Whether you had an easy and quick labor, or you had to push for hours, some wear and tear is inevitable. Here’s what to expect after vaginal delivery and tips for postpartum care plus postpartum recovery checklist.
Congratulations!! You are a mom now. You have put behind 40 weeks of pregnancy and long labor.
I’m sure, you are ready with lots of cute onesies (probably more than you need), diaper rash cream, baby lotions, bathtub and what not for your newborn. But are you ready for transition that your body goes through from pregnancy to postpartum?
Probably NOT (at least I wasn’t first time)
Postpartum recovery after my first baby was longer than expected and was painful as I wasn’t prepared for it. But second time, I had a better idea of what to expect and I was equipped with all essentials to ensure recovery as fast as possible.
After going through two vaginal delivery, I can tell that you will need some serious postpartum recovery “down there”. So, let’s make sure you recover faster after vaginal delivery by applying these tried and tested tips.
Here’s what you need to know about your postpartum care after vaginal delivery, ideally before you deliver.
How long will it take to recover from vaginal delivery?
First 6 weeks after a childbirth are considered postpartum recovery period. No matter how you gave a birth- vaginal or c-section, how long you pushed for- 3 hours or 30 min, your body has been stretched and stressed and it need a healing period.
Usually recovery for vaginal delivery takes 6 to 8 weeks. Remember that your body took a long time to grow a baby and expecting to get back to yourself quickly is not practical. Every woman is different, and they recover at different rate.
If you’ve had a vaginal birth, your vaginal soreness can take up to 3 weeks if you didn’t tear and 6 weeks or more if you had stitches due to tear or episiotomy.
In addition to physical changes, your body also goes through hormonal changes secondary to labor and delivery. Hormonal changes along with excitement and stress of caring for newborn plus sleep deprivation, can make you feel emotional and depressed for several days to several weeks. So, best remedy to survive postpartum aches and pains is to eat, rest and be happy.
What to Expect, Plus Tips for Postpartum Care after Vaginal Delivery
Let’s face it, pregnancy was exhausting, giving birth was even more exhausting and don’t get me started on postpartum aches and pains. Whether you have pushed for couple of hours or you pushed for 30 minutes, postpartum recovery is rough.
Your postpartum recovery after vaginal birth depends on whether you tore yourself down there or your perineum stayed intact while pushing a little human (not-so-little!) out of your tiny vagina. Regardless, you will have aches, cramping, bleeding and painful trips to the washroom.
Full Discloser, reading following section may scare you, especially first-time moms-to-be, knowing what your body might go through after childbirth.
But, don’t let that scare you mama!
Thankfully, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you recover faster. With little knowledge of-how to and few -must haves, you are well on your way to speedy recovery in no time.
Here’s what to expect physically after vaginal delivery,
Vaginal Bleeding and Discharge
After 40 weeks of break from monthly visitor, expect vaginal bleeding and discharge for two to four weeks after giving birth. It’s like a heavy period or heavier than your period initially as you body gets rid off blood and tissue from the uterus. You will notice clots in your discharge initially, which is completely normal. Wear super absorbent maxi pad until discharge stops.
The vaginal discharge- also called lochia- will gradually decrease and then stops within several weeks. The discharge also varies in colour – from bright red initially to pink, brown to while or yellow.
If you experience a heavy bleeding – soaking one maxi pad in hour – or passing bigger clots, contact your doctor. Also notify a doctor if your vaginal discharge is foul-smelling and accompanied by fever or pelvic pain as these may be sign of a urinary infection.
Tips for Postpartum care
- Pick up bunch of mesh underwear from hospital before heading home. They are way more comfortable and hold maxi pad in place better than your regular underwear.
- Invest in cheaper maxi pad if your hospital doesn’t allow you bring home enough high absorbent maxi pad.
- Change your pad often to prevent infection.
Unfortunately, it’s not over for soreness and pains even after giving birth. Vaginal soreness may last couple of weeks depending upon stretch or tear, your vagina experienced during labor.
You may need stitches, if your perineum -area between vagina and rectum-was torn during labor or was cut by doctor to help your baby come out (episiotomy). Stitches can be sore at first – making it difficult to sit or walk initially – and then itchy. It usually dissolves around 8 to 10 days.
Tips for Postpartum care:
- Spray warm water over the area before and after peeing to keep urine from irritating skin.
- Apply an ice pack every couple of hours for first 24 hours after birth
- Soaking on a sitz bath
- Use sanitary pad with witch hazel
It can be real bummer-especially if you experienced constipation during pregnancy and were looking forward to getting that bowels a move on smoothly after you delivered.
The first bowel movement after delivery may be painful due to vaginal soreness and stitches.
Postpartum constipation can be due
- Long labor with little food in tummy
- If you had pain reliever narcotics (epidural) during delivery, it can slow down digestive tract.
- If you had a c-section
- Vaginal soreness due to episiotomy or postpartum hemorrhoids
- Not drinking enough water when breastfeeding (dehydration)
Like everything else, it’ll pass too. Contact your doctor, if you haven’t had a bowel movement for 2 to 3 days.
