Going through labor is an experience on its own, but most women have no idea what is waiting on the other side. Carrying and giving birth to a child is no joke, and mom won't just go back to the way it was before.
We're not just talking about bouncing back in terms of losing pregnancy weight. Mom will now leak from places she never has before and deal with odors and issues that were previously unknown.
One mom possibly goes in public, has tons of people see her nether region, and pushes a person out of her body, she gets to go home and deal with all the potentially gross hygiene problems that await.
Luckily, most of the hygiene issues clear up after a while, but it can be a mess right after birth. That's why it's important for mom know what to expect, from engorged breasts that work like a sprinkler system to hair loss that clogs the shower drain. It's all waiting for mom on the other side of birth.
It's okay to deal with these issues, and women shouldn't be embarrassed. The most honest moms will tell any newbie that she is not alone in worrying about strange odors or major leakage coming from her body. Plenty of women have been through this before, and there are plenty of ways to deal with the hygiene issues that come after giving birth. We'll cover a few that will help mom navigate those early days.
15 When There's A Leak
Mom's breasts will never be the same after having a child. The swelling chest mom watched bloom during pregnancy will fill with milk soon after the baby comes, and this can lead to some interesting, messy situations.
If mom chooses to breastfeed, she is going to experience milk leakage. The milk doesn't always stop flowing just because the baby stops nursing, so mom will find her bra and shirt soaked often. Many moms complain of feeling like they constantly smell of old breastmilk because of this.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful gift that mom can give her baby, so she shouldn't stop nursing when things get messy. Nursing bras tend to offer a bit of reinforcement so mom's shirts can at least be salvaged. Breast pads are a must, and keeping a towel or wash cloth around allows mom to clean off when she needs to.
Be aware that it's not just mom's little one that can set off the milk machine. Any baby crying anywhere around a nursing mom can bring the girls to attention and start the milk flowing. That's why those months after birth can be seriously messy. Still, don't let the sticky sweet smell and feel of milk keep you from nursing as long as you want.
14 Keeping The Downstairs Clean
Labor is serious work for the body, and even when it goes well mom is going to experience some very conflicted feelings about what happened down there. The perineum, the area between mom's urethra opening and her anus, has been under a lot of stress. Some women tear, but even those who don't have pain where the baby made an exit.
Besides pain, they also worry about hygiene related to that area. There's bleeding and mesh adult panties to deal with, so it's normal for mom to be stressed about what's going on down there. Swelling and hematomas, which is when blood collects under the skin, can cause mom to worry about the odor coming from below and if that area is staying clean enough.
Celebrity Chrissy Teigen will be the first to say keep it clean and comfy. To avoid stressing about hygiene related to the perineum, use a Mommy Washer or something like it to clean the area, and make sure to change mesh panties or pads often. The discharge coming from mom will eventually stop, but until then just make sure to bath and shower regularly. It's unlikely that anyone but mom will be worried about what is going on down there, and women who have been through it before will understand and sympathize.
13 Fix: Invest In Pads
Leaking breasts are a part of the postpartum life, whether mom breastfeeds long term or not. Even if mom tries to dry out her breasts, she will still have a period of time where mild leakage may be an issue. Women who breastfeed will have to deal with leakage throughout the journey.
Investing in pads will salvage bras, shirts, and much of mom's sanity.
It's easier not to worry about the smell of old breast milk or the appearance of it going through the clothes if breast pads are in place.
Some women opt for the disposable kind that can be tossed once they are wet, while others find the cloth ones more eco-friendly. Moms who opt for the cloth kind that need to be washed will want to buy more than one set. This will allow mom to change them throughout the day when they become soaked.
Breastfeeding is a natural process, but it's also a messy one. Being equipped with breast pads early on will spare mom the despair that comes with having a favorite shirt carry a permanent sour milk odor. Breast pads are affordable and genius, so have them ready early to avoid hygiene issues.
12 The Purple Dot Problem
Going to the bathroom after birth is a whole new experience for most women. In fact, it may be so difficult that mom develops hemorrhoids, one of the least glamorous hygiene issues in the world. Plus, hemorrhoids are painful and itchy.
Mom may suffer with internal or external hemorrhoids, and both are enlarged veins that are swollen. The blood within them may come out, and that can be a scary experience for mom.
There are logical reasons women get them both during pregnancy and after delivery. The baby pushing down on mom's lower half can cause the veins to swell. There's also the fact that constipation is common during pregnancy, and that can lead to hemorrhoids as mom strains to go to the bathroom.
Many women are also afraid to go number two after birth. Since a child has just come out down there, it's concerning to have to think about pushing again to move stool. It's also undeniably painful whether mom has delivered vaginally or surgically. However, holding the stool in will only increase mom's chances of problems when she does have to go, such as hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids can be treated easily enough most of the time, but they are no fun while mom is dealing with them.
11 Keeping The Stitches Clean
Not every baby is born via the southern exit. The C-section rate in many countries is extremely high, like in the United States where around 30 percent of women undergo surgical births. This means not only extra risks for mom and the baby but also recovery that involves staple or stitches right across mom's abdomen.
