Having a baby is an amazing time that comes with lots of new challenges. One of the biggest challenges is learning how to take care of your newborn baby and yourself…at the same time. When you’re a new mom, you have a lot on your plate and postpartum hygiene is often the last thing on your mind. However, it is really important and shouldn’t be overlooked! Here are some tips to help you take care of yourself after childbirth.
If you gave birth vaginally, your vagina will still be very tender and swollen for several days after birth and the nurses will check you to look out for excess bleeding and for blood clots larger than the size of a golf ball. You will continue to bleed after birth, so the nurses will give you mesh underwear with large pads in them and many hospitals and birth centers will offer "Padsicles". These are frozen pads with witch hazel on them to act as an icepack to aid in the healing and reduce swelling of your vulva. In fact, before you give birth it's a good idea to make some padsicles so that you have them ready to use at home after baby arrives. You can make them with large maxi pads and a bottle of witch hazel. You simply pour a generous amount of witch hazel right into the center of the maxi pad. You can then put several of the pads with the witch hazel on them in a plastic freezer bag and stick it in the freezer so you can have padsicles for when you return home.
Another thing that can aid in healing once you return home is to soak in a sitz bath several times per day. This can be helpful for healing and it can be very soothing. A sitz bath is a basin that fits over your toilet seat that allows you to comfortably soak your perineum without making a huge mess. Here is the sitz bath we recommend. You can fill the sitz bath with lukewarm water or mix in epsom salts or another type of bath soak if you’d like. You can soak in the sitz bath a few times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. This is also really helpful if you experience hemorrhoids either before having a baby or after delivery.
Going "Number 1"
When you use the restroom in the weeks after giving birth it is going to take longer than normal. Not only are you going to be moving slower than you typically do, but just going pee is kind of a process. First of all, if you are recovering from a vaginal delivery, you are probably not going to want to wipe with toilet paper after you urinate. But instead, you are going to want to use a “Peri Bottle”, which is basically just a plastic spray bottle to spray water to wash off. However, you can gently pat the area dry with toilet paper when you're done using the peri bottle. Bonus tip: we recommend using lukewarm water to fill your bottle with, cold water can feel very shocking and uncomfortable!
Going "Number 2"
Something that many postpartum moms are very nervous about is going poop for the first time after delivery. This is because after giving birth it is normal for your vagina and your perineum to be tender and swollen. Therefore, the idea of pooping after a baby has come out of that general area can seem very intimidating. Additionally, for moms that have had a cesarean birth, the idea of bearing down to make a bowel movement can also seem very intimidating. To ease that process, we recommend drinking a lot of water. You need to be drinking a lot of water anyways, especially if you're breastfeeding, however you want to drink at least eight glasses of water daily.
Another thing that can help you with bowel movements is to take a stool softener. You can take an over the counter stool softener as directed, but of course ask your provider before taking anything and ask if this is something they recommend. However most OBGYNs and midwives will recommend taking a stool softener to help make your bowel movement more soft when you actually have to go to the bathroom. Also, giving birth can greatly impact your digestive system for several weeks. It can make you extra gassy as your internal organs are falling back into place where they were before, not to mention that if you had any type of anesthesia that can make you constipated. Additionally, breastfeeding can sometimes result in constipation. So, in addition to drinking a ton of water, make sure that you're eating really well. The recommendation is to eat a diet composed mostly of whole based, nutrient dense foods, that are full of fiber.
If you happen to tear or have an episiotomy during delivery you will likely have stitches put in place for your recovery. Your stitches will dissolve on their own after a week or two. However, before this happens, it is normal for your stitches to become a little bit itchy. If this is the case, one thing you can do to soothe the area and promote healing is to actually use raw honey and put a little bit on the area after it's had a couple of days to heal.
ConclusionIn conclusion, it is important to take care of yourself postpartum in order to heal properly. This can be challenging when you have a newborn to care for and are operating on very little sleep. However, it’s important to take the time to create a gentle personal hygiene routine to aid in your healing process. There are lots of tools that you can have at your disposal, like padsicles, peri bottles and sitz baths, to make this process a little more comfortable. Remember, that you deserve to be well taken care of as much as your baby does! Be sure to listen to your body and get plenty of rest.