Postpartum is a time for healing and bonding. Every individual’s healing process is going to be slightly different. Even if you experience zero vaginal or perineal tearing, minimal bleeding, and are up and walking immediately after birth, there is still internal healing that will take place in the coming hours, days, and weeks.
Create a Postpartum Healing Kit
There are certain items that you will be thankful to have in the days and weeks after having a baby. Put together a postpartum healing kit that you keep in your bathroom or nearby. Some of these items might be given to you if you give birth at the hospital or birth center.
- Witch hazel pads
- Pads or absorbent underwear
- Ice packs
- Nipple cream
- Nursing pads
- Haakaa manual breast pump
Using Your Kit: How to Care for Your Vagina After Giving Birth
Vaginal bleeding is a normal part of birth and postpartum healing (even following a surgical birth). Tears and some soreness are also normal and common occurrences. This means that you will need something to catch the blood (pads or absorbent underwear). Ice can also help reduce swelling and feels great against sore areas. Padsicles are an easy “hack” where you add a little witch hazel and/or water to a pad and put it in the freezer for a little while. Grab a cooled-off pad and place it in your underwear for a fabulous cooling effect and absorption all at once!
Toilet paper should be avoided for the first couple of weeks, or until any stitches have dissolved (or been removed). Alternatively, use a peri bottle or bidet to cleanse the area and pat dry with a lint-free cloth.
Nipple cream is another must-have for nursing moms. While you and your baby learn and adjust to feeding, it is possible to experience soreness or cracked nipples. Keep nipple cream on hand to use at the first sign of discomfort!
Regardless of the planned feeding method, a person who gives birth is going to lactate. Especially during the first several weeks, there will be some leakage between feedings (or even from the other breast while feeding). Nursing pads can be inserted into your bra or tight shirt to catch any milk that leaks and prevent soaking your shirt. While feeding, a Haakaa or similar device can be placed on the opposite breast to catch any milk that leaks while breastfeeding. These manual pumps are great because they prevent mess and help buildup a stock of breastmilk for when you leave the baby with another caregiver.
Consume a Nutritious Diet
A well-fed body is able to heal more quickly and efficiently. Make sure to consume foods that are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Fill your fridge with postpartum healing foods like leafy green vegetables, fresh fruits, complex carbs, lean proteins, and poly-unsaturated fats. Look to the nutrition hand-out provided by your HypnoBirthing educator.
Some people save their placenta to create tablets or a smoothie which they consume. There is little research on the benefits of placental consumption, but the high nutrient contents of the placenta is believed to be beneficial in preventing postpartum depression.
When Baby Sleeps, You Sleep
Birth requires a great deal of mental and physical energy. Once the baby is born, rest is in order. As your baby will need to be fed frequently during the first weeks and months of life, take every opportunity to sleep that you get. Rest is going to be essential in healing and being able to continue caring for your new baby with a clear mind. There is no set amount of time that you need to rest after having a baby, but increased bleeding is a sign that you are overdoing it and more rest is the way to go.
Postpartum Healing Timeline
As mentioned above, how long it takes a woman’s body to fully recover from pregnancy can vary greatly from one birth to another. Following a normal birth with an intact perineum, a woman will still be expected to rest as much as possible for the first couple of days, avoid physical activity for the first week and then slowly begin incorporating outback into her daily routine. ACOG also recommends avoiding intercourse for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks postpartum, most women are able to return to most of their normal activities. Some unique circumstances that may impact healing timelines include:
- 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree tearing
- The use of interventions such as vacuum, forceps, or episiotomy
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Cesarean birth
- Birth of multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Birth trauma