You may find yourself just a little bit worse for the wear after your baby pushes its way into the world, but don’t be afraid. In most cases you’ll heal just fine, and there are steps you can take to speed recovery.
When you are giving birth, an entirely new human is coming out of our body! So it shouldn’t surprise you that a vaginal delivery requires your vagina to stretch. After nine months of pregnancy during which you experienced a lot of physical and emotional changes, you are finally blessed with a baby. Congratulations!
You may have delivered your baby by vaginal birth or a C-section –both methods have advantages and disadvantages.
But the “classic” vaginal childbirth causes your body to undergo even more changes. Just as your body needed months to prepare to give birth, it takes time to recover and feel like you did before you were pregnant.
The first few weeks after a vaginal birth are very critical for your body. During this time, your body will try to return to normal and recover from the changes during your pregnancy, labor and delivery.
After vaginal birth, it is important to focus on your healing and taking care of your body as well as your newborn.
Here are the top 10 things about vaginal birth recovery you need to know.
1. Get Proper Rest and Sleep
Looking after a newborn is more than a full-time job, and new mothers often do not give much importance to rest and sleep.
Healing after childbirth takes time and by giving your body proper rest and care, you can speed up the process. Sleep is vital to your overall physical and emotional well-being, and it can also help you handle the responsibilities of new motherhood.
Always remember that poor rest coupled with the responsibilities of a new mother can lead to flare-ups of anxiety and depression. Hence, try your best to take short naps whenever possible.
If needed, get extra support and sleep when your baby sleeps. Ask your partner to help with diaper changing duty at night so that you can get good sleep.
2. Use a Sitz Bath
Afterbirth pain – the cramping you feel as your uterus shrinks back to its regular size – is often unbearable.
However, with vaginal birth, chances are high that there may be extensive tears or episiotomies, which take longer to heal. Plus, these tears are painful, too.
It’s important to keep your stitches clean. Even if you did not get any sutures, the vulva is still likely to be swollen and tender.
To keep the stitches clean and reduce the soreness and tenderness, it is recommended to use a sitz bath. This type of bath will help keep your genital area clean and reduce the soreness to a huge extent.
Try sitting in a sitz bath filled with warm water, three times a day and after bowel movements.
Also, after urinating, pour a little warm water over the genital area to reduce the pain.
You can also soak a maxipad in witch hazel and wear it to help ease pain.
3. Use Ice Packs
One practice is common during hospital births – use of ice packs.
To reduce the swelling or pain around the opening of your vagina, ice packs are very helpful. The coldness from the ice pack helps numb the nerves, which in turn reduces pain and swelling.
- Put water on a sanitary pad and freeze it to use as an ice pack. Let it thaw for a couple of minutes, then wrap the pad in a thin fabric before using it. You can also wear an adult diaper over it to avoid any dripping. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
- You can also wrap a few ice cubes in a towel and place it against the aching area for 5 to 10 minutes. Do this a few times a day.
Note: Never leave an ice pack on for longer than 15 minutes. Also, have a protective layer of fabric between your sensitive skin and the ice pack.
4. Wear Extra Maxi Pads
No matter how you give birth, postpartum bleeding is normal. This type of bleeding is called lochia and can last from 2 to 6 weeks after birth.
Using tampons is not recommended during this time, as they can introduce bacteria into your healing uterus. Instead, wear extra maxi pads and use two at a time, if needed. Extra coverage and protection will help a lot during this time.
To prevent occasional overflow, you can even wear mesh undies. These are readily available in the hospital and are easily disposable.
5. Do Kegel Exercises
For quick recovery after vaginal birth, it’s important to strengthen your pelvic muscles. This will help heal your perineum (the area between your vagina and rectum), which stretches and sometimes tears during vaginal delivery.
Practice Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles after 1 to 2 weeks post-delivery. To do this exercise:
- Squeeze the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine.
- Hold for 10 seconds, then release for 10 seconds.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Do these Kegel sets 2 or 3 times a day.
Apart from Kegel exercises, you can safely do light exercises like walking and stretching within a week.
Note: When exercising, it is important to listen to your body and avoid overdoing it.
6. Take Care of Any Stitches
Not all women need stitches after a vaginal birth, but some may need them.
If you have stitches (most of them are dissolvable), it’s important to keep them clean to prevent infection. Most stitches take up to 3 weeks to heal and will dissolve on their own.
- Use a squirt bottle filled with warm water to clean your bottom after using the washroom.
- Drink enough water to keep your urine diluted. This will make it less painful while urinating.
- Try using an inflatable ring on the toilet to take the pressure off your bottom when you sit.