Immediate Postpartum Care (Suggestions For Mums)
Recently, I’ve had a few clients ask about the best way to look after themselves in the immediate postpartum period. And I don’t mean things like eating nutritious food and getting enough sleep… Although these are obviously important and I’ll write a blog about that too. I’m talking about issues around vaginal tearing, episiotomies with stitches, cracked nipples, even caesarean recovery… Many women are so focused on the birth and their baby, presuming everything will be ok, and then after birth find various issues come up that could have been prevented. It’s really important that you are prepared to ensure that you do not get constipated and to have other tools ready to go to relieve the potential stinging sensation of passing urine.
Some of these suggestions below are things I’ve tried myself, others are things my clients or friends have tried, some I’ve read about on various online discussion forums, and some were passed down to me through my Doula training. As always, if you aren’t sure, I’d suggest discussing these comments and tips below with your GP, Midwife or OB.
Squirt Bottle (or spray bottle)
You can use this like a bidet, either during urination with a squirt bottle (imagine a cheap $2 sauce bottle), or after urinating to feel a bit fresher, with a spray bottle of water. It helps to minimise any stinging.
You can drink this, or any other brand of urinary alkaliniser, which works by raising the pH of urine. You may have had this in the past if you had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). It’s usually a powder that you mix into water or another liquid, a couple times a day, and can help to relieve stinging as the urine passes.
It may be easiest to just wee in the shower while the water is running with a hand-held shower hose aimed at your vagina. Though ensure the water isn’t too hot and that you’re gentle with the pressure. Obviously this isn’t convenient to shower every time you need to urinate, so maybe just twice a day?
People say these are amazing! Though I would caution soaking in a bath without a yes from your care provider (especially if you’ve had a c-section or major tearing). The technique is to not fill the whole bath up, just enough to cover your vagina, maybe up to your belly button. Warm water and about a cup or two of salt (I like Epsom salts but some women buy whatever is cheapest in bulk) first thing in the morning like a ritual – this can be really nice. It also gives you a chance to rest, and dedicate 15-20 minutes just to yourself.
It’s so important to rest as much as you can and don’t do too much too soon. You want to make sure not to bust an internal stitch doing way too much too quickly (for both a vaginal birth and a c-section). And don’t just sit, lying down too!
It’s great to have some nipple cream on hand ready to go, assuming you plan to breastfeed. You can start using it from the very first feed to help prevent your nipples from cracking and bleeding. Some women are suggested to use nipple shields too, though this may not be something you need.
Many forums suggest wetting and freezing pads – aka “Padsicles”. Some suggest adding aloe vera gel, witch hazel (preferably alcohol free!) and a drop of lavender. After birth, you would then put these in your underwear. These help to create a cooling and numbing effect if you’re in pain. (Handy tip: If you don’t end up using the witch hazel on pads, you can use it instead of toner for your skin.)
You can fill condoms (or rubber gloves from the hospital) with water and freeze them to put in your underwear like a pad – except wrapping first with a paper towel or a bamboo modern cloth nappy liner to prevent frostbite and remove when defrosted. Replace again when the numbing sensation wears off.
While it would be ideal to just eat lots of dates, prunes, pear and papaya, or have Metamucil twice a day, or even psyllium husk, there are some stronger options like Osmolax or Movicol which help bind to water to keep stools hydrated in the bowel – ie keeping them soft. Or again next level up would be Coloxyl without Senna – though I’d suggest checking in with your GP before you take this. I wish someone had told me about this after my emergency caesarean (when I was taking loads of pain killers which often make you constipated). I felt like the first bowel motion was like birthing a baby, it was excruciating, I had to squat on the toilet seat, bled (created anal fissures) and developed haemorrhoids, which then needed their own treatment (maybe a specific cream with lignocaine/lidocaine or Emla – again ask your GP). Try to make sure you don’t have to strain to poo – this will help avoid the possibility of an internal stitch tearing.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or just trying to avoid getting constipated, it’s so important to drink a lot of water or herbal teas. Try to avoid caffeine as it’s a diuretic.
Make sure you work on your pelvic floor post birth – and I mean both strengthening and releasing. I often describe to my Pilates clients to imagine that their pelvic floor is like an elevator in a building. It starts on the ground floor and when you lift up to the top, it’s level 10. When you release, it’s important to not only get back to ground, but to gently open to the basement without pushing. Kind of like imagining a flower in bloom. Learning to deactivate the pelvic floor is just as important as activating it, in my opinion.
You’d be able to find a healing herbal perineal recovery spray. Ideally after going to the toilet, you can pat yourself dry and then use this spray. Followed by getting the hair dryer out on a cool setting to help super dry yourself. I often make one of these for my Doula clients with an essential oil recipe passed down to me in my training at the Australian Doula College. Feel free to get in touch about this.
You could try taking arnica pilules or there is a brand at my local healthfood store called Traumeel which has a ready mixed blend of homeopathic remedies.
You could buy some Silicone gel (I used the brand Stratamed/Strataderm) to use on any scar lines. Silicone is known to help reduce keloid scarring and to help increase the speed in which the scar recovers. Vitamin E is also knowns as a helpful option.
This list could be indefinite so I've tried to keep it short and summarised above. Take any comfort measures like wearing loose clothing (think giant granny underwear and loose tracksuit pants), or if you've had a c-section then I personally loved the SRC recovery shorts, or Spanx could work too? And it would be ideal if you could wear something that binds your stomach to help minimise any abdominal separation. Anything you can outsource, please do - grocery shopping (eg online), cooking, cleaning, laundry etc, and don't be affraid to ask for help! Most importantly, be kind to yourself.
Buy Now or Later?
It’s totally your choice if you choose to buy these things now, or if you want to wait to see if you need them (and send your partner or a friend to buy it later) which would obviously save money. However, in my opinion if you wait, it may be too late for some of the things as you’d already have the symptoms rather than helping to prevent the issue. Having the information on hand now is gold, so you can choose the best way to manage any issues that may arise for you.
Best of luck, you got this! 💪🏼
And as always, feel free to get in touch or comment below.
About Essential Me
Hi, I'm Amanda. I support women and couples during their pregnancy, birth and postnatal journey as a Doula, Ka Huna massage therapist and Pilates instructor. I'm Based in Sydney and would love to help you. Please check out my Top 10 Tips for the best possible birth experience here. I'd love to meet you for an obligation free interview to see if you feel we're the right fit. Contact me here. Thanks, Amanda x