Postpartum essentials: because nobody tells you these things.
So many questions, so little time. What should I wear immediately after delivery? What should I avoid after giving birth? When am I going to feel some semblance of normal again?
Okay, mama. Breathe. Yes, this is intense. Yes, other mamas feel this way. No, we don’t talk about this nearly enough. So let’s get down to the basics.
Postpartum recovery essentials
Every mama has different postpartum needs. Here’s some of what you may experience—and what postpartum care products make it all a little more manageable.
1. You may be depressed.
It’s really common to feel sad and isolated after giving birth—yet we still don’t seem to want to talk about it that much. The majority of new mamas experience some version of the “baby blues”. (Yes, it’s a euphemism. Yes, it sounds too cutesy for what it is. Yes, we should do something about that name.) This requires support and attention. You don’t have to just get through it.
Then there’s the more serious condition called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can be really debilitating and requires treatment. Symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness, anxiety, and emptiness that do not go away
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness that don’t go away
- Sleep trouble
- You just don’t love things you used to love, from passions to the sight or smell or sound of something beautiful.
- Serious fatigue.
- Suicidal thoughts
If you have any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out. Talk to whoever you feel like you can talk to—a friend, a partner, a counselor, a doctor. Even just saying it out loud can help you take steps towards recovery.
2. You may feel pain in your perineum (between your vagina and your butt) if you gave birth vaginally.
Sometimes there are tears there. Sometimes your doctor does an episiotomy (incision in this area) to help the process along. And when you have a pain in the ass, you’re allowed to be a pain in the ass. Fact. Cold packs do wonders here. (Not frozen, just cold.)
3. You may have itches in your stitches.
If you had a c-section, you may experience some itching when those stitches start healing. Also, let’s backtrack for a moment. Pre-itch, you’ll likely be in pain. We often underestimate just what a procedure a c-section is. It’s surgery. Totally normal for you to be feeling out of it for a while.
4. You may have vaginal discharge.
This is likely the mucus membrane that once formed the lining of your uterus. BUT if you notice a smell that worries you and/or have any flu-like symptoms, check in with your doctor. This could be an infection.
5. You may be bleeding.
Some bleeding is normal over the first three-ish days. Stock up with pads (not tampons—keep things out of there for a while). If after a few days, you have a lot of blood, it’s still really bright in color or you notice very large blood clots, get in touch with your healthcare provider. It may be a sign of hemorrhaging. Other signs include chills and fever, blurred vision, nausea, and dizziness.
6. You may need to give your vagina a little extra TLC.
Peri bottle. Sitz bath. These exist to help out with the soreness and swelling you may be feeling postpartum.
A peri (as in perineum) bottle is a little bottle that helps you clean and soothe your vagina after birth. Using it is as easy as squirting warm(ish) water in the right direction when you need to.
A sitz bath is a little bath with a very specific purpose: to clean your perineum. The warm water can promote healing and help with pain, itching, and irritation. Check in with your healthcare provider about what you can add to your sitz bath. There is a range of options that can be very soothing—from ant-bacterial meds to baking soda.
7. You may have postpartum cramps whether you give birth vaginally or have a c-section.
Your body is busy getting your uterus back to its retro pre-pregnancy style. Abdomens may get hurt in the process.
8. Your breasts may be tender and sore…
…as you figure out this whole breastfeeding thing. Get a comfortable nursing bra, stock up on nipple cream—and if you’re having any difficulty getting a good latch, get in touch with your doctor. They might put you in touch with a lactation specialist.
9. You may be constipated.
A gentle stool loosener can go a long way if that’s the case.
10. You may have hemorrhoids.
We know. Nobody tells you this. If you get a case of hemorrhoids, pads soaked in witch hazel are pretty soothing. There are also various creams and sprays available—just check in with your healthcare provider first.
11. You may pee all over the place.
Fine, fine, fine. Pelvic floor exercises are pretty awesome in helping you here.
12. You may be at the mercy of your moods.
Crying in commercials, laughing at, well, nothing at all, and violently cursing the weather forecast? Your moods may take you everywhere. There is postpartum mood support in pill form if that helps —but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements at this stage.
13. You may be sleep-deprived.
Remember the era when you used to sleep for extended periods of time at roughly the same hour every night? Ha. Ha. Ha. So yes. Sleep is a challenge. Nap when your baby naps—guilt-free. Napping IS productive.
14. You may find getting into a routine tricky.
Having a baby is a serious shakeup. Everything may feel out of sync, upside down, messy, confusing. It’s a great lesson in letting the small stuff go. Listen up: you will find a new routine—but for now, if you can, breathe into the chaos.
15. You may be parched.
Keep liquids close. You’re breastfeeding. And your body has been through the most intense of experiences.
16. You may not feel like eating a nutritious diet.
Βut keep trying to eat well if you can. And keep taking your vitamins. It’s a tougher journey on an empty tank.
17. You may not feel like moving.
Βut it’s helpful (if your healthcare provider agrees) to walk very gently, stretch, point, and flex. Nothing too strenuous, though. Rest is key.
18. You may fall in love with your granny panties.
Maybe. Either way, wear pure cotton or hospital numbers for the first while. Good for comfort and staving off infection.
19. You may not want to have sex.
You’re in recovery mode so this is totally normal. Your doctor will likely advise you against penetration for the first few weeks anyway.
20. You may gain some weight.
This is common, and nothing to worry about.
21. You may have night sweats.
This is the hormones again. Light sheets and a cold compress can go a long way.
22. You may need to avoid exercise and heavy lifting for a while.
You’ll probably get the all-clear for this at about the 6-week mark, but ask your healthcare provider for sure.
23. You may just have a whole entire human to look after.
So there’s that. And this massive responsibility is coupled with navigating your own healing. It’s an awful lot.
24. You may need to reach out for support.
This is one of those postpartum essentials that feels like it’s said so often it’s become cliche. But even with its popularity as a piece of postpartum advice, it’s still so hard to do. Lean on family and friends. Chat to your healthcare provider. You absolutely are allowed to have the support you need.
25. You may need to be patient with yourself.
Good luck, mama. We’re rooting for you.
You might be interested in:
5 Ways to Advocate for Yourself During Pregnancy and Postpartum
11 Postpartum Sex Tips From Real Moms
Postpartum Bleeding: What’s Normal and What’s Not
Postpartum Preeclampsia: Symptoms, Treatment, and More
Your Guide to Postpartum Swelling
What is Postpartum Thyroiditis?
24 Baby Essentials You’ll Need
How to Deal With Postpartum Gas
10 Ideas for a Nutritious Postpartum Diet
A Guide to the Best Types of Postpartum Massage
Postpartum Exercise Tips
An Intro to Postpartum Yoga
Why Do I Get Postpartum Night Sweats?
What are the Possible Postpartum Complications?
Postpartum Hemorrhoids: What You Need to Know