Postpartum pads (A.K.A. maternity pads) are top of the list of things to have ready for when your baby arrives.
But if this is your first time giving birth, you’ve probably never thought about what the best postpartum pads are before.
And there are a lot of options out there.
The best postpartum pads are the ones that work for you, but here’s a quick rundown of the most popular choices.
In this article: 📝
- What is a postpartum pad?
- What are the best pads to wear after giving birth?
- Can I use normal pads after giving birth?
- Washable postpartum pads
What is a postpartum pad?
A postpartum pad isn’t that different from a typical maxi pad, but they’re bigger and thicker than the ones you use when you have your period.
They’re a postpartum necessity because it’s normal to bleed for several weeks after you give birth – whether you deliver your baby vaginally or via c-section.
This postpartum bleeding is known as lochia.
It’s a mix of blood, mucus, and discharge that’s either leftover from pregnancy or shed from the wound where your placenta was attached to the wall of your uterus.
For a few days after birth, you can expect it to be bright red and very heavy, then it will slowly get lighter and browner in color.
So, for about six weeks, you’ll need something to catch the lochia.
Doctors recommend staying away from tampons or menstrual cups until after you’ve had your six-week check-up.
While your body is still healing, there’s a higher-than-usual chance that tampons or cups could introduce an infection.
Enter, postpartum pads.
What are the best pads to wear after giving birth?
Right after you give birth, you’ll probably wear the maternity pads they give you in the hospital, usually along with some very stylish disposable mesh underwear.
The pads usually look a bit like this.
Hospital pads are long, white, and rectangular (a reason lots of mamas affectionately refer to them as “mattresses”).
They’re also completely unscented, and they don’t have wings, which helps to protect your skin while everything is still feeling a little tender (to put it mildly).
These are both dermatologically tested and more ergonomically shaped (i.e. they’re a little wider at the back).
They also claim to have less of an environmental impact, because they’re plastic-free, and the manufacturers plant trees to offset their carbon emissions.
Are pads or diapers better for postpartum?
Some mamas prefer to wear incontinence diapers rather than maternity pads for after birth.
These can sometimes feel a bit more secure, especially when you’re lying down and resting – something you’ll hopefully be doing a lot of in the first few days and weeks with your little one.
They’re very absorbent all over, and they’re thick enough to cushion any stitches that you might have.
Do I have to change my pad every time I pee postpartum?
Whatever you choose, it’s really important to change your maternity pad regularly, in the beginning, to keep your skin clean as it’s healing.
Every time you go to the bathroom, pat yourself dry and put on a new pad.
This is actually the downside of choosing a diaper rather than a pad: you have to change them just as frequently as you’d have to change a pad, but you’ll have to take off your pants to do it.
Can I use normal pads after giving birth?
Hopefully, the very heavy bleeding after giving birth won’t last for more than a week.
Once you’re settled in at home, you’ll probably want to switch from a full-on maternity pad to something that feels a bit more familiar.
Even though it’s still a long way from glamorous, for a lot of mamas trading in the “mattress” pads for a normal maxi pad feels like a step forward in their recovery.
It’s a bit like putting on your own sweatpants instead of a hospital gown.
You can wear your normal pads as postpartum maxi pads when you feel ready.
The only disadvantage of normal sanitary pads vs. maternity pads is that they don’t have as much cushioning.
If you have stitches, you might prefer to wait longer before you make the switch.
When you’re choosing a maxi pad to use after giving birth, try to go for something that’s:
- Unscented, because the perfume could irritate your skin, and it’s probably already a little itchy down there as everything starts to heal.
- Wingless, because the glue can pull at things that nobody wants to be pulled.
- Wider at the back (like a night-time maxi pad) because you’ll hopefully still be spending more time than usual lying down.
Poise overnight pads are more discrete than hospital maternity pads, and they’re very absorbent.
Finally, Honey Pot Pads are also popular with new mamas.
They steer clear of artificial scents, but they’re infused with essential oils that can have a calming effect on your skin.
Washable postpartum pads
Another option that’s worth exploring is washable postpartum pads.
When it’s time to change, you just throw the pad in your washing machine and use it again.
Washable pads have advantages beyond feeling like an eco-warrior. In particular, they are often more comfortable to wear.
The natural cotton or bamboo fabric is less sweaty than the fibers used in disposable pads.
When you consider that you’ll be wearing these things for weeks, that’s a big plus.
You might find that lochia is harder to wash than period blood because it contains more mucus.
But if you come up against a stubborn stain, a cold rinse and then a warm wash cycle will usually do the trick.
Some of the highest-rated reusable maternity pads are:
Period underwear, like Thinx, can also work postpartum.
The only thing to consider is that, even though they’re designed to last all day, you’ll want to change them more frequently while you recover.
Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a postpartum pad that works for everyone, and the best one to choose is the one that makes you feel secure and comfortable.
You can also expect to switch out the product that you’re using more than once in the first six weeks postpartum, rather than sticking with one sort of pad for the whole time.
If you want more reviews or tips on maternity pads from mamas who’ve been there, head over to the Peanut community.