Postpartum recovery is much easier when you know what to expect. This vaginal birth recovery timeline will tell you what you to expect for the first two months after labor and delivery.
This year I was lucky enough to have my first vaginal delivery, with my third baby. If you’re wondering how that happened, my first two babies were both c-sections- you can read more about that here. After I was completely healed from my vaginal birth I decided to write down a few notes to help healing mamas. If you’re recovering from a vaginal birth, or you curious about the process, than this vaginal birth recovery timeline is exactly what you need!
Note: This post is based on my personal experience as I recovered from vaginal delivery. I am not a medical professional and this advice is not intended to replace that of a medical professional. If you are concerned about your recovery please seek medical advice immediately. These tips are meant to share anecdotal advice about what I found to be true and what helped me heal.
This might differ a bit if you’ve had an epidural. With my vaginal delivery I didn’t end up having an epidural (baby came too fast and there was no time!!) so I was up and walking within the first hour post birth. Which if you think about is pretty crazy!
If you’ve had an epidural you’ll probably be able to get up and walk once it wears off, which usually takes a few hours.
I remember feeling like I had to waddle a bit, and I had to lower myself very carefully to sit, but otherwise I felt great. I was definitely feeling that “new mommy high” and enjoying those sweet snuggles.
The First 24 Hours in Your Vaginal Birth Recovery:
You’re most likely going to be pretty sore tired. I remember waking up from a nap about 8-10 hours after labor and my arm and back muscles were really sore and stiff. Probably from holding my legs and push and tensing up so much during labor. This is totally normal, labor is like one big workout!
Labor and delivery is incredibly trying and tough on your body. You’ll be on a high from meeting your baby for the first time! Truly, there is no greater experience that holding that sweet baby and looking into his eyes. It’s joy in it’s most pure form.
What to Look Out For:
- Urination: It’s going to sting when you urinate, it just is. I remember asking to go to the bathroom about 45 minutes after baby Bear had been born, and just as I made it to the toilet I looked at the nurse and said “is this going to hurt?” She didn’t even answer me she just looked at me and I knew it was going to hurt. Was it worse than labor, no, but man did it sting. Using a squirt bottle filled with warm water and numbing spray before you urinate helps a ton! You will get both of these at the hospital, but I highly suggest having a stash ready to go at home too.
- Ice: I was given a newborn diaper filled with ice, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing but man did it soothe me and help me sit. Between the ice, the numbing spray and the tucks pads I was in pretty good shape.
- Waddle: You’ll probably waddle a bit when you walk, some of that will be from the ice pad shoved into your pants and some of it will be because you just pushed a baby out of our vagina, but it won’t last long.
The First Week:
I found during my first week of recovery I was still sore, not impossibly sore, but noticeably sore. I needed to be very cautious as I was sitting, but once I was in a comfortable position I was able to sit without an icepack or pillow. As the week progressed I found I didn’t need ice 24/7 and could use it on an as needed basis.
Around days 5-7 I found I was having a stinging/pinching sensation on occasion. It turns out this was in the area where I had needed stitches and was totally normal. If this happens to you don’t worry, but call your doctor if you’re concerned.
By the end of the first week was when I really started to notice the difference between healing from a vaginal delivery instead of a c-seciton. I was able to attend church only six days after giving birth! How insane is that?! I definitely could have never done that post c-section.
What to Look Out For:
- Incontinence: Here’s something fun that nobody talks about, for the first week or two after your vaginal delivery you will probably experience incontinece. This will vary for each woman, but I found the best thing to do was to make frequent bathroom trips and to try to use the bathroom before I felt like I needed to go. Don’t worry, this goes away after a week or two.
- Bleeding: Of course you will still be bleeding after delivery, make sure you have plenty of maxi pads in the house, these are my favorites. Be sure to talk to your doctor or nurse before going home about how much bleeding is expected.
- Cramping: The nurses will probably explain this to you in the hospital, but you will experience some cramping during the first week as your uterus shrinks back down. It can be pretty uncomfortable, although I’ve never found it to be any worse than normal period cramps. Cramping can be especially bad during breastfeeding so be sure to relieve your bladder before you begin a nursing session- this helps a ton!
The Second Week:
When I wrote my post about recovering from a c-seciton I wrote that at the two week mark I was feeling much better. And that was true. But I can’t even begin to describe how great I felt two weeks into my vaginal birth recovery.
I was basically back to my life as normal. I was able to lift and move freely, I could do laundry and run errands and had very little pain or soreness.
On days when I did more activity (or was on my feet more than usual) I maybe needed one dose of Tylenol and a few minutes with an icepack, but otherwise I was feeling incredible.
What to Look Out For:
- Continued Soreness: Even though I was feeling awesome by this point I still experienced some soreness, that’s not totally unusual. Just be careful when you sit, I definitely suggest easing into it instead of plopping down fast. If you sit or stand too much during the day I recommend lying on your side for a bit to give your vagina and bottom a break
- Pelvic Floor: I had heard women talk about their pelvic floor before but I didn’t really realize what they were talking about until after my vaginal delivery. I was suddenly very aware of the floor of my pelvis and I remember feeling like it might just fall out! Of course that wasn’t true, but it definitely needed to be strengthened. I recommend starting with some kegel exercises (if you don’t know what that is, Google it!) and building form there. Strengthening your pelvis floor will also help with any lingering incontinence.
The First Month:
After the second week my soreness continued intermittently. Some days I barely felt sore at all, then some days I would feel more sore, especially if I had been on my feet a lot the previous day.
I had some skin that hadn’t totally healed yet so that still stung a bit when I urinated, but I found that staying hydrated and using postpartum spray helped with this. Looking back I should have called my doctor sooner than my 6 week appointment to have her look at my skin. She took one tiny swab with silver on it (yes, silver!), touched it to my sore spot, and a couple days later it was totally healed! All that discomfort for a simple fix!
What to Look Out For:
- Occasional Soreness: Remember that you are still healing form childbirth no matter how great you feel, so be sure to get plenty of rest and give yourself plenty of space to heal before you resume all of your regular activities
- Tender skin: Your skin around your vagina might be tender still. I don’t recommend wiping after you urinate (that’s what the squirt bottle is for).
Your Six Week Check-Up:
By this time I found I was feeling almost completely back to normal. Except for that one pesky sore spot on my skin and occasional soreness I found that I was able to get back to my daily life. I no longer felt discomfort while sitting, I wasn’t struggling with incontenince, and my bleeding had stopped.
By the two month mark I was completely healed and back to life as normal!!
Note: Be sure to talk with your doctor about resuming your normal activities.
I’ve had just about every birth experience one can have: an emergency c-section, a scheduled c-section, and a vaginal birth. In my experience, recovery is much easier for each one if you know what to expect. I hope this vaginal birth recovery timeline will help you have the best recovery possible!
What did you experience during your postpartum recovery? Leave a comment below!