You've just given birth to this beautiful baby, you're absolutely in love. But you're also exhausted beyond belief. You can hardly walk, you're terrified to poop and your breasts are tender. Welcome to the postpartum period. Nobody mentioned this unglamorous side, you didn't expect this at all. So I'm going to do all first time mums a favour and speak about the unspeakable. I'm going to talk to you about the awkward, painful and challenging aspects of the first few weeks after giving birth (Vaginally), and how best to deal with it.
Your Perineum The first aspect, your vagina/perineum is going to hurt. Obviously, you just gave birth to a human. You may have torn, grazed or even had an episiotomy. At the very least, you're going to be bruised, swollen and tender. Your amazing lady parts are going to need some TLC. Some remedies to help sooth and heal your parts:
1. Postnatal Herbal Bath Tea.
Daily after giving birth have a sitz bath. A herbal sitz bath is a shallow bath (deep enough to cover your hips) with healing ingredients. There are some fantastic herbs with healing, soothing, antibacterial properties available. Sea salt and epsom salts also help to heal the area. Don't fancy sourcing organic herbs and combining yourself? I have premade after baby bath herbs available and reusable bath tea baths.
2.Make padsicles. These little beauties feel amazing and will help reduce swelling and tenderness. Super easy to make, they just require some prior preparation. Here are how I make padsicles.
3. Peri Spray bottle This is a life saver for bathroom trips. Urine has a tendency to sting any cuts/grazes/wounds, and toilet paper may as well be sandpaper. The solution is placing some cool herbal tea (after baby bath tea) and filtered water into a squeezy bottle/spray bottle. After you visit the toilet, simply squirt the solution onto your lady parts to clean any urine and stop the stinging.
Your first bowel movement after birth Pooping is a topic that makes people uncomfortable, despite the fact it's a normal bodily function, we all do it. Never in your life will you be so terrified to go. The mear thought of bearing down again after just pushing out a baby will make you shudder. You may feel like you're about to give birth again, or that your insides are about to fall out. Do not, I repeat, do not resist the urge to go. Don't tense up and let fear stop you from going. If you need to poop, GO! Your insides will not fall out, and you will feel so much better. To make things easier, consider a fibre supplement like metamucil (ensure you're drinking plenty of water with it) or a stool softener like coloxyl. Speak to your midwife too, they will recommend what's best for you. The idea is to stay regular, avoid becoming constipated as this will make bowel movements painful and difficult.
After Birth Pains The second unexpected aspect of the postpartum period is after birth pains. No body mentioned this to me, especially the fact they were painful and felt like labour pains! The pain is actually for a purpose, your uterus is contracting back down to normal size. You may find the pains are much worse when breastfeeding your baby. Personally what helped me was a heat pack, ibuprofen and rest.
Blood Loss Thirdly, expect blood. Alot of blood for a few weeks. Don't be alarmed if your loss turns many shades of red and orange (with the exception that it has no fowl odour, if it does see your Dr/Midwife ASAP). You will need maternity/jumbo pads, lots of them. Atleast 3 packets full. And stock up on black undies in a size larger than you normally wear, or even better mens underwear as they have more space to allow for a pad. You may find your loss (lochia) will slow down, only to increase the next day. This may go on for weeks, although it has usually stopped completely by 6 weeks. Sometimes earlier if you are lucky.
Your belly Your belly is going to look and feel strange. It will look like you're still 6 months pregnant, however will feel soft like jelly. You most likely will feel as if you have no muscle tone or core strength. Your back may even hurt due to the posture shift and adjusting to the weight change. The two most helpful things were seeing a chiropractor after giving birth (and ideally during the pregnancy) and also using a belly binding band. Something that will "hold" your abdomen/pelvis in tight and help to support your belly a bit more. It may also help with abdominal muscle separation.
Your Breasts On about day 2 or 3, your milk will "come in". You will wake up and your breasts will be HUGE, hot and tender. You will look like Dolly Parton. For me it was extremely uncomfortable. Especially trying to deal with latching a newborn and having engorged breasts. Some great remedies include freezing newborn nappies and placing them around your breasts. It feels so amazing, and the nappies are large enough to cover the whole area. Hand expressing can also help to ease the engorgment, as well as feeding your baby frequently. Reverse pressure can also help to move some of the milk away from the nipple so the baby can latch properly. See how to here. Tender nipples are common too (please don't let them get so bad that they are bleeding or cracked, that isn't normal. If your nipples are a funny shape after a feed, look white on the tip or is extremely painful see a lactation consultant. You don't need to struggle alone). Sometimes letting them air out is a fantastic thing to do.
I think that's a wrap for part 1. Hopefully this has helped you prepare a little for the postpartum period.