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When we are pregnant we (naturally) focus a lot on pregnancy, labour and birth. We read all the books and parenting forums about what to expect when we’re expecting and what labour and the journey after birth and postpartum will be like. But, often, what comes next is a bit of a shock. It’s as if we didn’t turn the page to read on to discover what to expect postpartum . What it will really be like in those first few hours, days, weeks and months after birth?

Postpartum and what happens after birth can come as a shock for so many mums.
We asked mums in our Facebook group about what was most unexpected about their experience postpartum. These are the key points they raised:

The pain of stitches down below

If you have an episiotomy during labour the pain of the wound and the stitches might come as a bit of a shock. Obviously it’s a very sensitive area and even going for a wee can sting. Nicola from Team Happity says:

“I winced every time I sat down postpartum. My midwife gave me a surgical glove and suggested I fill it with water, freeze it and sit on it to ease the pain. Her tip was a lifesaver in the early days after birth. Even if it did feel a bit odd She also told me to rinse with a warm jug of water after a wee instead of wiping. And that really helped”

The after-pains

Nobody ever warns you about after pains – do they? We focus on what contractions might feel like and how we can get through them but after-pains are something that is not talked about enough. After pains (when your womb contracts) can be really sore. It feels like very intense cramps. It’s just your uterus contracting to shrink to its original size. But if you didn’t expect it – it can feel alarming

One mum said:

“The pain! I couldn’t stand up without pain for more than a few minutes of time. The cramps were insane. I took painkillers and it got better after a couple of weeks. But nobody had told me it would be so sore after birth”

Styling out a HUGE maternal nappy!

The discharge after birth is a bit of a shock!. Who knew we would have to rock HUGE postpartum nappies or ginormous sanitary towels in those days and weeks after birth? Often quite how much postpartum bleeding occurs and for how long can be something we didn’t quite expect.

Sore and cracked nipples

We might expect breastfeeding to be natural and plain sailing. But nobody tells us about the sore and cracked nipples that we might experience along the way. Every new mum is on a learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding. If your baby doesn’t latch on correctly your nipples can soon become super sore and even cracked. With support new mums can be guided to make sure their baby is latching on correctly and find ways to soothe any pain. But it seems that there’s still not enough support available when new mums need it most.

The intensity of your emotions

Of course having a baby is life changing but the intensity of emotions that hit you can be a bit of a shock!. You can find yourself overcome by emotions – both happy and sad. And the wave of strong emotions you feel can hit you like a rock. One mum spoke about this swing of raw emotions:

“I was so emotional after labour. I kept looking at my newborn and crying. I felt such a wave of love. And it was intense. I was suddenly in charge of this tiny human and the responsibility made me panic”

Being able to function on so little sleep

After birth - postpartum

Before birth the world and his wife advise you to get as much sleep as you can because you’ll lose out on so much sleep once your little bundle arrives. You smile and nod but you don’t quite get it until you give birth and experience sleep deprivation like never before! 

You might be surprised by how you can function in the early days and weeks on so little sleep (new mums are protected by hormones which help them feel like supermums!). You feel like you are buzzing and invincible.  But after a few weeks the exhaustion kicks in – big style!

The shock of the new

Becoming a new parent is a new experience and something we can never fully prepare ourselves for – no matter how many books we read. We focus so much on the labour and birth that what happens next can feel like a bit of shock. 
It’s normal and natural. Be reassured that you will learn as you go. Every hour and day you spend with your baby you will learn. And, when you have questions or are unsure – ask! Ask your mum, your friends, in parenting forums or in our Facebook Group. And trust your instincts.

Join our Facebook group to connect with other mums

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Stay connected. We have a lovely and supportive Facebook group for mums, where you can share your parenting stories and get help and advice from other mums. Join our group today.

Disclaimer: We have researched and included robust sources to provide information in this article. However, we are not health or medical professionals and you should always seek medical advice if you are worried about you or your baby’s health.

19/01/2018 by Emily Tredget

Last week I asked the lovely mamas in my Facebook group “What do you wish more people understood about PND?” I was surprised at how many responses I got, and wanted to share them. From mums who want to help bust the myths of postnatal depression and to end the stigma.

Why it’s so important for mums to speak out to bust PND myths

I want to share what mums had to say so that any other new mums struggling out there can take strength and courage from their words. So that any family or friend supporting someone with PND can understand them more fully. Because both the sufferer, and those caring around them need to understand what PND is. Without the sufferer realising what they are fighting they often won’t get help. And without those around them understanding as best they can, the sufferer may feel judged or uncared for.

Below are the responses I received. Some are quite similar, but I wanted to share different mums’ ways of putting it with the hope that it would resonate with many mums struggling currently.

“What do you wish more people understood about PND to bust the myths?”

busting the myths of postnatal depressionHere are some of the myths about postnatal depression mums want people to know and the reality they want more to understand:

What PND looks and feels like:

 

 

 

 

  • It presents itself differently in people, and you can experience it more than once.
  • I wish that I understood I had it earlier.
  • I wish I knew I was not alone and that PND is so common
  • Just because it looks like you are coping and you keep telling everyone you are fine doesn’t mean you are.
  • For some of us its more about anxiety as opposed to feeling down.
  • Mine was stress and just feeling down rather than anything more sinister, but it’s still very isolating, especially when there seem to be no support groups you can just drop in to. That was all I needed really, plus practical help. Drugs and CBT were on offer but were completely not what I needed! And I wasn’t asked what I would’ve found helpful.
  • It’s not just feelings of sadness….it can be feelings of anger/sadness too. And present in many different symptoms. Oh and it’s not just straight after your baby is born, it can come on later.
  • It doesn’t only happen immediately after baby is born and sometimes can build up over a few months.
  • There is hope and recovery from PND but anti depressants shouldn’t be the first port of call for doctors. I know for me mine was caused by chronic insomnia not just sleepless nights with a new baby. I physically couldn’t sleep at any time even for 30 mins over a period of 18 weeks.

The myths surrounding PND that we need to bust:

  • That it’s an illness that isn’t your fault. And that needing meds isn’t a negative thing.
  • I wish more people understood the difference between ‘baby blues’ and PND and weren’t so quick to dismiss feelings of PND as ‘normal’.
  • That it’s an illness not a weakness.
  • That it’s a real illness and that we aren’t making it up because we are too tired.
  • That you can still appear to be functioning normally and looking after your baby well.
  • However under the surface things are not OK- and you are not making it up.
  • That getting more sleep is a quick fix – it goes deeper than that.
  • It’s OK to have PND. It’s not a disease, it’s not catching, and it’s OK, in fact more than OK to talk about it. Don’t be embarrassed, just talk. It really, really helps.

We have lots of support, advice and places to go to seek support in the PND section of our blog.

Pandas Foundation is a wonderful first port of call.