‘Fourth Trimester’ recovery – a midwife explains what physical changes to expect

After having a baby, it’s inevitable that new mums will experience a number of physical and emotional changes, particularly in the early days. Understanding these changes and knowing how to cope with them will help you on your journey to postpartum recovery.

In support of Birth Trauma Awareness Week, Marley Hall, (@midwifemarley), a registered midwife and an ambassador for maternal health brand Lansinoh explains the physical changes that new mums can expect in the days and weeks after giving birth, and the steps they can take to help reduce discomfort during their recovery.

What physical changes can new mums expect?

“In the first few days after birth you may experience swollen feet, body aches, sore perineum and vagina, heavy bleeding, uterine cramps, night sweats and enlarged and tender breasts. Postpartum changes such as swelling, bleeding and body aches usually settle within a few days to a few weeks” Marley explains.

How can mums reduce discomfort?

Marley continues: “Many women complain of perineal soreness after birth. The extent to which you may experience will depend on the significance of any trauma to the perineum and vagina.”

To help support new mums during postnatal recovery, Lansinoh has launched its new Birth Preparation & Recovery range, an essential collection of products which can be used as a four-step routine to help avoid discomfort during and after birth.

The new range features an Organic Pre-Birth Preparation Oil which nourishes and conditions the external skin of the perineum to promote skin elasticity to allow more stretch at birth; an Organic Post-Birth Relief Sprayto cool and calm the perineal area after childbirth; a Post-Birth Wash Bottle to provide gentle, hygienic cleansing for stressed, tender areas and more comfortable bathroom trips; as well as a Cold and Warm Post-Birth Relief Pad to o­ffer combination therapy for targeted, repeated relief after childbirth.

Explaining further, Marley adds: “You may be worried about peeing after birth as it might sting a little. A peri bottle, filled with warm water and poured on the area as you pee works wonders in providing soothing relief. You may also want to try a Post-Birth Relief Spray to bring some additional comfort.

“If you experience body aches and cramps in your uterus, using a warm pad pressed against the area may help. Body aches do settle down after a period of rest.

“As your milk increases in volume and the colostrum (first milk) changes into your main milk, you may find your breasts swell and engorge. This can also bring some discomfort. Wearing a well fitted bra and using a cold compress may help to reduce pain. Be sure to feed your baby regularly to avoid engorgement and reduce the risk of developing mastitis. Your breasts will eventually settle down when they start to regulate how much milk they produce. This can take a couple of weeks or so.”

What about mental wellbeing?

“Another aspect of postpartum health to consider is emotional and mental wellbeing. Around 80% [1] of women will experience some form of emotional change after the birth. Often this manifests itself in the form of the ‘day 3 blues’ but all too often is a lot worse. It’s pretty normal a few days after birth to feel tearful, especially when you are exhausted from lack of sleep whilst trying to recover or have had a traumatic birth experience. For most women, this tearfulness resolves after a few days” Marley explains.

“If you are feeling down, overwhelmed, tearful, run down, depressed, guilty, fearful, disinterested in daily events or just not quite yourself and its ongoing, be sure to talk to someone about it. That can be either someone close to you or your care provider. Postnatal depression and anxiety is common but women can recover from it if it’s recognised and treated promptly.

“Postpartum recovery can take some time so go easy on yourself. If you are concerned about any aspect of your healing journey, reach out to your midwife or GP for advice and support”.

There are also charities such as Birth Trauma Association and PANDAS Foundation to offer support to new parents suffering from birth trauma and perinatal mental illness.