This week on the blog, Anisah and Nyree from Mum Bub Hub share their tips for healing and postnatal recovery.
You know we’ll always keep it real with you – if you had a vaginal delivery, your perineum and rectum may feel wounded, sore and in need of some serious TLC during your postpartum recovery. The severity of the after-effects will depend mostly on your birth experience. A longer postpartum recovery should be expected if you pushed for several hours, experienced tearing and received stitches. Expect a shorter postpartum recovery if you’ve pushed for a shorter time with slight grazing and your perineum intact. And if you’ve had a caesarean you may still be pretty sore down there if you’ve had to do some pushing beforehand.
Regardless of your birth experience, your postpartum recovery can be a tough time. The beautiful strength we demonstrate by pushing a human out of our own bodies can cause degrees of pain. There may be a discomfort to some degree and simple things you may have taken for granted (like taking a pee) will seem really daunting.
Expect heavy blood loss, especially in the first few weeks, add sleep deprivation to the mix and sore nipples from nursing…and it can be a long road to recovery. So with all that said, here’s a quick guide with some tips that we wished we’d known about. What to expect during your postpartum recovery.
Perineal swelling and soreness
Swelling and soreness of the perineum (the area including your vagina and anus) is all part of the deal for postpartum recovery after a vaginal delivery. This is because there is a huge increase in blood flow and fluid in the area. Not to mention that the perineum stretches to its maximum during labour and delivery, especially as we bear down to accommodate our baby.
So even if you do not experience tearing, or have any visible signs of damage to the perineum you may still feel some discomfort. Tearing or having an episiotomy can also lead to greater blood flow and swelling. To reduce any inflammation and soreness, soaking in a sitz bath can really help to ease any discomfort. You could use some herbs or essential oils or look for a soak that contains them.
The good news is that the pain reduces gradually as time progresses and the more you rest. In 4 to 6 weeks your perineum should have healed and felt more comfortable although it may be longer if you experienced severe tearing. Stitches from vaginal tearing or an episiotomy will be sore at first and perhaps a little tight and itchy, and usually dissolve within 7 to 10 days.
Using the toilet after giving birth
The tissue surrounding your bladder and urethra may be swollen or bruised, which can make peeing really uncomfortable for the first few days/weeks. The ‘first pee’ is often met with such fear as you don’t expect your vagina to do any further work so soon! As a heads up, if you experience grazing or tears, there may be a stinging sensation due to the acidic nature of urine. Squirting warm water over the perineum whilst urinating may ease the pain by diluting the urine. It should take the edge off, and most importantly staying well hydrated.
It’s not uncommon to experience a blockage, by that we are referring to constipation. Constipation can be caused if you’ve been taking iron supplements or not drinking enough fluids and become dehydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat high-fibre foods, and let your doctor know if you haven’t had a bowel movement in two to three days. Having some stool softeners handy isn’t a bad idea either. And that breathing you have been learning in your antenatal classes can come in really handy when you need to give birth to your first post-baby poo!
Such a pain in the a***!
Even if you managed to avoid haemorrhoids during pregnancy, the strain of pushing during delivery may lead to a swollen vein in or around the anus. Haemorrhoids can be itchy and painful but should shrink within six weeks after birth (although they may never completely go away). Try a sitz bath to soothe any itching or discomfort, and a cooling perineal balm to soothe any undesirable symptoms. Speak to your doctor if the symptoms persist and continue to be a pain!
You will have postpartum bleeding after birth. This is called lochia and it contains blood, mucus, and uterine tissue, and can last up to six weeks after delivery. It’s normal to have a heavy flow of bright red blood at the beginning that can be like a really heavy period and you will need an abundance of super absorbent maternity pads or pants. Let your doctor know if you’re soaking through more than a pad an hour or passing blood clots bigger than the size of a plum tomato. The discharge will gradually taper off and can vary in colour, from red, pink, brown, yellow to white. There might be a slight odour, but it shouldn’t be foul-smelling if you start noticing an unusual scent or a fever call your GP immediately as these may be signs of an infection.
Your pelvic floor
Taking up your pelvic floor exercises again can also help you to heal and rebuild the muscles after birth to help prevent postnatal incontinence. As a rule of thumb, if birth has been straightforward then a few days after the birth (or as soon as you feel ready) is safe to start again. Always check in with your midwives to see what they suggest. It sounds crazy but you can actually start just THINKING about toning the muscle to get results. It fires up the neurons in the brain and this is the kind of technique that they use in sports psychology. So if you don’t feel ready (or simply can’t feel much down there) then this is something to consider.
Mum Bub Hub are an East London Social Enterprise and they hand-made natural products are designed for the areas that matter most. Their products help new mums to heal, rest and recover in the postpartum period.