Ashley Tisdale Opened Up About Her "Not Normal" Postpartum Experiences
"I think it's really important to talk about our real experiences," the actress shared.
The transition to motherhood is not an easy one — and that's something High School Musical alum Ashley Tisdale is experiencing firsthand. The actress, who gave birth to her daughter, Jupiter Iris French, in March, is opening up about her difficult postpartum recovery in an effort to educate and inform future moms-to-be.
"Two weeks after I had Jupiter, my body went through so much trying to recover," Tisdale revealed in her post. "Night sweats, (drenched FYI), blood (gross), and I had some real fun symptoms that aren't normal postpartum including nausea and extreme back pain. Like level 10 pain to be absolutely clear." (Related: This Mom Wants You to Understand the 'Dark Side' of Pregnancy and Motherhood)
While these postpartum symptoms aren't exactly fun — and may not affect every new mom — most are part of the potential symptom roulette after giving birth. That said, people don't often call attention to all these struggles publicly, so it's possible for new moms to feel totally blindsided by them.
"Night sweats after delivery are a very common part of postpartum recovery," says Natasha L. Spencer, M.D., ob-gyn at Orlando Health Physician Associates. "They're usually a result of the rapid decrease of estrogen in the body as it returns to it's pre-pregnancy state." (See: Why You Have Postpartum Night Sweats and What to Do About Them)
Bleeding in the postpartum stage also remains hush-hush, but is something almost all new moms go through. "Bleeding that occurs after delivery is called lochia, which is the shedding of the placental tissue, endometrial lining, and mucous that's been present inside your uterus during pregnancy," says Dr. Spencer. "Every woman experiences it and it usually lasts four to six weeks. But I've seen it last as long as eight weeks."
This bleeding, which can be very heavy, isn't a cause for concern, says Dr. Spencer. But you should reach out to your doctor if it lasts past eight weeks or you start seeing huge clots. "I always say that quarters, nickles, and dimes are fine, but once you start seeing fruit-sized clots, it's time to get yourself checked out immediately," she adds.
From Tisdale's post, it seems like her postpartum bleeding was normal — and out of all of her unexpected symptoms back pain was the "hardest" part. "Especially because I didn't know where it was coming from," she explained in her post. (Related: The Most Common Causes of Back Pain — Plus, How to Ease Your Aches ASAP)
Turns out, most people experience some sort of back pain after delivery. "After pregnancy, your pelvic girdle, hips, and back go through a lot of changes," explains Dr. Spencer. "Your center of gravity changes completely as you're no longer carrying a baby, which is what causes musculoskeletal issues that lead to back pain." (See: What Everyone Should Know About Their Pelvic Floor)
But for Tisdale, her back pain was extreme. What's worse, it was paired with severe bouts of nausea. "Talking to my doctors about this and trying to figure it out was hard as well," the first-time mom continued sharing. "I felt like no one could tell me what was going on with my body and why I had extreme nausea to the point where sometimes I missed a feeding with the baby, and my husband had to supplement formula." (Related: Have the Benefits of Breastfeeding Been Overhyped?)
Nausea isn't very common post-pregnancy, says Dr. Spencer. "If you do experience nausea, it's usually associated with an underlying cause," she adds.
Turns out, that was exactly the case for Tisdale. "I remembered my doctor asking me what they had me on, which was Motrin," she wrote. "He mentioned that Motrin builds acid in your stomach after a while. I had horrible acid reflux when pregnant, and I wondered if this had something to do with that. I Googled back pain and acid reflux, and there was a link!" (Nausea is noted as a symptom of acid reflux and as a common side effect of ibuprofen, the drug in Motrin, according to the Mayo Clinic.)
Thankfully, Tisdale worked with her doctor and was able to find a medication that addressed her acid reflux, which put her back pain and nausea to rest. "That was a big turning point for me and I finally felt a little bit more like myself again," she added.
Aside from unexpected and difficult physical symptoms, Tisdale shared that she's had her fair share of emotional struggles, too. "The thing is during this 'fourth trimester' you're physically going through it, but you're also mentally going through it," she wrote. "I was lucky I didn't have postpartum depression, but I think I was just trying to find who I am in this new role." (P.S. It's Okay to Grieve the Woman You Were Before Motherhood)
FYI, a majority of new moms — about 80 percent — experience the "baby blues" for a few weeks after having a baby, including feelings of worry, unhappiness, and fatigue, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This is thanks to the hormonal plummet that happens after giving birth. However, when those feelings last longer than a month or two or severely impact your daily life, it could mean there's a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder at play, such as postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum psychosis. (When in doubt talk to your doc!)
Traditionally, the postpartum period is considered the six to eight weeks after giving birth, but there have been considerations within the obstetrics community of extending that period to 12 months post-delivery, says Dr. Spencer. This sort of shift could mean more follow-ups on physical recovery, infant care, sexuality, contraception, sleep deprivation, and more for longer after giving birth. "That way, on top of monitoring the physical changes, providers can watch for postpartum depression, substance abuse, and other mental health issues that are a potential risk after delivery," says Dr. Spencer.
It takes your body nine months to create a human, so it's only natural that it can take just as long, if not longer, to recover. That's why honest portrayals of pregnancy and new motherhood, like Tisdale's, are so important.
At the end of the day, Tisdale hopes her experience paints a more accurate picture of what the postpartum period is really like. "I think it's really important to talk about our real experiences and not hide the parts that aren't so pleasant or cute enough to show on Instagram," she wrote — something we couldn't agree more with.