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Published in: JOURNAL, postpartum

How Long Does it Take to Recover (Physically) After Giving Birth?

Everyone’s body, and recovery, following childbirth is different. Yet there are some common aspects of postpartum recovery that can help you get a better grasp on how long you’ll need (and want!) to wear your FourthWear Postpartum Recovery Underwear.

Nyssa's take on
Common Misconceptions About Postpartum Recovery:


For months, the attention of medical professionals has been closely tied to your health and wellbeing. As soon as your baby arrives, unless you are in critical condition, that focus abruptly shifts to your baby. Of course, newborns require round-the-clock care. But what about the mother? Don’t be surprised if your wellbeing is immediately deprioritized as doctors focus on your baby. As journalist and author Angela Garbes has said: “People are trained to prioritize the health and safety of newborn babies– not newborn mothers.”

After the momentous physical feat of birthing a child, your six-week check-up will often be your first (and for many, only) scheduled chance to speak one-on-one with your provider. Many imagine that they will talk with their doctor at length about healing, recovery, mental health, breastfeeding issues, etc; in reality, these appointments are mainly or equally about their baby’s health.  

Though many providers go the extra mile to ensure the holistic wellness and recovery of their patients, for the most part the six-week-checkup is in place to detect major postpartum complications and to give the ‘green-light’ for sex and exercise. Many providers, including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, agree that this is too little too late. 

In truth, almost everyone’s postpartum recovery extends well beyond the six-week check-up. There’s a reason that it’s often referred to as ‘The Fourth Trimester’ — recovery can feel like an extension of your pregnancy journey.

While the six-week-check up is very important to your overall health and recovery, the notion that six weeks is the benchmark for getting ‘back to normal’ is simply not true. Not only does this idea potentially cause harm by messaging to new mothers that they should get back to sex and exercise, even if they’re not ready, it fails to take into account a holistic picture of postpartum recovery, which research suggests lasts from six months to one year.

 


 

FourthWear Postpartum Recovery Underwear is specifically designed to address common aspects of postpartum recovery: 

Post-Birth Cramping or Afterpains (7-10) days⟶

C-Section Recovery (About 6 Weeks) ⟶

Postpartum Bleeding (6-8 Weeks) ⟶

Vaginal Tearing and Bruising (6-12 Weeks*) ⟶

Hemorrhoids ⟶

 

 

Post-birth Cramping or Afterpains

(7-10 Days)

Your body hasn’t just spent the better part of a year growing a baby– it’s also grown a brand new organ: the placenta.

To accommodate these new friends, your uterus expands significantly. Part of the postpartum healing process necessitates the contraction of your uterus down to pre-pregnancy size. This can be particularly painful if you are breastfeeding as breastfeeding releases hormones that increase the intensity of these contractions.

Often, the most painful contractions/afterpains continue for 7-10 days after delivery. Nyssa’s resident cryotherapist, Dr. Susan Kwiecien, describes afterpains as “similar to menstrual cramps. They are normal, and may be stronger with each baby you have. Warm heat packs and compresses can help with the pain.”

We designed Nyssa’s Between Legs and Uterine Reusable Ice/Heat Packs to help with abdominal cramping. FourthWear Postpartum Underwear’s patented pocket design securely holds ice or heat therapy between the legs and over the lower abdomen where postpartum recovering bodies need it most.

Nyssa FourthWear Postpartum Recovery Underwear featured with Reusable Between Legs Ice and Heat Pack
 

 

C-Section Recovery

(About 6 Weeks) 

While some folks plan their c-section from the beginning, many find themselves re-envisioning their post-birth plan due to an emergency c-section (31.7% of women in the US have a c-section delivery). Recovery from a caesarean is still recovery from pregnancy, including bleeding, vaginal discharge, and the contraction of a uterus. 

Many guides suggest that full recovery from a c-section takes 4 to 6 weeks. Yet every person is different, and much research suggests a significantly longer recovery time. Some studies have found that 60 percent of women have some pain in the incision area 24 weeks after delivery.

Model rolling down Nyssa FourthWear Postpartum Recovery underwear to show versatility for c-section or vaginal birth

On top of all that, c-section recovery is also recovery from a major surgery (read: sore, healing muscles, lack of mobility and pain at the incision site). A heating pad or warm compress will ease the pain around your abdomen and incision (University of Rochester Medical Center). Additionally, it’s important to keep the site of a caesarean incision free from irritation to facilitate healing by ensuring no seams or waistbands over the site.

