The first couple of weeks after childbirth can be a whirlwind. You’re adjusting to the reality of parenthood, learning how to care for a tiny human, and are still recovering from delivery.
Here’s what to expect in terms of physical changes, mental health, energy levels, self-care needs, and intimacy the second week postpartum.
It can take six or more weeks for your uterus to shrink back to its normal size, so you may still appear pregnant for the next few months. Hot flashes and night sweats are also relatively common around this time, but if they’re frequent, don’t hesitate to check in with your healthcare provider. Sleep on a towel if you’re soaking your sheets!
If you had a vaginal birth…
You’ll likely feel an overall body improvement this week. Any tears are generally less painful, swelling should be gone or almost gone, and your bleeding will likely be lighter. You may still need your trusty care items for your perineal area and will definitely need pads or anti-leak underwear. Constipation and hemorrhoids can still be bothersome this week, so staying hydrated, eating foods that keep things moving, and using topical hemorrhoid creams or sitz baths can help.
If you had a C-section…
Your physical recovery from delivery will likely take a bit longer, but many people are moving much more normally by week two. Getting in and out of bed should be getting easier, but you should continue to lift nothing heavier than your baby. Your vaginal bleeding will be lighter this week, but you’ll still need comfortable pads. Your stitches are probably dissolvable, so you won’t have to get them removed, but you’ll likely have a post-op check-in appointment around the two-week mark to take a look at how it’s healing — potentially sooner if you had any complications.
If you’re breastfeeding…
The round the clock feedings can be exhausting, but continuing to feed on cue is so important for your milk supply. Many people find they are getting into a groove with latching, but it’s normal to still feel some nipple tenderness. If you have cracks, bleeding or pain during feedings, this is an ideal time to reach out for expert breastfeeding support from a professional like an IBCLC or a community group.
Your mental health
It’s normal to experience a range of emotions during this time. You might feel joy, gratitude, stress, anxiousness, or all of the above. About one in nine new mothers also suffer from postpartum depression, which usually starts in the first few weeks after childbirth.
Sometimes called the “baby blues,” this feeling of sadness, hopelessness, or lack of connection with your baby may pass after a few days. But if these feelings last more than two weeks or feel severe, contact your healthcare provider or call the Postpartum Support International hotline.
Your energy levels
From your physical recovery and waking up throughout the night for feedings to a roller coaster of emotions and shifting hormones, it can feel near-impossible to get enough shut-eye. As you probably know, a lack of sleep can affect your physical and emotional health. We realize it’s easier said than done, but resting can help keep postpartum depression at bay and even support the healing process.
And if it feels like baby’s days and nights are confused, try having them spend time in sunlight first thing in the morning (fresh air is even better!). Keeping the bedroom very dark overnight and using a red nursery light for diaper changes and feedings can also help.
For many new parents, the idea that they need to “find time for self-care” doesn’t feel freeing, it feels like just one more thing to add to a neverending to-do list.
In these first few weeks, self-care looks like asking for and accepting help from your community and letting go of a lot of the extra stuff. If household chores don’t get done this week or microwaveable meals are what feels good right now, that’s great. Now is the time to be as gentle on yourself as possible.
Sex and intimacy
Healthcare providers recommend waiting at least six week to have intercourse. At your six week appointment, they’ll check in on how you’re healing and let you know if you’re cleared for sex. That said, even when you get the green light, it can take time to feel physically and emotionally ready. If you have a partner, there are many ways to be intimate that don’t involve sex. There’s no rush and we encourage you to wait until you feel enthusiastic about resuming sex.
2-week postpartum check-up
Your healthcare provider might want to schedule a two-week postpartum check-up and another one around six weeks. At the first appointment, they’ll check any stitches you may have had or the incision of your C-section, ask about your mental health and symptoms you’re experiencing, and offer guidance to troubleshoot any concerns you have.
They likely will also ask you about how infant feeding is going. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, they might recommend lactation consulting. Consider tracking your physical and mental symptoms during the first two weeks. That way, you can give your provider the whole picture, and they can figure out a care plan that best suits your needs.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. Breastfeeding Your Baby: Sore Nipples. Health. Web.
- Office on Women’s Health (OASH). Postpartum depression. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). 2019. Web.
- Mostaghimi L, et al. Effects of sleep deprivation on wound healing. Journal of sleep research vol. 14,3. 2005. 213-9. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2005.00455.x
- Alum AC, et al. Factors associated with early resumption of sexual intercourse among postnatal women in Uganda. Reprod Health 12, 107. 2015. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-015-0089-5