- Eat fiber rich food
- Drink plenty of water
- Take gentle stool softener
- Keep yourself moving
On the contrary, some woman experience urinary incontinence after childbirth. The stretching of bladder during childbirth weakens the pelvic floor muscles which causes leakage of urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh. It is a temporary condition and resolves itself by 6 to 8 weeks.
- Do kegel exercises to regain strength in the pelvic muscles to control urination.
- Meanwhile use panty liner to protect yourself from embarrassment
Checkout this video for easy exercises that you can do it in bed at any time when you are ready for it. These exercise involves repeatedly contracting and relaxing pelvic floor muscles, to strengthen it. Most people see some improvement after 4 to 6 weeks.
Our post pregnancy pelvic floor exercise workouts will help you gently recover post-birth. Recovery is the focus of this five minute postnatal exercise program that guides you through gentle pelvic floor exercises and abdominal toning exercises.
If it didn’t get you during your pregnancy, hemorrhoids can hunt you down after childbirth. The strain during delivery can cause swollen blood vessels in the rectum or anus. Hemorrhoid can be painful and itchy.
- Constipation may worsen it- so eat lots of fiber rich foods, drink lots of water to keep everything moving
- Do not force yourself to poop or don’t wait too long either
- Applying ice pack, sitz bath, witch hazel can help ease the pain
- Over the counter spray or cream can help relieve itching
Contraction or after pains
You may feel contraction even after giving birth for few days. A shrinking uterus – from 2.5 pounds right after birth to 2 ounces six weeks later, can cause cramping.
These contractions are most noticeable when you are breastfeeding. It is actually a good sign. It indicates that your uterus is shrinking back to its original size.
- Try to pee often. Your uterus can’t contract completely if your you have full bladder.
- Use warm heating pad under your lower belly
- Take ibuprofen or Tylenol (no aspirin if you are breastfeeding
Related : Body Aches and Pain during Pregnancy
Breast soreness and engorgement
When your milk comes in, which is around 3 to 4 days after delivery, you feel engorgement and nipple soreness. Breastfeeding in the first few days can be uncomfortable due to engorgement. Engorgement improves with time as your body gets used to demand and supply cycle. Read more about this here.
- Use warm compress or ice packs for breast engorgement
- Invest in comfortable bra
- Use lanolin crème to prevent or treat cracked nipple
- Air dry your nipple after breastfeeding
- Apply breast milk to your nipple after feeding
Related : Natural Remedies for a Clogged Milk Duct
Hot and cold flashes
You may feel hot and cold flashes as your body is adjusting to hormone after birth. Get ready to feel hot and sweaty when everyone else is feeling cold at night. It gets better within few weeks.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing
Here’s what to expect emotionally after vaginal delivery,
Hormonal changes after giving birth can take you through a roller coaster of emotions. Most moms feel a period of felling sad, down or anxious, often called baby blues, after bringing baby home. It is quite normal and subsides within two weeks.
- Take care of yourself
- Rest as much as you can
- Talk to your loved ones about how you feel
- Ask for a help from friends or family
More serious and longer lasting version of baby blues is postpartum depression. If you experience severe mood swings, anxiety, persisting sadness, loss of appetite and lack of joy after childbirth, you might have postpartum depression. It can be diagnosed up to year after childbirth. Contact your health care provider if your symptoms do not go away on their own, you have trouble caring for your baby or you have thought of harming your baby or yourself.
- Contact your doctor and get some help
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Postpartum Care Checklist
1. Highly Absorbent Maxi Pad
Maxi pads are must-have after childbirth because bleeding can last up to several weeks. You can start with organic cotton Rael pads. They are super absorbent and made with 100% organic cotton without use of synthetic chemicals and toxins. They are little pricey, but you want to consider buying high quality as you will be sore down there initially and you want to use something that do not irritate your skin.
It is also important that you change the pad OFTEN to prevent infection and stay comfortable. If you are on budget and don’t want to spend double for something that you will throw away in couple of hours after use, go for cheaper ones. That way you can change pad as often as you like and won’t feel guilty about it. Covidien pads are what my hospital provided, and they are highly absorbent.
It’s so hard to say how many you will need, because after my first delivery I needed giant pad for 2 weeks vs 7 to 8 days after my second delivery. Two or three packages should be enough, if you are sort you can always reorder.
2. Mess Underwear
I absolutely love mess underwear that hospital provides you after childbirth. They are not only great for holding those giant pads in place but also breathable. Do not forget to grab extra from the hospital before you head home. However, my hospital did not let me take mess underwear home during my first delivery. So, for my second delivery, I grabbed Carer disposable postpartum underwear from amazon. They are super comfy and breathable.
Applying a cold pack in your perineal area, helps you heal inflammation and ease pain. Apply cold pack 20 minutes every couple of hours for first 24 to 48 hours postpartum.
You will receive cold pack from the hospital when you head home. If you don’t than you can make your own using those cheap maxi pads or use Tucks medicated pad for cooling relief when needed.
