Fresh from giving birth? Here are our favorite tips to help your recovery go as smoothly as possible. After a long pregnancy, your body has done some pretty amazing things, but it’s also been put through the wringer.
And now it needs time to heal. (At least four to six weeks, to be more exact.) With that healing often comes all-over soreness, lots of vaginal bleeding (very normal, but still more than you’re used to seeing down there), urinary incontinence and, yes, your first postpartum bowel movement.
There’s a lot to deal with when recovering from childbirth, but these tried-and-tested postpartum recovery hacks can help ease the process and even shorten your recovery time.
Embrace the adult diapers
They may feel embarrassing to wear, but when it comes to managing your postpartum bleeding, we swear by adult disposable underwear. Most brands don’t look or feel like the kind of diaper you might imagine (especially not like baby diapers). Some even have cute designs to make them feel more like underwear. They’re super comfortable and, most importantly, can hold a lot of liquid for heavy postpartum bleeding. So no shame here—you rock those adult diapers!
Kegels all day, every day
Whether you had a c-section or a vaginal delivery, your pelvic floor muscles were very likely weakened during your pregnancy, and they’ll thank you for this light (and super-discrete) exercise. If you were doing your Kegels throughout your pregnancy, your pelvic floor is probably pretty strong, but if you’re just now hearing about them as you recover from delivery, you should definitely try them out.
Weak pelvic floor muscles can often lead to urinary incontinence, and it’s a fairly common side effect of being postpartum (you might start to dread sudden sneezes). But a quick session of Kegels a few times a day can really help tighten things up down there and limit any accidentally-laughed-too-hard leaks.
Keep in mind: Kegel exercises aren’t for everyone. If your pelvic floor is tight (e.g. you experience pelvic pain, painful sex, constipation, etc.), kegels can actually make the muscle tightness worse. Talk with your doctor or a pelvic floor physical therapist before doing kegels.
Gather ye witch hazel
No need to go picking flowers for this remedy, since you can find liquid witch hazel readily available at most drug stores (just be sure to get the alcohol-free kind). What is witch hazel? Only your postpartum stitches’ new best friend! It’s a plant that works as a natural inflammation reliever, so whether you’ve got stitches on your perineum or your abdomen, it can provide soothing relief when soaked into soft cotton pads and gently dabbed over your stitches. Note: If you have extremely sensitive skin, using witch hazel isn’t recommended.
You may have heard of padsicles to help soothe your nether regions after vaginal delivery, but they can help with hemorrhoids, too, which you can get even if you had a c-section. To make frozen witch hazel padsicles to help your postpartum recovery:
Unwrap regular sanitary pads (we recommend using larger ones to cover more surface area)
Try stool softeners
That first bowel movement after being in labor can seem more than a little scary. You’re sore, you’re tired, you might have stitches and you likely haven’t had a bowel movement in several days—so having one now is no easy task. So don’t be surprised if your nurse, midwife or doula offers you some stool softeners. And if they don’t, ask your doctor if you should pick some up for yourself so that, when the time comes, the process goes more smoothly.
Sleep when baby sleeps
You’re going to hear this bit of advice a lot, and we have to agree that it’s a solid tip. In those early days when your new little one is sleeping 15+ hours a day, you’ll be tempted to steal every moment you can for getting things done. But we’re going to politely tell you to put that laundry basket down and stop washing the dishes. Doing chores isn’t doing any favors for your postpartum healing. What does help is rest. And the best time to rest is when you don’t need to keep an eye on your newborn. Place them in their bassinet or crib and go get some shut-eye for yourself. You’ll thank us later. Keep a squirt bottle of warm water near the toilet.
Whether or not you end up needing stitches due to perineal tearing, if you have a vaginal delivery, you’re going to be sore. That amount of stretching—a newborn’s head has never seemed so big!—leads to burning at the very least and tearing and stitches in many cases, and the thing that burns the most? Peeing. It’ll be one of the first things your nurse will have you do after you give birth, and it. will. Burn.
