The internet and books are full of information about setting up a birth plan, what to bring to the hospital, how to prepare for a new baby, and so forth. But it isn’t always easy to find tips on how mum can take care of herself after the baby is born.
Postpartum care is a somewhat sensitive and personal topic for some that may involve graphic details. Knowing how to care for oneself is essential to a new mum’s well-being.
Some general postpartum tips can help relieve discomfort for all new mums. This article aims to answer some of the most commonly answered questions about postnatal care and provide recommendations to soothe discomfort after birth.
Vaginal delivery is when the baby is pushed out via the vaginal opening. Vaginal delivery is the most common way to give birth, and approximately 54% of women in the UK deliver vaginally each year with complications.
There are three stages to vaginal birth:
Stage 1 begins with contractions and causes your cervix to dilate and soften. It can take approximately 12 to 19 hours for those giving birth for the first time.
Stage 2 begins once your cervix is fully dilated. It ends with the birth of your baby. It typically lasts about 20 minutes to 2 hours.
Stage 3 is the delivery of the afterbirth or placenta. It’s the shortest stage and lasts roughly 20 minutes or less.
Many women use pain medication during labour, most commonly an epidural. However, once the drug has worn off, you will notice pain and soreness in your vaginal region. You may be bale to take over-the-counter pain relievers post-delivery, but it is essential to speak with your GP or midwife first, especially if you are nursing.
1. Soothing Vaginal Tears
Vaginal tears are common during birth, of your doctor may decide to make a small incision to aid delivery. Topical treatments like witch hazel postpartum and sitz baths with warm water can ease discomfort and reduce swelling. Dissolve these Soak for Bits Bath Salts in warm water to relieve pain and soothe your acing post-birth vagina.
It is also essential to keep the area clean and to avoid sexual intercourse until any tears or incisions have healed. Another way to soothe your vagina after delivery is to use perineal ice packs and to cleanse the area using a peri bottle. When sitting, use a soft cushion or pillow to relieve pressure.
Additional Post-Delivery Vaginal Concerns:
Pregnancy and childbirth create numerous changes to a woman’s body. In addition to pain and discomfort, some women experience vaginal bleeding, vaginal dryness, and urinary incontinence.
2. How to Deal with Postpartum Bleeding
Postpartum bleeding and discharge, called lochia, are expected after birth as the area has experienced significant trauma. However, knowing what is expected and what merits a call to your doctor is essential.
The first 3 to 4 days after a vaginal delivery are normal to experience bleeding and postpartum discharge slightly heavier than your menstrual period. Individuals who have had C-sections will also experience lochia, which is usually lighter.
Lochia can go on for 3 – 4 weeks after delivery. You may notice brownish blood clots around day 5. After the fifth or sixth day, the colour should change to a brownish-red or pinkish and slowly transition to a clear or yellowish colour.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor or midwife right away.
– Bleeding that soaks through a pad quicker than an hour
– Feeling lightheaded, nauseous or dizzy
– Blurred vision
– Weakness or feeling faint
– Rapid breathing or increased heart rate
– Pain or swelling in the vaginal area
3. Decreasing Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is a typical problem post-delivery and deals more with your bladder than your vagina. However, it is usually a result of your pregnancy and a common postpartum pregnancy complaint.
Your vagina after birth is stretched out and much looser than normal, and so is your pelvic floor. The combined process of vaginal delivery and the weight of your baby pushing on your pelvic muscles can lead to leakage and incontinence.
Wearing a pad can save you from embarrassing leaks and wetness, but there are also exercises you can perform to regain strength.
It takes most women 3 to 6 months to regain pelvic strength, so it’s essential to be patient and perform your kegel or pelvic floor exercises daily. Another trick you can try is bladder training. Bladder training means you empty your bladder at planned and specific times each day.
Daily kegel exercises and bladder training will strength your vaginal and pelvic floor muscles.
4. Dealing with Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is another common complaint women have after giving birth. Approximately 43% of women report experiencing vaginal dryness up to 6 months postpartum. Aside from being annoying, vaginal dryness can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable and even painful.
