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10 Tips for Recovering from a Vaginal Birth

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We hear a lot about how tough pregnancy can be on the body, but we talk less about what happens to your body after vaginal delivery. We’ve put together tips to help you to heal. (Though always talk to your doctor first!) Also: Congratulations on your beautiful baby, mom!

Rest

a woman sleeping in a bed

Maybe this is obvious, but it’s also the easiest tip to not follow. You have a completely new person to take care of—and if this is your first it can be even more daunting trying to learn how to become a mom. 

An adrenaline-fueled panic triggered by your newborn screaming for the last 20 minutes can make resting impossible. But make sure you take the time you need to get some sleep and heal. This may mean getting extra support and sleeping when your baby sleeps, whenever that may be.

Use the Sitz Bath

a sitz bath

Even though the human body is designed to allow a fully-formed being to come out of it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt.

If you were given an episiotomy, or experienced tearing, you’re going to need to keep your stitches clean. If you did not receive any sutures, your vulva is still likely to be swollen and tender (and let’s not even mention what pushing a baby out does to your rear end). A sitz bath will help keep your undercarriage clean and the soak will be soothing to those exceptionally ouchy bits below.

Wear Extra Maxi Pads

a woman holding up a tampon

After nine months of period-free bliss, post-birth bleeding can be very heavy. We’ve already mentioned how tender things down there could be, so a little extra padding won’t hurt. Putting two pads side-by-side, or overlapping pads from front-to-back, will give you extra coverage and protection. You can also make "pad-sicles" by wetting some pads with aloe vera and witch hazel and freezing. (Here's a recipe for post-partum padsicles.)

Wear Those Mesh Undies

mesh material

OK, they’re ugly and ridiculous, but unless you have a large supply of cotton undies that you don’t plan on ever wearing again, those babies will come in handy. You can’t use tampons for at least six weeks after giving birth, and even if you double up on your pads you’re still most likely to experience occasional overflow.

Take a few extra pairs from the hospital and use them the first week home. Bonus points when you realize you can throw them out instead of adding to the laundry pile.

Hover or Lean

a dark lonely toilet

Did we mention that you’re going to be sore “down there”?

If you find that sitting on the toilet causes your pelvic floor to become achy, try hovering over the seat like you’re in a public restroom, or, lean to one side. Finding a comfortable position for those first few days post-partum is a necessity.

Ice Packs are Good

an ice pack

If you had a hospital birth, there’s a chance that your recovery nurse has already brought you some ice packs. Whether you sit on them or you tuck one in your undies, ice is going to help soothe the swelling and tenderness. 

Never leave ice on for longer than 15 minutes, and make sure you have a protective layer of fabric between your sensitive skin and the pack.

Wipe with Medicated Pads

an empty toilet

Witch Hazel is the active ingredient in hemorrhoid pads, and that means they are going to soothe and cool your lady parts. If you’re one of the many, many women who has developed hemorrhoids during pregnancy or childbirth you’re going to want to have these on hands to help with the pain back there--but they’re also approved for use on vaginal tissue. Use these pads to wipe every time you go those first few weeks--your bottom will thank you for it.

Don’t Strain

a woman sitting on a toilet

It’s important to make sure your bowels are working regularly, but don’t push or strain to help with a movement. Drink plenty of fluids, eat foods high in dietary fiber, and take your Colace to help soften your stool. Straining to poop is going to increase the pressure on parts that are already sore and in need of healing.

Eat Healthfully

pita bread with cherry tomatoes and basil

If you’re normal, you probably went a little overboard every now and then. Pregnancy is a great excuse to have Belgian waffles with extra whipped cream every morning, but your body needs to replenish itself now. Eating colorful foods (no, Fruit Loops don’t count) and making sure you get lots of protein and fiber will help your body to heal, and get you feeling better, faster. Hard-boiled eggs are a particularly good go-to, protein-packed snack to have on hand. Plus, make sure to drink plenty of water.

Ask for Help

two grandparents looking at a baby in a stroller

People are going to want to visit and meet your new baby. Take advantage of their presence and ask for some help. Don’t be too shy to ask them to stroll with the baby for half an hour so you can rest. Ask somebody to take out the garbage, walk the dog, fold some laundry, or heat up some leftovers—anything they do is one less thing you have to worry about. Don’t worry about being bossy—you’re the mom now, and “bossy” is your new middle name—it’s good practice.

 
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