After you have a baby, it may feel like every ounce of your attention goes directly to that newborn. But it’s super important to take care of your own body, too—after all, it's healing from a major physical event! Postpartum recovery starts with understanding exactly what is (and isn’t) a normal progression of healing.
We’ve put together a guide to the postpartum recovery timeline so you can be prepared, whether it’s the third day or the third week after delivery. (C-section mamas: head here for our C-section postpartum timeline!)
Postpartum Recovery Timeline: Week 1
If you had a hospital birth, you’ll likely stay at the hospital for a day or two to begin your recovery. Your breasts may be swelling and painful as your milk comes in. In fact, your whole body might feel a bit swollen. Water retention is common after delivery—it’s usually caused by an increase in the hormone progesterone— and you may notice puffiness in your hands, legs and feet. Next on the list of not-so-fun postpartum experiences? The return of mild contractions or cramping, which is just your uterus contracting back to its pre-pregnancy size—and the cramping usually intensifies when breastfeeding.
If you tore, you can expect some moderate soreness and tenderness. You may need to use helpful items like peri bottles and sitz baths while your delicate skin heals (hospitals often provide these and let you take them home when you are discharged.)
After delivery, postpartum bleeding called lochia is expected and normal. It might last as long as six weeks, but the heaviest bleeding should be over within 10 days or so. Like your period, postpartum bleeding will start out bright red and heavier, but will lighten and begin to turn brownish with time. Our absorbent postpartum undies are a major asset during this phase! (If you notice large clots or are bleeding excessively, contact your doctor to make sure you aren’t experiencing postpartum hemorrhage, a rare but serious complication.)
Your hormones are changing dramatically during this time, and you’ll probably be exhausted from the physical exertion of childbirth—not to mention the frequent night waking of a newborn! As a result, you might feel pretty emotional or overwhelmed in the few days after birth. Many women feel like their emotional swings peak around the third day after birth. But if your “baby blues” turn into something more serious—such as severe mood swings, appetite loss, overwhelming fatigue, or intrusive thoughts—make sure to contact your doctor right away to get screened for postpartum depression.
Postpartum Recovery Timeline: Weeks 2 & 3
During the second week, the soreness you felt in your vagina and perineum (if you tore) might be replaced with itchiness. It’s a good sign, actually—it means your skin and any stitches are starting to heal. Many doctors schedule a checkup with new mothers around this time to check your healing.
Some of the other bumpy parts of postpartum recovery should start to smooth out now, too. If you’re breastfeeding, you may be starting to find your rhythm, but contact a lactation consultant if you and baby are still struggling with feeding. Have some lanolin on hand for sore nipples, and watch for signs of clogged ducts, which can lead to mastitis if it doesn’t clear.
Make sure you are taking care of yourself when you can! Eat nutritious foods, and move your body in any way you can—even if it’s just a walk around the block.
Postpartum Recovery Timeline: Week 6
By now, you should feel pretty close to normal, physically. Your uterus has returned to its pre-pregnancy size. The bleeding has stopped. Your doctor may clear you to exercise or have sex again, though you may want to take it slow. But even though your body might feel back to normal, you may emotionally feel pretty different. It’s normal to still feel overwhelmed and exhausted (nap when you can!) but more intense feelings of sadness, anxiety or hopelessness should be addressed with a doctor.
How Belly Bandit can help with postpartum recovery healing
We’re already put together a complete list of postpartum essential must-haves, but here are some of the ways Belly Bandit can really help:
Our flexible V-COOl Pernineal Hot & Cold Gel Pack is designed to bring instant relief for new moms, right where they need it! It’s placed in the undies, like a pad, and offers up soothing coolness to help with postpartum swelling, itching or burning.
Hospitals will usually give you giant pads and enormous, disposable mesh underwear for dealing with the postpartum lochia. Prefer to skip the diaperwear? Yeah, us too. Instead, make sure you stash Proof Postpartum Leakproof undies in your hospital bag. These undies look just like regular underwear but can hold up to 10 teaspoons of liquid using our patented Leak-Loc technology.
If you plan to nurse, having several nursing bras and leakproof nursing pads on hand for the postpartum period is key so you don’t have to scramble for supplies. Our Leakproof Nursing Bra protects against wetness and leaking (super common in the early postpartum days!) and includes genius features like one-handed clasps and technical fabric to protect against odor. Don’t forget our reusable Leakpoof Nursing pads, which absorb up to 6 teaspoons of liquid and have a seamless edge so they don’t show under clothes.
Our supportive maternity leggings are specifically designed for postpartum recovery, with features like targeted compression to support weakened muscles and encourage healthy blood flow.
Last but definitely not least: Our list of postpartum recovery must-haves always includes a Belly Wrap! Belly binding is a centuries-old tradition that has been shown to help support and slim your belly, waist, and hips after delivery. Many medical professionals recommend wearing a belly band during the first several weeks of recovery. Our doctor-recommended belly wraps come in a variety of sizes with additional features for sensitive skin, C-section recovery, and more. Explore our collection of belly wraps!