Wondering what you can expect postpartum? Looking for all the best postpartum recovery tips to help you heal faster?
A lot of times, the focus turns to baby and away from mom after baby is earthside. But, this isn’t good for anyone. You need to make it a priority to take care of your well being after giving birth. By taking care of yourself, you will create a happy, healthy mom for baby, and directly enhance your baby’s development.
In this post, we’ll cover what you can expect postpartum, give you the best postpartum recovery tips for healing after a vaginal birth, and inform you of some postpartum warning signs to look out for. This guide will help you take care of yourself, so you can be the best mom for your baby.
What You Can Expect Postpartum
If you think you’re in the clear from all those weird, uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms after you deliver, think again. There are some pretty shocking things that can happen postpartum.
And, while postpartum recovery is different for everyone, all new moms should at least expect some bleeding and soreness. Here’s a general guideline of what you can expect during your postpartum recovery:
- Bleeding: Be sure to stock up on pads, as you can expect bleeding on and off for up to six weeks after giving birth.
- Trouble urinating and passing bowel movements: Your normal bodily functions may not come so “normally” those first few days postpartum. You might find it difficult to pee or find yourself lacking in bowel movements.
- Abdominal cramps: Be ready for the abdominal cramps to hit as your uterus contracts to help it reach back to its normal size.
- Backaches: Those hormones that loosened your ligaments during pregnancy could still wreak havoc on your back postpartum. Not to mention, you’ll be bending over to pick your baby up, change diapers, and breastfeed around the clock now.
- Nipple soreness: Some nipple soreness is common during those initial weeks of breastfeeding. However, if you’re in extreme pain while nursing or still experiencing nipple pain after that first week or two, be sure to meet with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) as soon as possible to have your baby’s latch evaluated.
- Perineal pain/swelling: Expect some swelling and discomfort throughout the entire perineal area following a vaginal birth (or even if you did any pushing at all before a c-section). If you had any tearing, the wound should take about 7-10 days to heal. You might find that area very sensitive for up to 6 weeks, or even more.
- Hemorrhoids: You may be left with hemorrhoids from all that pushing during labor and delivery. I know, like you didn’t already have enough discomfort down there.
- Night sweats: Your body goes through a significant hormonal change after childbirth. As your progesterone and estrogen levels lower, your body temperature is more likely to change. You’re also left over with all this extra fluid from pregnancy, and your body will try to get rid of it through sweat and urine (source).
- Fatigue: Blood loss that goes with having a baby can make your body tired. Not to mention, you’re going to be up every 2-3 hours to feed your newborn baby.
- Emotional: Baby blues are pretty common between 2 days and 2 weeks postpartum. You may find yourself crying over the silliest little things, like the baby commercial on the TV. Sadness with baby blues is usually nothing extreme and will go away on its own without any kind of treatment (source).
25 of the Best Postpartum Recovery Tips You'll Ever Get
Now that I’ve probably scared you off with all the crazy postpartum side effects, let’s talk about how you’re going to recoup from this monumental task of bringing a baby into the world.
Listed below, are 25 boobs to butt tips to help you soothe all those aching body parts and have an optimal postpartum recovery.
1. Try to Have a Natural Birth
Not only are you more likely to have a shorter, easier labor by having a natural birth, but you’re also more likely to have a smoother and quicker postpartum recovery. By avoiding the epidural, you’ll be able to be present right after birth and have better breastfeeding success. You’ll also experience a natural oxytocin high and be able to be up and walking shortly after giving birth.
2. Breastfeed If You Can
Breastfeeding also help speed up postpartum recovery, as it helps shrink your uterus back down to it’s normal size much more quickly than if you were to formula feed. Breastfeeding also decreases your risk for postpartum depression, helps prevent breast and uterine cancer, and can even help you lose the baby weight.
3. Follow the 6 Week Rule
Some moms may want to break the 6 week sex rule, but it’s really best not to. Even if you’re done bleeding, you still have an open wound inside of you where your placenta was.
The chance for infection is extremely high during this time period and just not worth the risk. If you still don’t feel like “doing the deed” when the 6 week mark hits, don’t feel bad.
It’s a big adjustment and can certainly be scary. Plus, you and your partner may just be too exhausted anyways. And, not to mention, breastfeeding can lower your libido.
4. Stock up on Hospital "Freebies"
If you’re having a hospital birth, be sure to stock up on all your postpartum needs that they offer. Anything that is already open, you’re paying for anyways, so be sure to take them home with you.
So, go ahead and grab the huge pads, peri-bottle, witch hazel pads, and those awesome mesh undies.
5. Witch Hazel Is Your Friend
I think the witch hazel pads were my absolute favorite after giving birth to each of my babies. Seriously, total lifesaver!
They help with pain, itching, hemorrhoids, and swelling, and have such a soothing, cooling effect. Simply place 2-3 in a row on top of your pad with each bathroom visit for those first few days (or week) postpartum.
