Rock Me Momma Founder and mum of two, Helen Mintman, shares the top four things she wish she'd know about the fourth trimester.
If only I had a record of my google history from the few weeks after birth. I would be able to see the myriad of questions I asked Dr Google. Believe me, even with some pretty detailed pre-birth intel from my good friend Bex, a LOT of them related to postpartum recovery.
Here is my top four things I wish I knew about postpartum recovery.
1. IS MY VAGINA GOING TO FALL OUT?
I went into birth expecting my vagina to feel sore after, I mean we're all pretty clue'd up on the 10cm dilated, size of a melon etc. I had some tears during birth and needed stitches. Down there was pretty uncomfortable especially when weeing (see point 2.)
What I wasn't expecting was this heaviness inside my vagina. I felt like there was this bulgy bit of tissue or something that had appeared. I kept wondering 'did my vagina feel like that before?' and even went as far as asking the hubby 'erm, soooooo, did you ever notice this bulgy thing in my vagina??'.... he shrugs, not sure where I am going with this.
So of course I turned to Dr Google and typed in 'can your vagina fall out after birth??'. Dr Google kindly responded with 'Causes of pelvic organ prolapse'
WTF!!! My organs are going to fall out????????
So, before you panic, what it actually means is that you have some pelvic floor weakness from pregnancy that causes your pelvic organ(s), i.e. uterus, bladder, rectum to droop from their usual position into your vagina. Turns out that is really common after childbirth, especially in the first few weeks and can worsen when you do simple things like going for a walk. I most cases it gradually improves as your pelvic floor gets stronger. Sometimes it may be permanent, so definitely worth checking in with your Dr or with a Woman's physio.
Recommend checking out the www.whymumsdontjump.com/ for more info on pelvic organ prolapse.
2. GOING TO THE TOILET IS A NEW EXPERIENCE
Going to the toilet without an alternative to loo roll (i.e. a peri bottle that squirts water) was not a pleasant experience. Peeing made my stitches burn and I didn't want to go anywhere near that area with loo roll. There was definitely some trepidation about going for a no.2 as everything felt so strange down there. Again a squeezy peri bottle really helped soothe the area and helped me relax.
3. YUCK WHAT'S THAT SMELL.... OH IT'S ME!
Oh yes, postpartum stank is totally a thing. About 30 mins after having a shower I could just smell myself. My whole body (I mean including 'down there') just smelt a bit whiffy. I also remember waking up at night absolutely soaking in sweat. And when I say soaking, I mean absolutely soaking.......my PJs, my bedsheets, my pillow. I looked at the hubby to see if he we had accidentally cranked up the heating overnight, but no. It was just a normal postpartum case of night sweats. So, if you are breastfeeding, your body releases a stronger smell from your armpits in order to help your baby find food from the get go!
The sweats and smell is caused by a massive change in your hormones after birth, mainly estrogen. Took about 3-4 weeks for my stink to return to normal.
4. YOU PROBABLY NEED MORE THAN JUST THE SIX WEEK CHECK
I only really wanted to get the six week booked in so I could start exercise again. Turns out from speaking to friends that the check varies massively depending on where you go and which doctor sees you. My experience differed from child to child. In both checks I was lots of questions about mental health and asked what contraception I was planning to use .....erm abstinence! But was surprised that neither checked my abs given there is so much online about not exercising until six week check. With Abbie (my second) I was offered a vaginal examination to see how my stitches had healed and to check my pelvic floor. Was advised to do kegels to strengthen my pelvic floor.
A few months later and I was still peeing when I was lifting, sneezing etc. A friend recommended that I go for a Postnatal checkup with a Women's Physio. My pelvic floor was still really weak, but how come, as I had been doing my kegels??? Turns out my pelvic floor had become really tight, preventing it from working correctly as I wasn't fully relaxing the muscles after each kegel squeeze. Also, I wasn't actually squeezing the muscles properly either. Gah! Who knew kegels were so complicated!! With a few tweaks to my technique and some other core exercises I was able to resolve the issue. The session cost me about £100 but was worth every penny.