While C-sections can be life saving, they also offer a lot of issues when it comes to hygiene problems. Surgical incisions can become infected, releasing puss or blood that will lead mom back to the hospital. Even when they don't, mom will be limited on ways she can clean off at the end of the day. Baths aren't allowed for a matter of weeks, and showers have to be taken in a way that won't cause the incision site to come into direct contact with water. It can leave mom feeling itchy, sticky, and unclean.
Luckily, many women recover from C-sections without any major issues, but incision sites are still hard to manage. If mom suspects a problem, she needs to contact her doctor. Any puss or blood, as well as hot skin around the incision site, can signal a problem and needs to be brought to the attention of the doctor or midwife.
10 Fix: Peri Bottle
Perineal irrigation bottles, also known as peri bottles, are usually given to women in the hospital so they can clean that tender region between the vagina and the anus that is in massive pain after a woman gives birth. The peri bottle allows a woman to gently squirt water on the area without having to rub it vigorously with a wash cloth to keep it clean.
The peri bottle also allows mom to stay clean down there, even feeling refreshed after a blast of water washes over the area. Chrissy Teigen popularized this method of cleaning when she admitted to relying on her peri bottle after birth. Fridababy even sent Teigen her own personalized bottle for use after her son was born in May.
Toilet paper in that area feels awful after birth, and a peri bottle can keep the area clean without the pain of more contact than is necessary. It also helps mom rid herself of some of the blood and discharge by offering a quick clean any time of the day. These bottles are worth the investment, and mom can keep hers close throughout recovery. Staying clean down there is essential, but so is pain avoidance, and that's why perineal irrigation bottles were invented.
9 The Girls Might Crack
When moms think about breastfeeding, they think of the many benefits to both their children and themselves. They remember all the recommendations made by experts that tell them it's the best way to give their kids the best start. What they may not think about is cracked nipples that feel raw, burnt, and bleeding.
Breastfeeding is wonderful, but it's not always easy or comfortable.
A baby who doesn't latch properly can leave mom with nipples that crack wide open and bleed or leak. Many moms freak out about this, not only because of the pain but because of worries about hygiene.
Nipple creams are available to help mom get through the pain and help her nips heal, but it's important to get down to the source of the problem. A bad latch will continue to cause problems for mom, so she should seek a lactation specialist if she suspects that is the problem. While cracking nipples happen, mom does want to take care of it as soon as possible to prevent infection. Mom will also feel less like a hygiene risk is travelling in her bra if she takes care of this problem early, and she won't have to deal with near as much pain.
8 All That Red
There is a lot of blood involved in the post-birth life. Whether mom delivers vaginally or by C-section, she will have lochia coming from her body for days, sometimes weeks. Mom's body produces almost double the blood while pregnant to support the pregnancy, and that blood has to go somewhere once the baby is out. There's also the issue of the placenta now being detached.
The placenta comes out after the baby, and when it breaks away from the uterine wall, blood vessels are left open, releasing blood from mom's body. Imagine a super heavy period that just does not feel like it's going to stop. Contractions from breastfeeding help slow the bleeding, but it takes a while for the body to completely stop releasing fluids after birth.
All the bleeding can leave mom feeling pretty gross. Wearing pads, because tampons are not encouraged after birth, leaves many women feeling like they are sporting diapers. In fact, mom should expect to go home in a diaper-like mesh panty to handle all the fluids for the first couple of days.
As long as mom bathes properly she should be fine. She will likely be the only one who knows she's bleeding that much.
7 Fix: Change Pads Often
Bleeding is no fun and can make mom feel dirty down there. Moms often worry about emitting odors that others pick up on or bleeding through their clothes. The best way to remedy this is to change pads often, making sure to not stay in one past a few hours, less time if the bleeding is heavy. It's also good to continue to wear the mesh panties or super absorbent pads in those early days after birth. It's not glamorous, but it is necessary.
Don't use tampons after delivery. They may seem tidier, but it's too big of a risk after birth. Shower or bathe regularly, and wear comfortable, breathable clothes that don't bunch or pull down there.
The bleeding will stop, and mom may be so tired and enamored with her little one that she doesn't notice how much blood is actually leaving her body. However, some women report being surprised by the blood loss and self-conscious about hygiene during this time.
Follow the rules you would for a very heavy period and all should be well. Don't douche or add any kind of fragrance as that could cause infections and complications. Just let the body naturally take care of business and relax when possible.
6 Difficult Time Holding It In
Being pregnant and having a baby does a number on the bladder. Ask any mom what she fears after giving birth, even months later, and she will likely say sneezing, coughing, or jumping. All of these seemingly innocuous activities can lead to unexpected pee landing in mom's pants.
Incontinence issues may clear up over time, though some women claim they have them permanently, both due to labor and just the aging process combined. C-sections won't spare mom incontinence issues. Even women who underwent surgical births still reported problems with leaks after having children.
Women expect extra pressure on the bladder while pregnant, leading to a feeling of urgency when it's time to go. Many are surprised to find this doesn't disappear after birth.