 

Postpartum Bleeding

(6-8 Weeks)

File under: things we’d wish we’d known before giving birth! Everyone bleeds pretty heavily, even if you’ve had a c-section. Lochia is a discharge of blood, mucus and uterine tissue. 

This shedding is not totally unlike having your period, because it's made up of the same kind of blood and tissue. But lochia happens on a much larger scale because of how big the uterus grows during pregnancy. Usually, lochia lasts for about six to eight weeks. (Here is a good guide on what to expect with lochia.)

FourthWear Postpartum Recovery Underwear features a widened gusset to accommodate oversized postpartum pads (ours are 32x more absorbent than typical pad material, so you won’t need to worry about bleeding through your bedsheets!). FourthWear’s design helps make your postpartum bleeding much more bearable — and much less messy.

This is the time to load up on pads! We created our Organic Cotton Extra-Long Postpartum Pads especially to support postpartum bleeding. The perfect partner to our FourthWear Postpartum Recovery Underwear, they’re designed to help with bleeding and leakage post-birth and feature an organic cotton top sheet to help keep you dry and comfortable as you heal.

 

Vaginal Tearing and Bruising 

(6 - 12 Weeks*)

Vaginal pain and tearing, despite how little it is discussed, is incredibly common. In fact, up to 9 in 10 people who give birth vaginally for the first time experience some form of tearing. Many also experience vaginal bruising. 

We know this can be hard to hear if you are currently pregnant or planning to get pregnant. *The majority of tearing is 1st or 2nd degree; 3rd and 4th degree tears are more severe.

Nyssa supporter and NYC-based photographer Frances F. Denny wrote  an extremely honest and well-researched account of perineal tearing for Harper’s Bazaar and you can read more about vaginal tearing on the website for the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Ice and cold therapy is proven to be most effective in reducing swelling and inflammation when used as soon as possible after pain begins. A recent study titled ‘The Effects of Cold Application to the Perineum on Pain Relief After Vaginal Birth’ by Derya K. Senol, Ph.D, RN and Ergul Aslan, RN showed that a cold gel pad applied twice within the first 4 hours after vaginal delivery was more effective in relieving perineal pain in both primiparous (first-time mothers) and multiparous (those who have previously given birth) women, than in those who did not receive any cold application.

Having FourthWear Underwear and an ice pack (one of ours, or your own) on hand immediately after delivery will allow you to start experiencing pain-reducing benefits that ice can provide as soon as possible after giving birth. Several studies aiming to assess perineal pain in women treated with a cold gel pad after delivery have revealed a decrease in the severity of postpartum perineal pain.

Their study also showed that two applications of cold gel pad resulted in better overall recovery in daily activities such as lying down, sitting and walking, infant care, breastfeeding, and urination. 

Side view of lower half of a model wearing Nyssa FourthWear underwear and holding infant

Ice and cold therapy can be applied on a regular basis for no longer than 30-minutes at a time as needed, but ideally several times a day throughout the first 72-hours of your recovery.

Complying with a rigorous (but safe) icing schedule, specifically during the first few days after giving birth, is likely to help you resume activities faster while being in better control of your pain.

 

Hemorrhoids

A hemorrhoid is a painful swelling of a vein in the rectum. After having a baby– especially after a vaginal delivery– many women develop hemorrhoids. Symptoms include pain, rectal itching, bleeding after having a bowel movement, or a swollen area around the anus.

Pregnancy and vaginal delivery predisposes women to develop hemorrhoids because of hormonal changes and increased intra-abdominal pressure. It ‘s estimated that 25% to 35% of pregnant women are affected by this condition.

Applying a cold ice pack for 20 to 30 minutes, several times a day as needed following delivery, is also recommended as a treatment for the swelling and discomfort occurring as a result of hemorrhoids. We’ve been there– hems suck! But get ‘em on ice and you’ll be on track to feeling better soon.

Closeup of Nyssa Between Legs Reusable Ice and Heat pack in model's hand
 

POSTPARTUM LIKE A PRO WITH OUR
DELUXE POSTPARTUM RECOVERY SET ⟶

 

We’re all about making ice/heat therapy— doctor’s #1 recommended postpartum regime— a breeze. Our 5-Piece Deluxe Postpartum Recovery Set has all 3 styles of ice/heat therapy plus our luxuriously soft pocketed FourthWear underwear and bralette to keep you soothed from breast to bum.

 

 


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