Many brand new moms will attempt to pull out the stops in anticipation of their new baby’s arrival. They stock up on diapers and tons of baby clothes, fill the freezer full of pre-made meals, and nest like crazy. Many moms also do their best to prepare for the actual arrival itself: attending childbirth classes, touring the hospital’s maternity wing, writing a birth plan, for starters. But there’s not really a lot that can prepare a woman for what happens during the recovery period immediately following childbirth.
Sure, pregnancy books and childbirth classes will explain about postpartum bleeding and other discomforts that will come with delivery. Friends and pregnancy web sites alike will discuss (and probably make jokes about) the giant mesh underwear that new moms receive in the hospital. Hopefully the nursing staff will be friendly and helpful when it comes to dealing with giant postpartum pads and how to handle that first trip to the bathroom. (Pass the peri bottle, please! Actually… don’t forget to take it home from the hospital! Take EVERYTHING home from the hospital.)
Coming home is another story. It can be a relief to leave the hospital and return to the comforts of home. But for a few days at least, that’s where the comfort might stop. The body goes through a lot during childbirth, and the recovery period can be rough. Expect lots of bleeding, like a super heavy period that can last up to a few weeks. You can also expect to be sore and swollen. If you have any stitches from tearing, those will be sore and then even a little itchy. Ugh. Here are some tips to help ease the pain at home.
If you think condoms are only good for helping you avoid getting pregnant, you’re wrong. They can actually help you after you get pregnant. Well, to be more specific, they can actually help you out after you have your baby.
Your body goes through a lot during labor and delivery. At times your recovery period will be uncomfortable and awkward. No matter how long you pushed for, one of the side effects you can expect is some swelling in your girly parts.
So what do condoms have to do with any of this? They can help alleviate some of the pain you’re feeling. Fill a condom with water and stick it in the freezer. Wait a few hours, and… voila! A condom ice pop! Lay it lengthwise in your undies to help relief to your bruised and swollen nether regions. Use a big postpartum pad to help catch any water that melts and drips. (But pass on the condom pop if you're allergic to latex!)
Similar to the condom pops, padsicles can also be a lifesaver for a new mom. Some nurses may actually hook you up with these or something similar in the hospital, but if you don’t get that kind of superstar treatment after you deliver, you can always DIY.
There are many different variations of padsicle. These directions from Momtastic are super simple and the best thing about them is you can make them up ahead of time and have them ready to go!
Aloe vera gel (100%, no color added!)
Partially unwrap the pads you want to make, but leave the wrapper attached. If you’re using pads with wings, take the paper off to move the wings, but save the paper so you can put it back on when you’re done prepping the pad.
Squirt a generous amount of aloe vera gel up and down the pad.
Pour a teaspoon of witch hazel down the center of the pad.
Add a few drops of lavender oil down the center of the pad.
Rewrap the pad, and replace the paper back on the re-folded wings.
Stash pads in a plastic storage bag in the freezer. Take it out a few minutes ahead of using it so that it can thaw a little, and then place in your underwear for 15-20 minutes or so to help reduce inflammation and swelling.
An alternative to the padsicle is an ice pack. Some hospitals may provide special ice packs that fit right in those sexy mesh undies. Other hospitals may give you a simple ice diaper, which will feel just as heavenly on your bruised and swollen lady bits.
Don’t worry if you don’t get these in the hospital. They’re super easy to make yourself. Since you just had a baby, you’ve probably got some diapers at home, right? All you have to do is add some water to the crotch of a diaper and stick it in the freezer. The best thing about using diapers is that they’re made to be absorbent, so they won’t leak all over the place. You can also use an adult diaper or an incontinence pad. And I suppose just like the padsicles, you can also add aloe vera gel, witch hazel, and lavender oil to help reduce inflammation.
Most doctors and nurses will suggest using a sitz bath to help soothe an irritated perineum. Most hospitals will send new moms home with a kit. With the kit, you place a shallow basin over the toilet seat rim, fill it with warm water, and sit on it so that your vulva and perineum are submerged. (You can also just submerge your bottom in a few inches of warm water in the tub.) The warm water increases blood flow, which helps heal and repair damaged tissues in the area. It can also feel soothing if you have itchy stitches from tearing during delivery.
The warm water of a sitz bath is great, but some women add in things like herbs or oatmeal. (The oatmeal can really help with itch stitches!) A herbal sitz bath may help speed up the healing process.
Here are the ingredients you will need for your herbal sitz bath:
- 1/2 cup Epsom salt
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons witch hazel
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 drops lavender essential oil
- 8 drops chamomile essential oil
Talk to your doctor to see if she thinks an oatmeal or herb-infused sitz bath would be beneficial.
