15 Incredible and Demoralizing Postpartum Facts

What is going on in the body and mind after giving birth?

Invisible things: 

  • After baby arrives the brain rewires to be vigilant around potential dangers, tune into and interpret baby’s cues, and retain focus on caring for baby in stressful situations.[i] Being required to make even tiny decisions can be jarring, but "baby brain" is actually a superpower that helps keep baby safe!
  • The dinner-plate sized wound inside the uterus takes 2-8 weeks to heal. Full uterus involution occurs at about 42 days postpartum.
  • Trauma and stress are unfortunately common elements of birth whether vaginal or surgical. Processing any birth stress and trauma is important.
  • Internal organs & physical core are jumbled up and spread apart. The pelvic floor and abdominal muscles are stretched. The bladder may be twisted. The pelvis may be stuck open, askew, or otherwise busted. It may take months to figure out what is going on, let alone to “fix” it.
  • If there were complications, what other items can you add to this list?
  • Hormones are plummeting up to 1000%, returning to pre-pregnancy levels just 5 days to 3 weeks after delivery depending on the hormone.[ii] Expect tears around day three. Consult care providers if sadness or overwhelm last more than 10 days.
  • Pain bonanza. It hurts to sit up, lie down, shuffle (a.k.a. walk), sit, go pee and poo. It may hurt just being still. 
  • Insatiable thirst, especially if nursing a baby(ies)

More perceptible things 

  • Lochia bleeding
  • A sore or stitched perineum
  • Stitched up abdomen
  • Engorged chest, bleeding nipples, mastitis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Exhaustion
  • If baby came early, there’s the emotional distress, freezing cold hospital setting, limited food, endless tests, and on and on.
  • If baby was lost, there’s the emotional distress on top of all of this.

Holy smokes, that’s a lot of challenges that come along with giving birth. Luckily there are many things supporters and birth givers can do to manage them and find some baby bliss. Read Doulala’s Postpartum Priorities for more on that. 

[i] Hoekzema E, et al. (2017) Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure.

[ii] Hendrick V, et al. (1998) Hormonal changes in the postpartum and implications for postpartum depression.