Hormones are the main culprit causing postpartum vaginal dryness. Post-birth, your body significantly reduces oestrogen production, leading to urinary incontinence, night sweats, and hot flashes. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor might recommend an oestrogen supplement. Oestrogen supplements come in the form of a patch, pill or cream.
If you are only experiencing mild or occasional dryness, try using a lubricant during sex and apply a vaginal moisturiser every few days.
It also helps to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding douches or vaginal sprays, which may increase dryness.
C-Section Delivery Tips:
A C-section is a surgical procedure in which an incision is made into the mother’s abdomen to remove the baby. It used to be that C-sections were only performed when medically necessary. However, delivery via C-section has become much more common, with approximately 19% of UK women having emergency C-sections and 14.6% having an elected C-section.
Not all healthcare professionals will allow mothers to undergo an elective C-section so if you’re interested in giving birth via this delivery method, ask your physician their stance at the beginning of your pregnancy.
In addition to any discharge and post-surgery instructions your doctor may provide, below are some general tips to soothe discomfort after a C-section. It is important to follow post-surgery directions to heal properly and prevent scar tissue.
5. Avoid Strenuous Exercise
After a C-section, avoid strenuous exercise, heavy lifting, and even stairs if possible. Try not to get up and down too much the first few days and weeks, and keep necessary supplies close to hand to avoid extra trips up and down stairs.
6. Wear Loose Clothing
It is imperative to keep pressure off the incision site to have plenty of low-waisted, loose-fitting elastic pants like yoga pants or sweatpants. You can also wear long dresses or nightgowns around the house.
Have plenty of large, loose-fitting underwear, ones you can ideally toss away if soiled by discharge or bleeding. You can throw an extra long T-shirt over the top or wear a dressing gown around the house.
7. No Sex or Tampons
After a C-section, you may need to avoid sexual intercourse and tampons for up to 8 weeks. Chances are you’re not going to feel very sexy and amorous anyway, but it is essential to let your body heal and wait for your doctor’s green light.
8. Pain Medication
You may experience acute pain after a C-section, although the intensity will vary from person to person. You can take anti-inflammatory pain medications to relieve discomfort in most cases, but ask your healthcare provider before taking anything. In addition, some medications can be passed through breast milk and may not be considered safe when breastfeeding.
General Postpartum Tips:
Whether you had a C-section or vaginal delivery, rest is imperative. Giving birth is a major event, and your body needs to recover. While it may feel impossible to rest while caring for a newborn, seek help from anyone who offers and put your feet up and relax whenever possible.
10. Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthily
It is just as important after delivery to stay healthy as it was before delivery. Not only will it help your body bounce back quicker, but if you’re breastfeeding, it will increase your milk supply and provide essential nutrients for your baby’s needs.
11. Focus on the Positive
Becoming a new parent is stressful and often overwhelming, so it can help to focus on the positives in your life. Try keeping a gratitude journal or finding time to talk with your partner each day about what is going well and what you enjoy about parenting. ]
Once your doctor has cleared you, mild physical exercise, such as walking and yoga, can help you feel positive and energised.
Postpartum depression is common and can affect new and existing mums alike. The Baby Blues are categorised as a brief period of sadness, lack of interest, and feeling overwhelmed shortly after giving birth, lasting around 2 – 3 weeks. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, typically lasts longer than a few weeks, has more intense feelings, and requires treatment from a health professional.
If you feel overwhelming sadness, helplessness, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, lack of interest, or fatigue, it is essential to see professional help.
Check out these birth trauma resources if you are struggling after experiencing a traumatic birth.
12. Attend Postnatal Appointments
You must attend all postnatal appointments scheduled by your doctor or midwife. These appointments ensure you are healing correctly and everything is on track. They are also the perfect opportunity to ask questions about breastfeeding, postpartum discharge, mood swings or hormonal imbalanced etc.
My Expert Midwife was founded in 2017 to help with the physical recovery challenges that women face during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. Working with in-house expert midwives, they have developed a range of award-winning products designed especially for new and expectant mums and new babies. Their midwife-developed products come glowingly recommended by thousands of mums.