, this is easier said than done when also taking care of a new little life.

Help mom take the time for self-care she needs. Maybe that means making her a delicious and nutritious meal that can help support her milk production, or helping out with chores around the house or running errands in the first few weeks. You could also volunteer to babysit for a few hours so she can catch up on sleep!

Having support on the postpartum recovery journey can make all the difference for a new mom.

Postpartum Recovery Essentials 

Make sure the new mom is prepared for the weeks following birth with a gift basket packed with postpartum recovery essentials. This includes things like:

  • Ice packs
  • Nutritious snacks
  • Pads
  • Pain medication
  • Comfortable pajamas 

While the postpartum period can be a time of transition, many moms look back fondly on these first few weeks with new baby. Commemorate the journey with a piece of breastmilk jewelry that will be cherished for years to come.

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