You can soothe most of the burn with one handy tool: a squirt bottle of warm water. Keep it next to the toilet in every bathroom in your home, because you’ll want it as your constant bathroom buddy. Every time you go to pee, squirt the warm water on your perineum to keep your urine from stinging your sensitive parts. The hospital will likely give you a generic squirt bottle, but we’re big fans of his one from Frida Mom that’s specially designed to hit the right spot without you having to bend awkwardly to reach.
Don’t stand or sit for too long
Speaking of sore perineums, you won’t want to sit on one for too long. You’re going to need plenty of rest, but sitting on stitches too much can hinder the healing process a bit. On the other hand, standing for long periods of time can do the same. So no matter what your daily activities look like in the first few postpartum weeks (think: diaper changes, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, soothing a fussy newborn), try to stagger your sitting and standing time so you’re not doing either for too long at once.
Get a donut (no, not that kind)
You will be sitting at some point after vaginal delivery (obviously), and if you’re especially sore down under, this hack can save your behind, perhaps literally. You may have seen round inflatable cushions like these, especially if you’ve ever known someone with hemorrhoids or an injured tailbone, but they’re also a common companion for postpartum recovery. Often known as a donut (that, sadly, you can’t eat), it helps cradle your sore underside no matter where you’re sitting, whether on the couch, in the car or at a restaurant (they’re thankfully super portable).
Indulge in a warm sitz bath
Who ever said no to a bath? Certainly not an exhausted new parent! If you’ve got perineum stitches, one of the most favorite ways to keep swelling and irritation down is to soak in a warm (not hot) bath with Epsom salts. Not only will it soothe aches, it can also help in the healing process by keeping infections at bay. So take this opportunity for a relaxing, indulgent soak up to a few times a day while someone else watches baby. Just don’t go for a jacuzzi, since germs can live in the jets and increase your risk of infection.
Keep in mind: If you’ve just had a c-section, baths are a no-no for about three to four weeks until you’ve healed.
Hacks for Recovering from a C-Section
Keep a small pillow with you
Any time you need to move from sitting to standing and vice versa, keep a small pillow to hold against your abdomen and support your incision. It might feel a bit like you’re babying yourself, but your stitches need all the TLC they can get to heal faster. This also works for riding in the car in the first few days after your c-section (we don’t recommend driving until at least two weeks after surgery). Trust us, when the incision is new and sore, bumpy roads are not your friend. Having something soft to cushion tender spots can make driving over potholes a lot more bearable.
Take short walks
We get it, you’re not going to feel like walking. You’re probably not going to feel like moving much at all. While rest is definitely something your body needs to heal after having a baby, brief walks around your house or outside in the fresh air can do quite a lot of good, too. You don’t want to be exercising vigorously at all (not until your doctor gives you the okay, usually after six to eight weeks), but five to ten minutes to take a slow stroll can give you more than just a change of scenery.
Keep things at waist level
If you’ve just had a c-section, one of the biggest things to keep in mind is that you’ve just had major surgery. Thanks to the new incision on your abdomen, even if it’s small, you might find it challenging to raise your arms above your head without pain or risking tearing your stitches. So don’t plan on reaching for objects high up for the first few weeks. If you can plan ahead—or have someone do it for you after you get home from the hospital—get anything you think you might need that’s out of reach and put it as close to waist level as possible to limit both reaching and bending over (which will also be really uncomfortable).
Get someone to wash your hair
This isn’t just a chance to get a mini spa day (though you absolutely deserve one). Like we said with our previous hack, you may struggle to raise your arms above your head, so washing your hair will be less than fun, to say the least. If you have someone helping you with your newborn, whether it’s a partner, family member or close friend, it’d be worth it to ask them for help with your hair, too. They can keep it as simple as a quick shampoo in the sink, or maybe you can convince someone to give you the full salon treatment. Either way, it’ll be a huge relief if you have limited range of motion.