Postpartum Recovery Tips (2023)

Here are some handy postpartum recovery tips from a L&D nurse. Your uterus is now healing from a “placenta scab” left from the baby making their exit. This post includes info onpads, pain medicine, and the timeline you’ll likely follow.

Postpartum Recovery Tips (1)

Having a baby is hard work! Sometimes you don’t think about all that your body is going through (or WILL go through AFTER you go through labor). I know I was guilty of thinking I’d be 100% back to normal when I got out of the hospital. Wow, was I in for a surprise!

First off, hello! I’m Hilary — many people know me as The Pregnancy Nurse 👩‍⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience. I am also the curly head behind this website Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺​ I have had 3 babies of my own, I have seen THOUSANDS of moms deliver, and taught them what to watch for when bleeding is problematic.

Which is why I made a postpartum checklist for both SUPPLIES and SAFETY that I think you’ll love:

Table of contents

  1. Placenta Scab
  2. Get the Best Postpartum Pads
  3. Postpartum Pain Management
  4. Postpartum Blood Clots
  5. Postpartum recovery timeline
  6. Postpartum Swelling
  7. Postpartum Depression

If you’re looking to learn more about your postpartum recovery, I love this class for it. Whatever you do make SURE to take a class that thoroughly covers what to expect in life after baby. Your life will thank you for it!

This is a topic I am so passionate about I actually just did a podcast on it (especially on 4 areas that can be real trouble) I think it will help you know even more what to expect!

And, I also made a video on how we help your bottom to heal after baby that I think you’ll find helpful:

Ok, let’s dive in:

Your Placenta Scab

I know, super gross right.

But I think a lot of time women wonder why they need to to go slow those first few weeks after having their baby.

Yes, your bottom has had a big change, but you also need to realize what your uterus has gone through as well!

When the baby exits, within a few minutes the placenta comes off. That leaves a big wound on your uterus where the placenta site was.

It slowly applies “direct pressure” (think back to first aid class) by cramping back down to its normal size. The uterus contracts and causes this.

It helps to visualize that if you got a cut on your hand, if you made a fist, it would help put pressure on that area and stop the bleeding.

So, when your uterus cramps down (or goes back to a “fist”) it helps that area not bleed out. If for some reason, your uterus stop cramping down and becomes loose (or, boggy – -that’s what we call it) it can be a real problem.

After you have your baby, the nurse will push on your uterus to make sure that it cramping back down, to prevent a postpartum hemorrhage (which can be REALLY bad). It is a good idea to just breathe when they do it — and yes, I do talk a LOT about this here.

Keep in mind the uterus has a TON of blood flow right after delivery, because it was just growing a human. Your body needs to slow that down as well as stop the bleeding from the scab. Every delivery is very similar to major surgery (even though you won’t have scars on the outside).

This is all just the normal process of the placental site scab (but not fun). But if there’s ever a question about your bleeding, be sure to seek medical help.

Placental Scab FAQ’s

How long does Placenta Scab Bleeding Last?

It varies for each person. And it lengthens with each pregnancy. Most new moms stop around 3 weeks postpartum but some go shorter and many bleed up into their 5th week. Most people stop by 6 weeks.

It is often like a very heavy period once you go home from the hospital, and then tapers from there.

With each baby, women likely bleed more and longer. Your uterus is just getting more tired and doesn’t cramp down as well. It is not unusual to have more prolonged heavy bleeding when you’ve had several babies.

Why is there a scab?

It is from where your placenta attached to your uterus so that your body could feed your baby as it grew.

What is retained placenta?

If a part of the placenta stays attached, it’s called retained placenta. It can cause increased bleeding and possibly even infection.

When you deliver, your healthcare provider will check your placenta to make sure that it is intact. If there is a question, they may go into your uterus to check (using their hand). And if they think there is retained placenta, you may go to the OR to get it removed.

Do you recommend making pills out of your placenta

I do not — I have a post on placentophagy which shares why I don’t recommend it.

Will I still bleed with a cesarean section?

Yes, as the placental scab is still there, you will still bleed, just like a vaginal birth (most of the bleeding with a vaginal birth is from the placenta, not the birth canal).

Wait, what is the placenta?

It is the tissue that grows next to your uterus to give your baby nutrients and take away waste through the umbilical cord.

How much is excessive bleeding?

Your nurse will assess your bleeding in the hospital and you should get a good idea of what’s normal for you (because it REALLY varies). When you go home, if that increases, you need to call your provider.

What about a sudden gush of blood?

Again, you’re doing too much. Unless it’s enough to soak through your pads and panties I’d clean up, put a new pad on, rest with my feet up and see if it keeps happening — or, contact your provider with any questions.

Also, take note of the type of blood. If it’s brown, that’s older blood (not as worry-some). If it’s a sudden gush of bright red blood, that’s more problematic.

What is the problem if I’m bleeding too much?

