Postpartum Recovery, How to take care of your Body After a Vaginal Delivery
I’m not even pregnant yet, but postpartum recovery after vaginal delivery is already something I’m thinking about. Postpartum recovery and healing postpartum the last time I had a baby threw me for a loop and I intend to be more prepared for the next one.
I’ve been seeing a Pelvic Floor Physio Therapist in my area since I was 8 months postpartum last time, and since I started the importance of pelvic health has been strongly driven home each and every time I see her. So when the time comes I’ll be doing all the exercising and careful preparation pre-birth I can. I know that regardless of what I do, there’ll still be an amount of unpleasantness that comes with healing after a vaginal birth.
I mean really, you are pushing out a baby through parts that don’t stretch that size every day. And it’s unrealistic to think you’ll be running around in your jeans the day after & hitting up your local grocery store the next day.
Fortunately, I expect I have a better idea of what will happen in round 2 to ensure I’m healing postpartum as quickly as possible.
Healing Postpartum After Vaginal Birth
(Make that recovery Speedy)
Whether you have stitches or not, things down there are going to be sore. (Stitches will make things MORE sore, and require extra healing time, but you’ll still want these tips handy even if you DON’T need stitches).
1) Big Pads, Breathable Underwear & Change Often
I’ll be honest I’m a BIG fan of cloth reusable pads (and all things reusable anyway), but for our Baby G, I hadn’t gotten into them yet so I had these great big super cheap disposable pads (like these) that made me feel like I was wearing a diaper.
To prevent infections (and stay comfortable) changing your pad OFTEN is important. So if you haven’t built up a stash of cloth pads big enough, grab a pack of the biggest cheapest ones you find at the store pre-birth! And even if you have enough cloth ones you may want a stash of these anyway once you hear about pad-sicles. If you have the option and the hospital has free ones snag them, along with extra mesh underwear.
Speaking of Mesh Underwear, I quickly noticed that they were the best at keeping everything in place, AND very breathable. Meaning, less sweat = more comfort and less itching too! I was lucky, our Birth Centre gave them out in pairs (1 to wear home, and one to change into later), but many places here are starting to get more stingy with these panties, so I’ve already grabbed an extra package from Amazon for this time. (Last time I just kept re-washing to 2 pairs from the Birth Centre so I could re-use them).
Ok, if you have done any research on postpartum recovery these have likely come up. And they are worth it! Before we left to deliver Baby G my doula stuck a couple in my freezer for me cause I hadn’t made any and OMG! I think I fell a little bit in love with her the first time I used one.
And yes these help with making your recovery faster, things like inflammation and pain are your body’s way of protecting it’s self when injured. It’s a natural process handled by your body, but if it takes too long it can cause tissue damage alongside protecting you from infections. So doing something that reduces the swelling and pain is a good idea.
Plus I’d like to think that when I’m in pain my body wants to spend time and energy trying to deal with the pain instead of focusing on healing. Not sure if that is true or not but I can’t get the idea out of my head.
And yeah, those big cheap pads we talked about earlier? They are GREAT for making ice packs. You can just unwrap them, soak em, and stick them in the freezer… voila! Pain relief. After a couple days I even added some witch hazel as well. Just add that before you add the water as you want the stuff to spread around and get deep in the pad, not stay on top where it sits directly against your skin. You want witch hazel vapors, not contact.
3) Sitz Bath
So these are great for during your menstrual cycle too, I know I’ve started taking them at least once a month lately because it’s just easier and I get to feel all nice a clean without trying to make time for a big bath. I mean really I have a toddler running around… and this Mommy doesn’t get any privacy.
For postpartum use, make sure you get the ok from your Doctor or Midwife first! Then feel free to take advantage of this amazing option for keeping yourself more comfortable and help speeding your postpartum healing. There are a few things to keep in mind with sitz baths and learning how to take a postpartum sitz bath is one of the best things I’ve ever done!
4) Use a Peri-Bottle
Full disclosure, I LOVED this thing! It’s pretty much non-optional for postpartum vaginal care.
Every time you pee, you need to rinse. No matter what DO NOT WIPE! A peri-bottle cleans everything up an helps prevent irritation and infection, and functions
It’s important to note that if you have multiple bathrooms you should have multip peri-bottles, at least one for each bathroom. You’ll be happy you do when you have to pee.
5) Healing Ointment(s)
You’ve likely already read about numbing sprays, and while I’m sure those are nice. I’ve found the Pad-Sicles much better, and for pain when peeing I used the peri-bottle mentioned above. But numbing things won’t speed up postpartum healing.
This time I’m picking up some of this gel for faster healing of stitches. Silver is known to kill lots of bacteria and viruses, I like that it’s natural, and I’m not going all chemical-y on my body. Especially as I plan to breastfeed. The big thing is that it works, I’ve used this gel before on everything from burns to insect bites and it’s especially good for reducing pain on overexposed & stretched skin.
6) Stool Softeners
After having kiddo I was so scared to poop! Added worry, because the process of birthing a baby tends to clean out your bowel along the way you may not poop right away. If you’re like me this means you worry more not less… which makes it worse.
Make your life simple and easier, take some stool softeners, many hospitals offer them but you can always grab some on the way home or send out your partner for some. Take them for the first week.