Women can speak to their doctors about the issue, but many end up keeping panty liners or other products around in case of emergencies to deal with this issue.
Some women also start kegels, an exercise for the muscles down there, to try to strengthen their pelvic floor and rid themselves of surprise pee showers. These exercises can be done without anyone knowing mom is doing them, and they can help give her some control over when urine comes out of her body.
5 Hair Loss
Some of that beautiful hair mom couldn't get enough of while pregnant will depart after labor, and this can be startling to women who don't expect it. In the shower, while brushing hair, or sometimes while mom is just sitting around, hair will fall out and clog drains and leave trails all over the house.
Many moms worry that this is due to the strain on the body from nursing, but that's not usually the case. Hormones play a role in hair loss, just like they played a role in all that extra hair growing in the first place. Plus, Kelly Mom reports that hair naturally goes through a growing and shedding phase, even without pregnancy. Pregnancy, labor, and hormones make both the growing and shedding more pronounced, but the hair loss is not usually something to worry about.
It's not unhygienic to lose hair, but many women do feel self-conscious about it. Kelly Mom reports that things should level out around the year mark, and until then mom just needs to remember that this is a normal part of the journey. It's not gross or indicative of a problem; it's just a normal process that has to take place.
4 Fix: Use Proper Medications
Hemorrhoid creams, stool softeners, nipple creams, and antibiotics if needed, are great to have around after birth. Should hemorrhoids, cracked nipples, constipation or the like plague mom, she will have the necessary medicinal support to heal what ails her.
Ask a doctor before taking or using anything after birth, but many over-the-counter remedies can help mom get through the days of bleeding and pain. They can't always totally take care of the issue, but they can alleviate pain or make mom feel less self-conscious about her situation. Doctors and midwives may even send mom home with advice to take a stool softener or to have nipple cream on hand because of how common these hygiene problems are.
Doctors often wait to prescribe antibiotics until an infection is present, so if any hygiene issue seems like it's turning into a whole different problem, contact them quickly. Many problems can be stopped easily if doctors know early to offer mom additional support.
Childbirth truly is beautiful, but just like parenting, it's also super messy. Recovery is the same way. Mom may not feel back to her normal self for a while, but the more acute signs of bodily issues related to hygiene will eventually go away.
3 A Bloated Tummy
Flatulence is a fun parting gift from labor that most women struggle with at some point. Combine constipation, hormonal issues, and leftover medication in mom's body and you have the perfect storm for massive bloating that can lead to some seriously rank toots. Partners, beware!
Stool softeners can help mom move stool, and that can relieve some of the bloating and flatulence.
However, many women are afraid to go number two after labor because of the pain of pushing. A way for mom to encourage herself is to think about the relief she will feel when she is finally able to move some of what ails her. Not worrying about tooting in public is priceless.
Bloating can continue for a while, some from swelling and some just from leftover skin that hasn't made its way back to the new normal that is the postpartum tummy. Wear comfy pants, drink tons of water, and don't worry about the appearance of the bloating. If it's uncomfortable, talk to a doctor, but he will likely offer stool softeners. Mom's belly is not supposed to be flat after birth, and though bloating isn't comfortable, it will usually take care of itself over time with patience.
2 Lurking Bacteria
Mom may have never been a germ-a-phobe before, but that can seriously change after labor. Not only is mom worried about all the germs her baby can pick up, causing his near invisible immune system to falter, but she also worries about germs that can mess up her recovery. It suddenly feels like everywhere mom looks, tiny germs lurk just waiting to cause problems in those early days.
There is something extremely vulnerable about having stitches around the lady bits, something that happens if women tear during labor or need an episiotomy. Doctors will tell women how to handle that area and keep it clean and free of infection, but many women still worry that something will come into contact with the wound that will cause complications. It doesn't help that the area is so close to where bathroom activities take place. Women who have C-sections worry about germs taking hold at the incision site.
There's also the fear of the breasts becoming infected because women's nips often crack and bleed during the nursing process. Women worry that germs anywhere near the boobs will cause problems. Breast milk is a pretty good germ killer, so that's one reason mom can worry a bit less.
1 Fix: Wash Hands
Women who weren't obsessed with hand washing before having kids will find they are obsessed with it after. That's because germs seem to lurk everywhere when mom has a new baby, and a child's immune system is practically non existent in the early days.
Mom doesn't need fancy hand sanitizers or to hide her child from everyone in the world for an extended period of time. However, since she is the one who will likely come into contact with her child the most in those early days, she needs to wash her hands regularly to keep germs at bay. This will keep her and the baby well and avoid exposure to germs that children are not yet vaccinated against.
Use a mild soap that won't dry out the hands, and just make it a habit to wash hands before picking up the baby. It doesn't have to be an obsessive habit; kids are pretty durable and some germ exposure can be beneficial. It's just wise to exercise extra caution in the early days to keep the baby safe and mom's mind at ease. Washing hands also keeps paranoia about germs at bay for many moms, as long as the hand washing itself does not become an obsessive habit.