Most often it’s because you are doing too much (and not allowing your uterus to cramp back down). However, sometimes pieces of the placenta can be left behind (even if your provider looks to make sure it’s intact). That requires medical treatment.

Am I going to bleed like this forever?

That first week can be a doozy, but it should get a little better — bit by bit. It can seem like a long time though.

In my first prenatal class I took, they acted like it would all be unicorns and rainbows after the baby came home. When I created my own class I knew I wanted it to be different. I wanted to let you know exactly what to expect.

Postpartum Recovery

Feeling overwhelmed — grab my postpartum recovery checklist:

Get the Best Postpartum Pads

Your uterus has a giant placenta-sized scab. Your placenta peels off after your baby is born and you are left with a big wound inside you that has to heal. That means you can’t move your household the week after you have a baby {guilty!}.

If your bleeding starts back to bright red or increases you need to SLOW DOWN.

Let me say it again (because I get a LOT of emails about it)…

If your bleeding picks back up after it has slowed down — you NEED TO SLOW DOWN. It is mother nature’s tip that you’re doing too much!

Your uterus will thank you for it! BTW, it’s smart to have some GOOD sanitary pads at home, so you don’t have to worry about leakage — something like these are nice (it seems like overkill, but it’s not), and I’ve also heard of people really liking these.

Postpartum Pain Management

For cramping pain — most people take ibuprofen. Ibuprofen needs to be taken with a meal. I was guilty of popping ibuprofen like it was candy on #3. Those after-birth cramps weren’t pretty. I would have taken an epidural with some of them if they had offered it. I ended-up ripping up my stomach lining and it hasn’t been the same since. {sad face}. Ibuprofen is GREAT for cramps — just take it with food {and, FYI — with each baby the cramps get worse, hooray!}

In my postpartum comforts I go over some of the things to keep you comfortable — but I hear SO many good things about this stuff— I’d definitely check it out!

Some doctors will also provide you a prescription medication that you might take for further pain. Please remember that you shouldn’t drive when you’re on prescription pain killers.

This just in: I just did a Tushy Review. Cliffnotes: It’s amazing. Check it out! {save 10% with code CURLS too!} It sprays water on your bum. It’s not hard to install and I may have had a love affair with it postpartum if I’d had it back then!

Postpartum Blood Clots

You shouldn’t be passing clots larger then a golf ball. If you are, you need to call your doctor.

Be sure that you have a BIG pad for when you get home.I recommend thesefor the first few days home, and this pack for after that. I’ve also heard a lot of people loving these undies.

A word on the…

Postpartum recovery timeline

In general you should be bleeding less and less each day. If you notice a lot more bleeding suddenly, that’s mother nature’s sign that you’re working too hard. Even if you think you’re not — do less. Your body needs that!

Every person’s timeline will be different… just know it should be a little better each day….

Pro Tip: Bright red bleeding is new blood and darker brown’ish blood is older.

What to do if your bleeding is slowing down and suddenly is more?

This is a sign that you’re doing too much.

You might not FEEL like you’re doing a lot — but that really is what it is.

Do less, drink more water. Put your feet up more. Less walking and less carrying things (besides the baby).

Postpartum Swelling

Likely, after the hospital you’ll be swollen. BUT, in your postpartum recovery you will pee. A lot. You will sweat, a lot. Your blood volume increase like CRAZY when you are pregnant — your blood’s just going back to normal. Free weight loss, enjoy!

Postpartum Depression – how to know?

If you have been more crying then happy and you’re on day 3 of that — you need to call someone. It’s not a perfect rule of thumb — but it’s a good start. It really helps you know the difference between baby blues (which are totally normal) and when it’s a problem. Emotional swings are totally normal, but living on one end of that swing set isn’t good for you. There are a lot of ways to get help, and talking to someone about it is the first start. If your OB is worth their paycheck, they should be concerned about you and want to know.

I love this podcast I did on postpartum mental health with a social worker.

Whatever you do. Be kind to yourself. There’s just a lot going on with your body. Rest, love, and give yourself time to adjust to the change. Make sure family members are checking on you (and not just the baby).

Postpartum Discharge

It’s normal for the bleeding to taper (like we’ve talked about previously), and then maybe just have some different vaginal discharge for a bit as your uterus fully heals. If it smells (a foul odor) or looks foul, call your provider.

Related Post: Postpartum Comforts & What to do before baby

Ok, if you are still pregnant, NOW is the time to get prepared for all this kind of stuff with a high quality prenatal class. After 20 years in the delivery room I know SO many families just can’t fit it in — which is why I created the solution just for you.

  • Use Hilary’s 20 years at the bedside to help you know what you NEED to know.
  • Can be done in just 3 hours.
  • 3 price points to fit all the budgets.

If you’re not quite sure you’re ready for the full class, check out my free birth toolkit — you can sign up right here:




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