You have just given birth and are eager and jittery to get out, or you are simply preparing yourself for what the future holds, so how long do you have to stay in bed postpartum?
Fact is, that 1 in 4 American women return to work less than 2 weeks after giving birth. This is a huge NO-NO!
I will go through some critical information before answering the question that every postpartum mom must know to prevent further complications down the road.
But if you are busy and think “ugh, just answer the darn question” just scroll down below for the answer and come back for the rest later!
The Importance of Rest
Even though birth is a natural event and has been happening since the world was created, birth takes a huge toll on your body. And the only way to recover is to rest.
If you are anything like me, you will rest for a day or two, but then feel a huge urge to get up and start with your routine again. This is especially true if you experienced prodromal labor like I did and were already out of routine those last few weeks.
But rest is so crucial and important and is one of the most underrated bodily needs. To put into perspective here are just some of the things your body goes through during birth and postpartum recovery.
- Your uterus stretched to over 5 times its normal size.
- The cervix and vaginal canal shifted to make way for your baby.
- Your cervix thinned and dilated for baby.
- During pregnancy, all your organs shifted.
- Your perineal skin stretched to the max and may even have torn.
- If you had a c-section, you had 4 layers (skin, connective tissue, muscle, and organs) cut through.
- Anesthesia and medications such as an epidural takes time to leave your system.
- Postpartum you are experiencing a huge change in your hormones.
- You are dealing with learning to care for a newborn baby.
- Simple movements are painful as your whole body is sore from the adrenaline (and tearing) during birth.
This list could be endless… but you get the idea, right? Your body needs time to heal from all these (and more) and that is why it is so important to spend time in bed postpartum.
Even in the Bible, in Leviticus chapter 12, women were considered unclean for 40 days after a boy, and 80 days after a girl. Being considered “unclean” was a big deal back in Biblical times, so these women stayed home, healed, and had all the time in the world to recover from birth.
So why should it be any different nowadays? Apart from the being “unclean” part as Jesus’ coming abolished those rules, the womanly body still needs time to rest and recover, so take this wisdom of the Bible with you.
While recovery looks different for every birth due to the huge range of fitness levels, complications, interventions, length of labor and so on, there is one rule almost all midwives agree on. The 5-5-5 rule.
What is the 5-5-5 Rule?
This rule sets a guideline for women to follow. After birth, women should spend 5 days IN bed, 5 days ON the bed, and 5 days AROUND the bed.
This is so crucial as during this time the body has time to shift back the organs, heal the tearing or injuries after birth, and set up that good pelvic foundation for a quick postpartum recovery.
While this guideline may seem like common sense after a surgery such as a c-section, after a vaginal birth with no tearing like I had, I was usually in my normal routine by 7 days. And let me tell you, my recovery always took so much longer, and I would experience complications due to this such as a minor prolapse.
That’s why, for my next pregnancy, I am making sure I have my postpartum recovery plan ready and taking the time to fully rest and heal, regardless of how traumatic or smooth my birth went, and spend time in bed postpartum!
5 Days in Bed
The first 5 days postpartum should be spent completely in bed. That means spending lots of time sleeping, breastfeeding, resting, reading, watching TV, breastfeeding, napping, and resting some more.
The only reason you should be up and about is to use the bathroom, going to your sitz bath, or in an emergency. Try to lay still as best as you can.
The first 5 days is not the time for visitors, as fully resting and recovering is not possible if you have guests in and out of the house. The only reason someone should potentially visit is to help with housework or deliver meals.
With my second birth, my mother drove across the mountains of Canada to come and spend the first week with us. This was such a blessing as she took care of my toddler, made us delicious and nutritious meals, and spent lots of time cleaning and doing laundry. This gave me the time and opportunity to fully rest.
If someone can stay with you permanently and help, take the offer! If not, look into getting some help in other places, such as with a postpartum doula.
Other than that, stay in bed, rest, enjoy those newborn snuggles and enjoy the pampering.
5 Days on Bed
During these next 5 days, you can get up a bit more, but most of your day should still be in bed. This means no more than 30 minutes on your feet before resting in bed, on the couch, or wherever you can lay down.
If you are anything like me, you will become very stir-crazy and dying to get out. Inviting some friends over, starting a new hobby, or even taking a 10-minute slow walk outside (even better just sitting on a lawn chair) are things that really help pass the time.
Remember, your body needs time to heal after birth, and you are most likely weaker than you think.
Pay close attention to your lochia, the bleeding postpartum. If it gets any worse during this time you know you are doing too much, so rest even more than usual.
5 Days Around the Bed
These days you can be up more, however, half of your daytime should still be spent in bed. You will most likely be up a lot during the night, so getting that adequate sleep is crucial in your mental health.
During this time, make sure to leave the laundry and chores to others. Puzzles, painting by numbers, or movie marathons are currently more down your alley. Enjoy this time to get pampered and have some you-time when baby sleeps. As soon as life returns to normal you will be struggling to find time for yourself with a newborn. So simply rest and relax for now!
I Will Never Survive 15 Days!
I know, I know, I feel you. How am I supposed to spend time in bed postpartum for so long?! I thought the exact same thing. My excuses were:
- I can’t afford to rest that long!
- There is a toddler to take care of.
- I miss having responsibilities.
- When I rest, I feel great and ready to take on the world!
- I could never plan or organize everything to allow me to rest!
But as the saying goes, where there is a WILL, there is a WAY. So make sure to rest and spend time in bed postpartum, not running around, and not doing chores. Just see it as a 15 day vacation. 5 days IN bed, 5 days ON the bed, and 5 days AROUND the bed.
If you are interested in planning your postpartum recovery so that you can spend the most time resting and recovering to prevent further illnesses and injuries down the road, check out this postpartum recovery plan.
Here are also some things I wish I knew about postpartum recovery before I had my babies. Things that would have saved me a lot of pain. See if you have different experiences or preconceptions about the time postpartum!
Until next time,