11Wash The Pain Away
If you have any swelling, tears, or abrasions from a vaginal delivery, then peeing will probably be unpleasant. In the hospital, you’ll receive a peri bottle – a small plastic squirt bottle – that will become your new best friend. (Seriously, take it and anything else the nurses will offer you.) You fill up the peri bottle with lukewarm water and squirt it on yourself while you pee to help dilute any urine, which can potentially sting or burn. (It also helps to rinse off any urine or blood and kind of avoid having to use any toilet paper. (The less touching, the better. We have a tip for that later!)
Some women spice up their peri bottle game by adding herbs or a few drops of essential oils to the water. Tea tree oil has analgesic, antiseptic properties, so it can help with healing. (Juts a side note, it can cause allergic reactions in some people, so use sparingly to start; better yet, talk with your doctor and see what she thinks about it.)
10Spray The Pain Away
If you’re not sure about using essential oils and just want some quick pain relief without having to buy different ingredients, look for a pain relieving spray or foam. You might get some in the hospital, but if you don’t, you can always send someone to the drugstore for this miracle in a spray can.
There are two versions of pain relieving spray; one is a liquid spray (like Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray) and one is a foam (Epifoam). You can give your skin a quick spritz after using the bathroom or changing a pad to chill your irritated lady parts. With the foam, you can spray it directly on a maxi pad as needed for a little extra relief. Epifoam contains pramoxine, which is an anesthetic for pain relief, and hydrocortisone, which can soothe irritated, itchy, and inflamed skin. Both will give you temporary, but blissful, relief from postpartum pain.
9Tea In Your Pants
Did you know that black tea has anti-inflammatory properties? Believe it or not, that means that when applied to your skin, it can soothe pain in the perineum caused by tearing during delivery or hemorrhoids. You can soak a black tea bag in ¼ cup of boiling water and let it steep until the water has completely cooled. Wring the bag out slightly and place it against your irritated skin. You can wear a pad to hold it in place and prevent it from staining your underwear. The only downside is that a tea bag is kind of small. You can, however, use tea bags for your sore nipples; just make sure you rinse your nipples off before nursing!
If you want to go herbal, you can make a special perineum tea, like this one from Modern Hippie Housewife. You can pour the perineum tea into your friend the peri bottle and spray your sore area when needed.
8Or Just Drink The Tea
Drinking herbal tea can help increase energy, boost milk production, and provide some relaxation for a tired and stressed out new mom. There are lots of herbs that are considered beneficial to a new postpartum mom. Some common herbs used in teas are:
Red raspberry leaf: This herb can be used throughout a woman’s life to help support the reproductive system. It’s thought to help stimulate contractions, which can be good for labor – and for getting the uterus back down to its pre-pregnancy size after delivery.
Strawberry leaf: Strawberry leaf is a great digestive aid; it also has anti-inflammatory properties and is high in vitamin C.
Chrysanthemum flower: Chrysanthemum flowers are great for postpartum moms because it is thought to calm the nerves and reduce stress, anxiety, and anger.
Chamomile – Chamomile is another great calming, stress-relieving, anti-inflammatory tea. It can help relieve headaches and other aches and pains.
Dandelion leaf – Dandelion leaf is great for postpartum moms because it can help with hormone regulation and milk production.
If you’re really into the herbal thing, you can also soak in a warm herbal bath like this one. For one thing, it will relax your entire body; many herbs also have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help promote healing in your nether regions.
Two ounces of each of the following herbs will make a large batch of bath soak.
Calendula: Calendula flowers can control bleeding and reduce inflammation, which will in turn soothe irritated tissue.
Lavender flowers: Lavender has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Sage: Sage flowers also have anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce cramping.
Rosemary: Rosemary has anti-inflammatory properties; it also smells delicious!
Uva ursi: Also known as the bear berry, (because bears like eating it) uva ursi can pass along antimicrobial properties.
Yarrow: In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, yarrow blossoms can also encourage clotting.
You should be able to find these herbs in a health store. Just combine the herbs in a large bag or container, toss a few heaping teaspoons full into a warm bath, and relax! Sound like too much trouble? You can also look for a pre-made organic herbal bath soak in a health store or online.
We mentioned witch hazel before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Witch hazel can bring heavenly relief to a postpartum mom. Whether you’re deal with painful, itchy stitches or suffering from annoying hemorrhoids, a little witch hazel can go a long way.
Witch hazel contains tannins that can help reduce swelling and fight bacteria. That means that it can reduce pain as well as ward off infection. It also has hemostatic properties, which means it can stave off minor bleeding. This is why witch hazel is used in so many of those previously mentioned remedies.
