New Mama

What did you feel unprepared for after birth? Real mamas speak up

By now, you’ve watched the Frida ad on postpartum healing that the Oscars rejected for being too graphic. You’ve seen the headlines of columns explaining what a loss the rejection was. Read the social media posts. And so you’ve entered into a conversation many of us have been craving. The one around how new mamas feel unprepared. 

The good news? Thanks to the ad, more and more mamas are speaking up.

I turned to some friends recently, who did the same. Each had given birth in the last three months, and I asked them one question: What did you feel unprepared for? I wanted the raw truth, so I promised to keep their answers anonymous. Then I compiled a list that included the things I was surprised about, too. 

What did you go through after birth that you felt unprepared for? 


Night sweats 

“Feels like I jumped out of the shower and straight into bed.”

What it is: Night sweats are a common symptom in the days and weeks after pregnancy, according to healthline. Your hormones are tasked with helping rid your body of excess fluids that supported your body and baby during pregnancy.”

Where to learn more: “Causes and Treatments for Postpartum Night Sweats”


I wasn’t prepared for six weeks of bleeding.”

What It Is: As your body heals, it bleeds. According to healthline, the most common source of blood is the shedding of your uterine lining. It can also come from damaged tissues in your birth canal if you had a vaginal birth. 

Where to learn more: “Postpartum blood clots and bleeding: What to expect”

Blood clots

With my first, I had to stay in bed for 24 hours after I had him. I went home and a few days later passed a blood clot that was the size of a golf ball! It didn’t hurt, but I definitely didn’t know what was happening at first. ”

What it is: As your body sheds the placenta after childbirth, blood may pool inside your uterus and form clots, according to Medical News Today. “In the first 24 hours, when blood flow is the highest, many women pass one or more large clots.”

Where to learn more: “Postpartum blood clots and bleeding: What to expect”

Sleep deprivation

I don’t think I was fully prepared for the lack of sleep.”

What It Is: Sleep deprivation is to be expected in the newborn stage. But it’s more than just being tired. As writes, it can affect how you think and cope. 

Where to Learn More: “Sleep Deprivation After Baby”

Postpartum anxiety

“I didn’t even know postpartum anxiety was a thing — let alone that I’d have it.”

What It Is:  According to Texas Children’s Hospital: “Postpartum anxiety can occur alongside depression or distinctly from it. For many women, the abrupt decrease in estrogen and progesterone at the time of delivery can lead to a greater sensitivity to stress, causing some to feel overwhelmed, fearful or panicky. Sleep deprivation from newborn care can also contribute to these feelings.”

Where to Learn More: “Anxiety During Pregnancy and Postpartum”

Afterbirth pains

“I thought I’d be all done with contractions once I had the baby. Afterward, the pain was so bad — it felt like I was in the early stages of labor again! My nurse said for some moms the pain is even worse.”

What It Is: Postpartum contractions, also called afterbirth pains, are caused by your uterus as it shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size, according to babycenter.

Where to Learn More: “Postpartum: Cramps (afterpains)”

Lack of connection to baby

“With my first kid, I absolutely did not feel that instant connection. You see posts on social media and everyone seems so happy after they deliver. To me there was an excitement, but my life had completely changed … I knew our lives would change but not to the degree that it did. My mom would always ask me, ‘Did you ever realize you could love something so much?’ And I didn’t totally know how to respond. I don’t think it was until four months that I finally understood.”

What It Is: Sometimes it takes months to feel real emotional attachment to your baby, as WebMD writes. In fact, studies have found that about 20 percent of new moms and dads don’t feel attachment in the hours after delivery.

Where to Learn More: Forming a Bond With Your Baby — Why It Isn’t Always Immediate”


“I had clogged ducts, which led to mastitis, and it came on fast. I wish I would’ve known what to watch for and how to prevent it.”

What It Is: Mastitis is breast inflammation usually caused by infection, as described by Michigan Medicine. It’s most common during the first six months of breastfeeding. 

Where to Learn More: “Plugged Ducts and Mastitis”

Healing regimen

“The healing regimen — adult diapers, peri bottles, ice packs — was more intense than I expected.”

What it is: The Frida ad actually describes this one pretty accurately. The giant undies? They’re mesh, disposable and have large pads inside. You’ll need them because of the lochia (see above). Then you’ll use things like ice packs, witch hazel pads and numbing spray to help with the pain. You’ll also need to use a peri bottle (which the mama in the commercial fills in the sink) to rinse off, since you can’t wipe for awhile.

Where to Learn More: “A Guide to Postpartum Recovery and Newborn Care”

The difficulty of it all

“I didn’t know it would be so hard. You see all these pictures after birth, and they make it look like your body comes back fast and it’s all easy.”

What it is: Isa Herrera, a New York City physical therapist specializing in pelvic pain, told Vox: “There’s this fantasy. Your body is going to come back together. Your organs are going to be in place. It’s an illusion.” Healing from birth is a process, and it takes time.

Where to Learn More: “What no one tells new moms about what childbirth can do to their bodies”

You’ll never be fully prepared for birth, but sometimes just having realistic expectations — knowing that alongside the magic of it all, you and your body will experience true challenges — can set you up for a much more positive experience. Hopefully this list helps.

The contents of the “Hey there, strong mama” (HTSM) Site, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the HTSM Site (“Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the HTSM Site.

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