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What to Expect Postpartum

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

This guest post was written by Dr. Emily Buchner, PT, DPT, CMTPT from Resilience RX Physical Therapy.

The Difficulty of Postpartum Life

Hi, I’m Dr. Emily - a mom of two and a pelvic floor physical therapist. I know first hand how difficult the early postpartum period can be - mentally, physically, and emotionally. You are probably sleep deprived, you may have pain, and your body is healing, all while you are navigating how to care for a newborn. It can be overwhelming to say the least.

With all that is going on, care for your body can often take a back seat during this time and is often very limited. If mom guilt has already settled in, then you likely feel you’re not the priority right now, baby is! To make it all the more difficult to navigate, you go from seeing your provider biweekly or weekly during your pregnancy to seeing them likely only ONCE around 6 weeks after you give birth! It can be confusing.

Care for Your Postpartum Body

The lack of education and guidance in postpartum life has always blown my mind. The shift of focus in healthcare goes from caring for your body and your baby inside of you to really just caring about your baby. We love our babies, but what about your body? You just “ran the marathon” of childbirth or had a major abdominal surgery (C-section), and you only see your provider once?! You’re healing as you should, the doctor asks? Great! You then get a green light to do whatever you want to do now. That doesn’t really seem to make sense, does it?

But what should you be doing during this early postpartum time? What is normal and not normal to experience? Women are often not told what to do, what symptoms to watch out for, or how to begin restoring their bodies. Many are left to just figure it out on their own. This can lead to frustration, unintended challenges, and confusion. We are on a mission to end the confusion and to equip you with the tools needed to help your body recover from labor and delivery!

What is Normal and Not Normal?

The first few weeks postpartum are all about healing, rest, and recovery. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery all took a toll on your body. In those first few weeks, you may experience a little leaking, heaviness, and/or pain. Urinating or having a bowel movement might be difficult or uncomfortable. You may have some muscle soreness and difficulty moving around.

Initially, these symptoms are normal, but by 6 weeks postpartum, they should be gone. If you still have lingering symptoms at this point, they probably are not going to go away on their own.

At 6 weeks postpartum, these symptoms are NOT normal:

  • Leaking (any amount and with any activity)

  • Feeling like you’re not going to make it to the bathroom in time

  • Heaviness or pressure

  • Painful intercourse

  • Back, hip, or pelvic pain

  • Difficulty going to the bathroom (starting the urine stream, incomplete emptying, chronic constipation)

  • Coning/doming in your abs (see picture below)

It’s a Long Road to Full Recovery

It will take a long time to restore your strength, mobility, and function after having a baby, and that’s ok! These changes in your body took 9 long months to occur. It’s going to take AT LEAST 9 months to feel “back to normal.” It takes most women twelve to fifteen months to get to this place. The lengthy recovery process is similar to having a surgery, such as a joint replacement or ACL reconstruction. People often don’t feel like themselves until one full year out in those situations too!

That being said, there is a lot of progress you can make in the first few months after having your baby! Check out this blog post that includes a general guideline of exercises to begin restoring your body. Athletes - check out this blog post that will help guide you in returning to your sport.

If Things Aren’t Going as Planned

If things are feeling painful and more miserable than feels right, there’s likely something going on that needs to be addressed. You should seek out pelvic floor physical therapy if any symptoms (leaking, heaviness, pain anywhere, coning/doming in the abs, painful intercourse, etc) are still present beyond 6 weeks postpartum. A lot of women are told by friends and medical providers that accidentally peeing your pants is a normal thing after having kids - it’s not! It can be fixed! The sooner you get your symptoms addressed, the faster you will be able to resolve your issues, get back to normal life, and prevent them from returning in the future.

As a mom of 2 and a runner, Dr. Emily understands the importance of addressing and preventing pain and injuries so they do not interfere with your busy and active lifestyle.

She’s not only a pelvic floor physical therapy specialist but she’s also experienced pelvic floor physical therapy herself. In this post, she's sharing what's normal and what's not when it comes to your pregnancy symptoms.

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