New to Bounty?
You've done the tough bit of building a human inside of you for nine months before giving birth. But, while you bond with your new arrival, your body is working overtime to recover from all that physical trauma.
Midwife Megan Baker says the length of postnatal recovery depends on the type of delivery and whether there were any complications.
"Six weeks is the standard usually applied, as this is when stitches have healed, the uterus has returned to its original size and vaginal blood loss has settled," she says.
However, there are many variables, and often lower back pain can carry on well past this time, as can haemorrhoids and sore nipples.
"The sleep deprivation can also delay recovery and so it's not unusual to take longer than six weeks to feel 'recovered'," Megan says.
Whether it's post-birth tiredness or sore stitches, these tips for common new-mum challenges will help you deal with surprises you may not have prepared for.
1. "I'm sore after an epidural"
"Following a normal delivery, and depending on when the last top-up was given, an epidural anaesthesia could take two hours to wear off," says Megan.
You'll know it's happening as you'll start to feel tingling sensations in your legs and throbbing pain in your stomach. But you will remain in the labour ward until you have emptied your bladder and all the sensation has returned to your legs. If you require pain relief again you may be given paracetamol, codeine or an anti-inflammatory like Voltaren.
"After a caesarean, the epidural will be topped up with strong pain-relieving medication for between 24 and 48 hours," says Megan.
"You'll then be given regular oral analgesics for a few days, reducing to 'as required' once you're home."
2. "Where's my milk? Woah, now I've got way too much!"
Many new mums are surprised to find that they don't actually get a proper milk flow for about two to three days after they give birth.
Until your milk 'comes in', your baby is quite happily nourished by the yellow-coloured colostrum (full of vital immune-building antibodies) that you produce and this gradually changes to white milk.
Your milk is typically controlled by a supply-and-demand principle so the more baby feeds, the more you produce. This can also lead to times of over-supply, which can be painful, but one way to deal with this is to apply fresh, cold cabbage leaves directly to your breasts.
Yes, it sounds kooky and while there is no scientific data to back the practise, many mums will swear it helped ease their engorgement.
3. "I feel exhausted"
For the first 24 hours after the birth, you'll probably be carried along by adrenaline and excitement but, once you get home, tiredness will finally hit.
Don't try doing everything on your own. "Allow yourself to be pampered by all your friends and relatives," says Megan. "This is the time to ignore the housework and say 'yes' to all offers of help!"
Eating low-GI foods that release energy slowly, such as oats, brown bread and wholemeal pasta, will also help to combat exhaustion. And if you feel the need for a quick boost, have a banana.
4. "I'm scared I'll damage my scar"
After a caesarean, your doctor will use either dissolvable stitches or special staples to seal the surgical opening. "The wound will be covered by a dressing which will be removed after the first shower, usually on day two," says Megan.
"A light dressing will then cover the suture line to prevent any ooze escaping, and will be replaced each day until you go home."
If not dissolvable, the sutures are removed around day six. Allow six weeks before driving, lifting heavy items and returning to regular exercise, and wait three months before undertaking strenuous exercise.
5. "I keep bursting into tears"
The baby blues are very common, affecting as many as 80 percent of new mums. "The majority of women will experience a tearful episode during the first week, and it may continue for a few days," says Megan.
"This is thought to be caused by your body's response to the drop in pregnancy hormones after the birth. But if you're not feeling better after a week or two, mention it to your doctor or early childhood nurse and seek advice."
6. "I've got piles"
Piles, otherwise known as haemorrhoids, can appear during pregnancy or after labour. "These protruding veins around the anus develop as a result of pressure during pregnancy and/or during delivery," explains Megan. "They can be both sore and itchy simultaneously and will often bleed."
A healthy diet helps prevent constipation, which can aggravate piles. Eat high-fibre foods including fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals and oats, and drink two litres of fluid each day to keep stools soft, too.
Topical creams will help to relieve the pain and itchiness and, if you follow a healthy diet and don't strain yourself, they should disappear in a couple of weeks. But if they start bulging out – known as a prolapse – or are very painful, see your doctor.
Your postnatal recovery depends on the type of delivery and if there were complications. (Image: Getty Images)
7. "My stitches are swollen"
If you've had an episiotomy – a surgical cut made to your perineum during delivery to make room for your baby to come out – or have torn during labour, you'll be given stitches. The stitches will usually heal over after about two weeks, however they can take a couple of months to completely dissolve.
"The area can be bruised, swollen and painful for several weeks, especially if there are also haemorrhoids [or piles] present," says Megan.
"You can use ice for pain relief (try 'ice fingers' made from the fingers of rubber gloves and placed into the middle of a sanitary pad) for the first 24 hours, then it's important to wash the area regularly with warm water and change pads frequently."
To prevent the acidic burn of urine, you may find it more comfortable to pass urine while showering or pouring warm water over the stitches.
"But if there is an increase in pain or any odour from the wound area, see your doctor in case of infection," Megan says.
8. "I still look pregnant"
Ignore celebs who look amazing and red-carpet ready straight after birth – you will more than likely still look pregnant for a while!
"It will take six weeks for the uterus to return to its pre-pregnant size," says Megan. "The hormone oxytocin will help this along, especially during breastfeeds when it's released into the bloodstream. This will result in cramping – like period pain – which will also expel vaginal blood loss, which is often why you bleed more during feeds. This will help your body return to normal."
Your stomach muscles will have stretched and separated by up to four centimetres during pregnancy, so getting a flat tummy will take even more time.
"It's important to keep doing pelvic floor exercises and gentle tummy exercises (but not sit-ups just yet) as a strong tummy will help to protect your lower back from damage," Megan says.