7) Poop from a good position
No one ever seems to talk about how you should position yourself to POOP. Yes it’s a little TMI but it reduces the strain on your system and makes it so much easier on your body. And after having a baby you need to make things as easy on your body for recovery as possible! Seriously, toss out the idea of how you use the bathroom now and move to a squat… I’m going to be asking my family for one of these to have on hand for our bathroom as I recover postpartum.
8) Have your stitches out
I didn’t have any postpartum myself, but I’ve talked to a number of women who have said these things made recovery worse. So as soon as your Doctor or Midwife says it’s safe, get those stitches out even if they are the dissolving ones.
I’ve heard a number of women say that when they had the stitches removed everything got way more comfortable right away.
9) Drink a LOT of Water
Ok, this one I’m normally pretty good with. On average these days, I can go through 100oz in a day without thinking about it. But right after kiddo showed up I stopped. No clue why, but I’m guessing it has to do with how distracted I was with how adorable Baby G was. Big mistake. Not only does this mean your poop will get harder faster, but the peeing hurts more too. Not sure on the reasons why for that either but YEAH, I hurt until I started drinking more water. Oh, and if you are breastfeeding this one becomes even more critical… as it helps with milk production.
So I know some women who love to have a glass of wine to relax now that they are not pregnant. If this is your thing you will need to be aware that alcohol will dehydrate you faster and this will slow down your healing. Of course, if you are comfortable with it then, by all means, I’m not someone who drinks so it’s not my thing. But read up on it if you have time, and make your own choice.
10) Wear Comfy clothing
yup, you have full permission to run around in your PJ’s all day! Even if you are feeling good and want to get all dolled up, I suggest keeping clothes loose and pressure off your lady bits. Personally, I ran around the house in my undies most days, faster to breastfeed if you don’t need to get anything out and easier to change the pads while I was bleeding. If at all possible avoid pressure to the area and keep your hands off!
I know it’s tempting to look at and touch, and some women do. But other then applying needed creams (and if you are you need to ensure those hands are well washed before) you shouldn’t be touching anything while it’s healing. I know it feels yucky and maybe even gross. But all you should be doing is swishing it with water and pat dry. If there is something you feel must be cleaned off, use your Sitz bath to do it.
11) Rest, Rest, Rest
I know this little one is likely to wake at all hours, you need to feed yourself and who knows who else (seriously hubby can fend for himself for a day or week he won’t starve). But you need to take it easy and give your body a chance to adapt to this big change.
After I delivered Baby G my midwife showed me the placenta and said this is how big the wound is inside you right now. Remember that so you rest!
Seriously, think about it, that placenta is the size of the internal wound you are now healing. This is why we bleed after, our bodies need to heal. And many people don’t talk about this before the delivery. So for me at least I was caught off guard when the Midwife pointed out how big the wound was.
12) Keep up with the prenatal vitamins
There are a number of reasons why we take prenatal vitamins before we get pregnant and during pregnancy. But after pregnancy is a great time to take them too! After all your body just spent the last 9 months giving all it’s nutrients and attention to the baby as it was developing. Now is a great time for you to give your body a chance to replenish its stocks. These are the prenatal/postnatal vitamins that I take, and it’s the brand that my doctor recommended for before, during and after pregnancy.
13) Keep away from the sex
Yup, I’m going there. You know how they tell you to wait until your 6 weeks postpartum to try sex? Yeah, not everyone wants to wait that long (insert sheepish look from me). Yes, I was one of those who wanted it before my 6 weeks, hubs was way more controlled and wouldn’t even try (thank good for a good man) and yet I was all for trying to make kiddo number 2 straight out of the gate. Sometimes you just feel that good even in the first week or two after giving birth.
There are a number of reasons this can happen, some women are genetically “turned on” by seeing things like hubby caring for the kiddo. Others (like me) have a high-ish drive for many many kids and physically feel well enough to act on it.
DON’T, if you think about that wound we talked about earlier you don’t want to introduce any new bacteria into it. And anytime you put anything in there you are risking adding harmful bacteria to the area, your system is made in a way that cleans its self, that’s what all the blood is about, cleaning out the stuff your body doesn’t need now that baby is out. So DO NOT introduce anything that could affect how it works. That includes sex, sex toys, tampons, and cups. Do yourself a favor and stick to the pads until the bleeding stops, then wait until your doctor or midwife gives you the ok to bring them back into your routine.
Postpartum healing is not something we need to dread.
Honestly, you do need to take care of yourself and let your body heal. But mostly you are going to be so focused on this adorable little bundle now demanding your attention that you may struggle to remember that part.
I know when I think back to the first couple weeks after Baby G was born all I remember is the new baby smell, my husband holding the baby (and looking like he was scared he would drop him), and nursing, and cuddles and … well, I think you get the picture.
And then I look at all the stuff my Midwife asked me to track about my recovery and Baby’s habits and I’m like… WOW, totally WOW. I don’t remember that. I mean I know I changed diapers, but I don’t remember doing THAT many. And I know I took my Sitz Baths but I didn’t remember doing it daily.
I remember falling in love with my husband again, and again, and wanting to whack him every time he got too close… (yup that’s a thing) which was confusing because I kept wanting to jump him at the same time (I’ll get into that in another post).
But with these tips, we can keep our focus and our attention more on the little bundle of joy we just brought into the world instead of trying to find relief from the pain or discomfort that can distract us from the excitement of our new life.