After posting Amélie’s birth story, it occurred to me that as incredible as it was a birth story doesn’t really end there. More often than not, and I’m guilty of this with Aiden’s birth story, we don’t talk about the not so nice bits of giving birth, most of which happens afterward.
I thought that posting about my postpartum recovery would be a natural extension to my birth story. Also, I think it’s important to talk more about these topics to help normalise them. Once I put a poll up on my Instagram Stories asking whether you’d be interested in hearing my about my experiences, the majority said yes and so here we are.
Bleeding After Birth
This is a totally normal process after giving birth. The bleeding is called Lochia and involves your body removing the lining of your uterus. At first, it can be like a heavy period, but after few days gets lighter, but can last anywhere up to 2 weeks to 6 weeks.
With my first pregnancy, I bled for roughly 2 weeks in total. The bleeding was heavy for the first couple of days but then got lighter very quickly. In the beginning, I wore the maternity pads provided by the hospital, which were pretty thick and not very comfortable to wear and then gradually moving to regular period pads like Always that worked really well for the lighter flow.
After giving birth to Amelie the bleeding lasted so much longer. Right up to the 6-week mark and maybe a few days past this too. It was very heavy in the beginning and there were some thick clots in the dark brown coloured blood from time to time too. Every time I breastfed the baby it was a definite that I would bleed. This time the bleeding was much heavier in the beginning for longer compared to my first. I ended up staining my pajamas and the bedsheets in those early days too. I had packed maternity pads bought from Boots in my hospital bag, but as the bleeding got lighter I transitioned to regular period pads again, which were more comfortable.
Eventually, the flow did get lighter, especially after 2 weeks and the colour turned more pinkish and I was using fewer pads by this point too. Towards the end of my bleeding, I remember being led into a false sense of security that it was over as I hadn’t had any blood loss for a few days, but then I would feed the baby and bleed a small amount again.
The fact that the bleeding lasted longer this time didn’t worry me as it’s normal. However, it can sometimes be a cause of concern and it’s best to speak to your GP or midwife to seek medical advice.
Contractions After Giving Birth
After giving birth to Aiden, what I found really weird is the fact that you can still experience contractions (afterpains also called involution). On every feed, in those first few days, my uterus would contract because feeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for contractions during labour. The uterus contracts because it’s trying to get back to its usual size and position in the body after 9 months of expansion. After my first birth, these lasted no longer than 5 days and were mild and not painful.
What I didn’t know, but quickly learned after my second labour was that the more children you have the more intense these after pains become because the uterus has to work harder to get back to its original shape and size. My abdomen felt like it had been hit by a bus after having Amelie, so bruised and sore. The post-birth contractions were quite painful and my midwife advised me to take both ibuprofen and paracetamol to help.
With everything going on I was quite bad at keeping up taking my medication. I would take it in the morning but totally forget 4 hours later. On days when I forgot to take them for the rest of the day, I would literally wake up feeling like I’d just given birth all over again. It was a struggle to get out of a chair or bed and I would couldn’t walk with much speed or with my back straight because it was so sore. On the flip side, when I did get into a better routine of taking them I felt perfectly fine and the contractions were less severe until they went barely unnoticed. They probably lasted for a few weeks after having my baby.
Taking things as slowly as I could definitely helped my body heal. Obviously, it can be hard to rest when you have an older child to look after as well, but putting tools in place to make things easier for yourself can be a game changer. My slow cooker quickly became my best friend, especially in those early weeks, I switched to doing my shopping online again, I’d already had a batch of blog posts scheduled before the baby arrived and Alfie has taken over the morning nursery run. Staying in bed for 2 weeks after giving birth wasn’t realistic for me, however, putting this simple network of tools together was a massive help to make things that bit easier while I was in the recovery phase.