Witch hazel can also be used as a remedy for lots of other problems. It can spot treat acne or blemishes, soothe itchy, dry skin, help with dandruff, and gently remove makeup. Some women swear that applying witch hazel to the skin can help keep stretch marks at bay. Some moms also use it for homemade diaper wipes or to spot treat diaper rash.
5Avoid The TP
Like we said before, peeing can be unpleasant, and using toilet paper to wipe can be downright disastrous. (Cringing at the thought.) The peri bottle and sitz bath can help relieve pain, but it’s a good idea to keep your lady bits clean and dry. You can always dab the area gently with toilet paper, rather than wiping, but you might want to skip the toilet paper all together and reach for…
After you finish going to the bathroom, using your peri bottle, or soaking in a sitz bath, sit or stand with your legs spread apart and, staying six to eight inches away, aim your hair dryer at your damp lady parts. Set the dryer on the lowest, slowest setting and turn the dryer to “cool.” This might not do anything to ease discomfort, but it can help prevent it because you’re not further irritating damaged tissue with toilet paper.
4Keep Up With Those Kegels
As if that area hasn’t already gotten a huge workout lately… You probably heard all about doing Kegels to help prepare your pelvic floor for childbirth. But did you know that continuing your Kegel exercises after delivery can help speed up healing and restore muscle tone to your pelvic floor?
You can actually restart your Kegel routine right after childbirth. You might not be able to feel them right away because the perineum is likely to be numb for awhile after birth, but the feeling will return gradually. Even if you can’t feel it, it’s working.
Try to get in the habit of doing Kegels regularly. Consider doing them throughout the day, when you’re feeding your baby. Or, when you get back in the saddle, you can even do your Kegels during sex. There are also smartphone apps that will send you daily reminders to do your Kegel exercises or even provide musical routines for your Kegel workout.
You’ve probably seen that some celebrities swear by waist training to get their bodies back into pre-baby condition. (Remember that these women also probably have personal chefs, physical trainers, and someone to care for their baby so they actually have time to work out!) Even though waist training seems to be a trend, it stems from belly binding, which is considered to be an ancient art. The thought is that pregnancy opens the body up and fills it with life; binding the stomach after pregnancy is like a ceremonial “sealing” of the body to signal that the pregnancy is over and the woman is now a mother. Binding the stomach offers support for stretched out muscles, skin, and organs and can help speed postpartum healing. Binding is also a great way to help heal stomach muscles and support the spine. It is even thought to help your uterus contract and shrink back to its normal size. Before buying an expensive corset or waist trainer, consider thinking about a more traditional form of binding and doing it yourself.
2Hydrate For Less Headaches
After childbirth, you know to expect a lot of pain and discomfort below the belt. What you might not be prepared for are lots of headaches, which can happen for many reasons.
Some women complain of headaches after receiving an epidural. As hormones drop back to normal levels after birth, you may end up with some serious headaches; some women even have migraines. It doesn’t help that you’re probably stressed out dealing with a new baby, might not be eating great, and probably aren’t sleeping well. One of the most common causes of postpartum headaches is dehydration, particularly if you’re nursing. While you’re taking care of your new baby, don’t forget to take care of yourself and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
A lot of women may feel like a headache is a minor complaint that they can deal with on their own; however, severe headaches a few days after giving birth can also be a sign of postpartum preeclampsia. Talk to your doctor right away if you have any concerns.
The following tips are actually for pain relief ABOVE the belt. A few days after delivery, it’s normal for your breasts to become larger and feel heavy, warm, and tender. These changes are due to an increase in your milk, and are a sign that your breasts are functioning properly. If your baby is nursing well, these feelings will go away in a day or two. Frequent nursing can help reduce the tenderness and full, heavy feeling in your breasts.
Engorgement occurs if your baby is not nursing often enough or not removing milk effectively. Engorged breasts become very full, hard, and the skin can be stretched taut. If engorged, your breasts may become so swollen that your baby may have difficulty latching on.
Some moms use cold cabbage leaves to reduce engorgement. It’s not known if there’s a substance in the leaves or if it’s just the coolness of the leaves against your skin that provides relief. To use cabbage leaves, you wash and core a head of raw green cabbage, dry it off, and stash it in the refrigerator. Before you apply to your breasts, peel off some leaves and roll them with a rolling pin to crush the veins. Wearing a bra, place several leaves over your breasts, leaving the nipple exposed. The bra keeps the leaves in place. Keep the leaves on for at least twenty minutes and toss them out when you’re done with them.
Sources: Parenting, Parents, Today's Parent, Huffington Post, Fit Pregnancy, What to Expect, PopSugar, WebMD, Baby Center
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