6. Painkillers, Spray, and Ice Packs
Your vaginal area is going to be pretty swollen and tender during the first 24-48 hours after giving birth. Help minimize your discomfort with ice packs, herbal perineal spray, and natural pain meds, such as homeopathic arnica.
If you don’t have the funds or access to these natural remedies, don’t feel bad for taking the ibuprofen or using the Dermoplast spray. Your body has been through a lot!
7. Use the Peri-Bottle
Fill your peri-bottle with warm water and use it to rinse off your perineal area after going to the bathroom. This will help prevent infection and be much more gentle on your private parts than wiping. Be sure to blot lightly with toilet paper to dry.
Using the peri-bottle also helps decrease any burning and stinging you may have while urinating.
8. Positioning When You Poop and Pee
Peeing and pooping postpartum can be scary, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. It’s actually all about position.
If urinating is painful, then try leaning way forward when you pee. I know it sounds weird, but it truly does help tremendously.
If you’re having trouble going #2, then try grabbing a squatty potty. This will help position your body into the natural way we were meant to poop and make it easier for things to pass.
9. Take Some Stool Softeners
10. Accept and Ask for Help
Now is not the time to try to be superwoman. That entire first year is just plain HARD, so don’t be afraid to accept and ask for help.
You’re going to have to let go on how you like things, and learn to accept the way your hubby fills the dishwasher. Let your friends and family take care of the cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping, so you can take care of yourself and bond with your baby.
11. Hire a Postpartum Doula
If you don’t have any friends or family available to help, then I strongly recommend hiring a postpartum doula. This is such a valuable resource even if you do have other help.
A postpartum doula can help with meal prep, warming up your freezer meals, light cleaning, and entertaining your other kids. She can also provide you with local resources, shall you need it, such as a lactation consultant, a postpartum mommy group, or a therapist that is specialized in postpartum disorders. She can help you with basic newborn care and answer all your new mom questions.
12. Make Some Padsicles
I cannot believe I didn’t make these with my first baby. For my second birth, I did make some DIY padsicles, and they were amazing!
All you need to do is grab some heavy flow pads, slather on some aloe vera and alcohol-free witch hazel, wrap them back up, and store them in the freezer in a gallon-sized Ziploc baggie.
Use these throughout the first week postpartum. They will make everything “down there” feel so much better. Plus, they reduce swelling and speed up healing. I stuck with ice and witch hazel pads while I was at the hospital, but used these as soon as I got home.
13. Limit Visitors
Limiting visitors will give you and your baby the time you need to bond and establish a good breastfeeding relationship. I know a lot of people mean well, but sometimes visitors can just be more work and stress than helpful.
Don’t be afraid to kick people out or tell your family not to visit for a certain amount of time after giving birth. You need to recover, figure out this whole breastfeeding thing, and bond as a family.
14. Ease Into Exercise
It’s always best to consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program postpartum, but there are some simple things you could ease into before the 6 week mark, such as easy stretches and short walks.
Light exercise will help reduce your pain, fight fatigue, improve your posture, and regain muscle memory. It can even help heal diastasis recti.
If exercising is painful or your bleeding starts to return, it’s best to back off and try again next week.
15. Do Your Kegels
Restorative pelvic floor exercises, such as kegels, are another type of activity that you can typically do before the 6 week mark. Kegels help get circulation going and speed up healing in the perineum.
Kegels are also vital if you don’t want to have to pee a little every time you laugh or sneeze for the rest of your life. If you’re still having urinary and fecal incontinence after a few months postpartum, I strongly recommend pelvic physical therapy.
16. Grab a Postpartum Recovery Belt
I can’t believe I’m just now starting to use one of these! Postpartum wraps and belts are designed to support you throughout your entire postpartum healing period.
They help restore your body shape, retrain your abdominal muscles, and relieve postpartum back pain. It will help trim down your waistline and bring back the confidence you need postpartum.
17. Use a Heating Pad
Those postpartum cramps can be rough! Especially, if this isn’t your first birth. And, while breastfeeding does help your uterus shrink faster, it can also make the postpartum cramps more painful.
I seriously think the postpartum cramps after baby #2 were way worse than the actual birth itself! But, a heating pad sure did feel nice, and it helped calm down the spasms and ease the pain.
18. Sitz Baths Are Where It's at
Another one of my favorite postpartum recovery tools are sitz baths. Sitz baths help provide relief from tears, hemorrhoids, and perineum pain in general. They’re especially helpful for moms who’ve had an episiotomy.
Take a short sitz bath 2-4 times a day to help speed up healing and keep the area clean. Add Epsom salts or herbal preparations at your discretion (source).
19. Take Care of Your Tatas
Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Your nipples will probably be a little sore while you and your baby try and figure this whole breastfeeding thing out. Apply some coconut oil or nipple butter and use cold soothies gel pads to help ease the pain.
You can also expect your milk to come in full force anywhere from 2-7 days postpartum. When this happens, you’re probably going to experience some engorgement. Lay cold washcloths on your breasts and pump for just a minute or two to get some relief.
