Congratulations! You've done it! You survived the nine months (or close to it), you've carried that baby, you've watched your body change and morph, and you've birthed your baby. Phew! The ordeal is over.
Nope. Not so fast. Now it is time to heal, and that can be a bit of a process. Your body has been through one of the greatest ordeals ever, and it will take some time before you feel back to your old self again. Some say that it can take up to a year for a woman's body to recover from a pregnancy, but at the very least it can take up to 3 weeks to heal from a vaginal birth and between 6-8 weeks if you had a c-section.
There are a few things that can help with your postpartum recovery, things that most moms are very grateful to know about! These little tricks can help to ease discomfort, relieve pain, and help you on the road to recovery so you can enjoy that beautiful little bundle of joy!
Sitz baths are one of the most comforting things for postpartum recovery. The word "sitz" comes from the German word "sitzen", which means to sit. A sitz bath is a warm bath, filled to about 3 inches deep with Epsom salts, that you soak in for about 20 minutes. This process is very comforting on your sore nether regions, and it can help to speed up healing by increasing blood flow to the area.
It can help with any tearing that might have happened during delivery, and it also helps to reduce the size and inflammation of any hemorrhoids that you may have developed through pregnancy and labour (your body has been through a lot!). Once your doctor gives you the okay, be sure to start taking sitz baths, even a few times a day. The relief will be wonderful!
In reality, it's not that terrible, you just need to be patient with your body and let it do its thing. When your body is ready to expel that first bowel movement, if you had a bit of a stool softener to help, it will make it that much gentler on you. If you had any pain medication during labour, that can tend to block you up a bit, and combined with the shock your body has been through in delivery, it's no wonder things aren't moving as quickly. Help your body out by taking a mild stool softener ahead of time.
These things are the best thing since sliced bread!
These little treasures are used to keep your lady bits clean while they heal. They are to be used after going to the washroom or even just to cleanse the area, especially if you received stitches or had any tearing during labour. Put some warm water in the bottle and squirt it gently down below, and it will provide you with some instant relief. It is very important to keep the area clean during the healing process, and the peri bottles help to do just that.
Think of it as an ice pack for your lady bits with multiple purposes. For one, a pad is a must following a vaginal birth, because you will be bleeding for quite some time, as your uterus sheds all of the extra blood and lining it had built up throughout the pregnancy.
Having the pad frozen ahead of time also provides some much needed relief for the pain and discomfort you will likely be feeling. The cold will help to numb the pain and also helps to reduce swelling, both of which will bring you some welcomed relief. Pop a few soaked pads in the freezer to have on hand throughout your recovery. Another trick is to put some witch hazel on the pad, freeze it, and then use it. Witch hazel's astringent properties help to reduce inflammation and also helps to keep the area clean.
It's no secret that you will be in a fair amount of discomfort and pain following the birth of your baby. Keep in mind, this too shall pass. You won't always feel like this, but for a while, it is going to be rather unpleasant. Best to be prepared for it, and one of the ways that you can help with the pain is to take medication as needed and as approved by your doctor.
Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are safe to take (preferably with food in your stomach) and can help with your pain level. Ibuprofen is also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), so it will help to reduce the swelling, which will in turn help with the discomfort. Your body needs all the energy it can get to help you deal with your darling new baby, so you need to help it out with the recovery process. If you're able to minimize the pain and discomfort, then your body can work on healing itself rather than expending energy trying to cope with the pain.
Oh, your poor breasts. They certainly do go through a lot in pregnancy and afterward, and they are never quite the same after it all. However, you can do several things to help minimize the discomfort caused by pregnancy, delivery, and of course breastfeeding. Depending on what symptoms you're experiencing, you might find relief from either a cold compress or a warm compress. Some women cringe at the idea of anything cold touching their tender breasts, whereas a warm compress brought comfort and relief. Some women experienced a fair amount of swelling, and the cold compresses worked wonders in helping to alleviate some of the discomfort as well as the swelling. Do whatever works best for you.
Also, find a good nipple cream to help with dry, cracked nipples. You and your baby will be navigating these first few days of breastfeeding, and the learning curve you're both on can often cause your nipples to be downright raw, even bleeding, depending on how your baby does with latching and nursing. Having a good nipple cream is essential for your comfort.
Let's face it, those nether regions have been through a lot. Most women are dealing with all sorts of issues after birth, and one such issue is hemorrhoids. Many women develop hemorrhoids during their pregnancy, due to the increased pressure on their groin from the baby pressing down. If you were fortunate enough not to develop any during your pregnancy, don't be surprised if you end up with some after giving birth. The pressure of pushing your baby out can often cause some large hemorrhoids to develop. These can be very uncomfortable and even painful at times.
Invest in a good hemorrhoid cream to help with some of this discomfort. If you tend to be prone to hemorrhoids as it is, plan to speak to your doctor about it before they get bad. There are prescription medications that are somewhat stronger than the over-the-counter versions you can buy. Get a prescription ready just in case. Your bottom will thank you for it later!
This is an important step in helping with your recovery. Continue to take your prenatal vitamins for the next several weeks following the delivery of your baby. There are many essential vitamins and minerals in the vitamins that can help with the healing process. If nothing else, taking your prenatal vitamin regularly will ensure that you are getting adequate nutrition while you're healing and beginning to breastfeed.
You may not manage all of your meals, as you adjust to your new routine, but drinking lots of water and taking your prenatal vitamins can be a big help in keeping you healthy. Not all vitamin supplements are created equal however, so do your research and try to select a prenatal vitamin that is good quality, without fillers and such.
This one is kind of self-explanatory. Your body has been through probably the biggest ordeal it will ever face, and you need time to recover from that. The problem is, you have a beautiful new baby to care for at home. So, it's not always easy to rest the way your body needs, but try to do so as much as you can. Get your partner to watch the baby so you can rest, call in relatives or friends to help out, heat up those casserole dishes for dinner when people are kind enough to drop one off. Do whatever you can to make the recovery process easier on yourself, and try to rest as much as you can.
Your body will also be losing a fair bit of blood over the first few days of recovery, so too much movement can increase the amount of blood loss. Better to take it easy, at least for the first week or two. After that, a bit of movement is actually quite beneficial in the healing process. But take it easy and listen to your body. It just birthed a baby, it knows what it needs!
Keep an eye on your state of mind while you are recovering from your pregnancy and delivery. Considering everything your body will be dealing with - the physical trauma of labour, lack of sleep, pain, irregular hormones, new routine, overwhelm, etc. - you will likely have many tearful moments in these first few days. They may be tears of joy, tears of sadness, or tears because the commercial with the cute puppy came on the television. Give yourself the freedom to feel these feelings and cry when you need to. Just keep an eye on your overall mental state throughout it all.
If you're finding that you're crying a lot and are feeling more moments of sadness and despair than anything else, be sure to seek help from your doctor. Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis are very real and need to be addressed immediately. Even if you're just dealing with the usual tears and emotional changes that most women deal with after delivery, keep an open dialogue with people you trust - your partner, a relative, a close friend. Keep the communication open, so that people know how you are doing and can help support you in navigating whatever emotions you're dealing with. Don't go through it alone.