Here’s DIY padsicle,
- Open couple of maxi pads
- Spread aloe-vera over the pad except wings
- Spray pad with alcohol free witch hazel
- Fold back maxi pad with its wrapper
- Put it in freezer
If you prefer, can get Frida Mom Postpartum Perineal Ice Maxi Pads. I should mention that they are 2 in 1 ice pack built in pad– provides initial 20 min cold therapy. Cool thing is, these pads do not require freezing-simply open the package and cold therapy starts.
4. Peri Bottle
No mother can survive without this after childbirth. You will use peri-bottle to squeeze warm water into your perineum every time you go pee after childbirth. This allows you to skip wiping and saves you from irritation and infection.
The hospital will provide you with one peri-bottle. If you need one in each bathroom (you should! trust me) then get it from here, they are super cheap. You can also keep one in your diaper bag to make life easy.
If you are looking for more ergonomics peri bottle, then go for Frida Mom Upside Down Peri Bottle for Postpartum Care. It has a nice angle to it making it really easy to get yourself clean.
5. Perineal Spray
After my first baby was born, I relied on Advil and tucks pad for pain relief. But after using Earth Mama Herbal Perineal Spray second time around, I can say that it should be part of every mom’s postpartum care kit.
This spray is all natural and give you cooling, soothing effect and helps manage pain due to tear, episiotomies or hemorrhoids.
6. Sitz bath
Sitz baths are one of my favorite postpartum care tips. It can help reduce swelling and inflammation and speed up the recovery. There are plenty of choices available but if you are looking for cheaper one than use Epsom salt and lavender oil in your sitz bath.
Epsom salts helps reduce swelling and lavender oil is healing. Put both in your over-the-tiolet sitz bath and soak your bottom for soothing and faster recovery.
7. Pain killer
Motrin or Advil will be your buddies for first 3 to 4 days after giving birth. It will help ease aches and pains after delivery. Do not hesitate to take Tylenol every 4 to 6 hours initially when you are at the hospital. If you are taking Ibuprofen, then take it with food.
8. Stool softener
First trip to bathroom for number two after delivery, may not something that you are looking forward to. As most probably you are constipated, and straining will be hard on your stitches. Ask for a stool softener at the hospital.
If you have stitches down there, then you should continue taking stool soften for 4 to 5 days. You can get Colace Clear on the way home, to keep thing moving until your stitches are better.
9. Donut Pillow
Sitting will be very uncomfortable after a childbirth because of vaginal soreness. Not to mention, you have to breastfeed a baby! And that can be frequently and take a long time. A donut pillow will allow you to sit comfortably while taking pressure off of your bottom.
10. Bed liner
Bed liner is also must have for those initial days when you are bleeding heavily. Here’s what I used after my second chid was born.
Depend waterproof bed pads are super absorbent, so you don’t need to worry about staining your expensive mattress red. Not to mention, these disposable underpads are made with soft, cloth like fabric and they are super comfy for much-needed good night sleep.
One pack contains 12 underpads, you might won’t use them. Save it when your baby is sick to protect crib mattress. I always had these around the house until my elder son turned 6 years old. I used it every time he was sick or had a cough/cold as he used to puke a lot at night due to congestion. Having this super absorbent underpad made life easy cleaning up a mess and not to mention saved our mattress.
11. Drink water
With everything that your body is going through and baby needing your attention constantly, it is easy to forget drinking water.
But is so much important to take a break and drink water. Specially when you are breastfeeding, keep a water bottle close by so you can grab it when ever you feel thirsty.
12. Avoid pressure
Rest as much as you can initially after childbirth. In certain culture, you are not allowed to leave your bed for first couple of weeks after your baby is born. This way you can get maximum rest, recover faster plus bond with your baby.
Also, too much movement can put lot of pressure on stitches or tear and increase the chances of bleeding. Even at night, when you need to wake up for feed your baby, do not move yourself too much. Ask someone to bring baby to you.
I made a mistake first time, trying to be supermom, did everything myself -bringing baby from crib for breastfeeding, adjusting my sitting position while breastfeeding without worrying about my stitches. End result, my stitches took a long time (almost 6 weeks) to heal completely. So, do not make a mistake that I made.
Move a little and rest much, mama!
There you go, mama!!
You have done the toughest job on the earth – giving birth to your child, postpartum recovery shouldn’t be that tough on you. You have got this, mama!!
Every woman’s journey is different but knowing what to expect after childbirth and having access to all the resources makes your journey little easier.
You can speed up your postpartum recovery by following these tips and checklist for postpartum care after vaginal delivery and get back to your-oldself sooner.
Remember that, postpartum period is a phase and it shall pass too. In the meantime, take care yourself, rest as much as you can, eat good food and be happy!!
I hope this information helps you along your postpartum care journey.
How about you?
Do you have any tips for postpartum care after vaginal delivery that i have missed? Leave your comment below.
I will leave you with this quote,
“The very damaging, frightening part of postpartum is the lack of perspective and the lack of priority and understanding what is really important”.