20. Wear Loose Clothing
Now’s not the time to be sporting those killer leggings mama. Recover as practical and comfortable as possible with loose sweatpants, a nursing bra or tank, and an oversized V-neck T-shirt. Robes work great as well.
I also recommend having some loose, easy-to-slip-on shoes, as your feet will become swollen as your body begins to expel all that extra fluid that was needed during pregnancy. They may even get bigger than they were while you were expecting.
21. Sleep When You Can
I know this one is tough, and everyone will tell you it, but seriously, sleep when you can. Sleep is essential to both our physical and emotional health.
You may not always be able to sleep when the baby is sleeping, but do try to reprioritize your life in order to get that much needed sleep. Let the laundry go unfolded, don’t try to have every meal be home cooked, get the groceries delivered, and hire out a cleaning service if you have the spare cash. Just get some sleep mama.
22. Focus on Nutrition
Good nutrition will also help keep your emotional health in check and help fight fatigue. It even aids in strengthening your hair, protecting against postpartum hair loss.
Make it a priority to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. Be sure to keep taking your prenatal vitamins if you’re breastfeeding for optimal health for you and your baby.
23. Stay Hydrated
Along with proper nutrition, you also need to make sure you’re staying well hydrated. Staying hydrating will help keep you healthy, keep your milk supply up, and help you pee postpartum.
It will also help make sure your baby stays hydrated through your breast milk. I recommend investing in a large, quality water bottle with a straw to always have handy postpartum.
24. Take Care of Your Mental Health
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between the baby blues and postpartum anxiety/depression those first few weeks, but no matter what, your mental health needs to come first.
By getting rest, staying hydrated, and eating a proper diet, you’ll be supporting your mental health. But, you also need to try and carve out the time to engage in activities that you enjoy. That may be taking a bubble bath, playing some music, scrapbooking, gardening, etc.
25. Give Yourself Grace
Becoming a new mom is hard work, and not everything is going to be picture perfect. Try to set realistic expectations for yourself, and don’t compare yourself or your baby to others.
Your house is probably going to be a little messy, the laundry probably isn’t going to get folded, and not all of your meals will be home cooked. You’ll probably make some mistakes, and you probably won’t enjoy every moment of motherhood. That’s okay! The world will keep on turning, your baby will still love you, and you’ll still be a great mom.
Know the Warning Signs
While the tips above will help you have a smooth postpartum recovery, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear for postpartum complications. Your body goes through some major changes rapidly during those first few weeks, which can bring about some unwanted, and even dangerous, consequences. All moms should know the warning signs of these postpartum complications:
- Infection: Your body is more prone to bacterial growth and infection during those initial weeks postpartum. Common types of postpartum infections include mastitis, endometriosis, urinary tract infections, wounds, and perineal infections. If you’re experiencing fever, chills, foul smelling fluids, breathing problems, and/or frequent nausea and vomiting, be sure to visit your physician as soon as possible (source).
- Postpartum depression and/or anxiety: Postpartum depression and anxiety looks different for everyone, but some common signs include panic attacks, unwanted thoughts, insomnia, anger, loss of interest in activities, and loss of appetite. If you’re concerned about your mood even the slightest bit, it’s best to give your midwife or OB a call.
- Blood clots: Passing small blood clots vaginally for the first week postpartum is pretty normal, but a blood clot inside one of your veins can lead to a stroke and be life-threatening. If you’re experiencing pain, swelling, redness, or warmth in one leg, head to the nearest ER. Other signs of a dangerous clot include shortness of breath, dizziness/fainting, rapid heart rate, and chills.
- Postpartum pre-eclampsia: The risk of pre-eclampsia doesn’t end at birth. You can develop postpartum pre-eclampsia up to 6 weeks after giving birth. Warning signs include blurred vision, headache that doesn’t go away with medicine, swollen face and limbs, sudden weight gain, nausea and vomiting, and stomach pain near your ribs (source).
- Postpartum kidney stones: Our bodies become better equipped at absorbing calcium during pregnancy, which could leave us with postpartum kidney stones after your baby is born. If you’re having extreme pain in your flank, nausea and/or vomiting, painful and frequent urination, or blood in your urine, it’s likely that you’re passing a kidney stone, and you should head to the nearest ER to get your pain controlled and prevent dehydration.
Childbirth is such an amazing and empowering experience. But unfortunately, we’re left with some pretty unpleasant side-effects postpartum. There’s bleeding (lots of bleeding), sore nipples, crazy emotions, little sleep, and a sensitive va-ja-ja.
However, by using the tips mentioned in this post, you can speed up your recovery and make the discomfort a little more manageable. Be sure to prioritize your mental health, nutrition, and sleep and use all of the postpartum resources that are available to you.
Remember, part of taking care of your baby is taking care of yourself!
Did You Find This Post Helpful?
Did these tips and tricks help ease your postpartum adjustment? Share your best recovery advice in the comments below, and be sure to share this post with other moms-to-be.