Postpartum Recovery: Feel Better Faster

It goes without saying that birthing a child in any way involves a fair amount of discomfort, and yes… pain.  Productive pain with a purpose (and a super cute end result)… but still!  I’m a firm believer, though, that the postpartum recovery period can, in many ways, be shortened and made more bearable.  Feel better faster, and get back to yourself, mama!

Ice ~ After delivering a baby, my bottom is swollen and sore.  Sitting is miserable, and one of my favorite things about the 24-hour hospital recovery is easy access to refillable crushed ice packs.  Ice reduces swelling and (slightly) numbs the pain.  When you need to sit, I say sit on some ice!

Keep moving ~We arrived home with our sweet girl at 11:30 Sunday morning after having her at 2:30 Saturday morning.  Once home for a couple of hours (long enough to nurse her and take a nap) I puttered around the garden for a while.  That evening, after getting the other kids to bed, I headed out for a walk.  The neighbors were slightly confused. “Hey!  Didn’t you just have a baby?!” but I simply told them that walking (slowly) felt better than sitting!

When I posted this photo the morning after birth,  a few well-meaning commenters insisted, “You should be the one sitting!”  Um, no thanks.  Ouch!  Unless I’m nursing or holding the baby (with ice on my bottom!) I prefer to stand and move around, thankyouverymuch.

Obviously, I’m not encouraging over-exertion after delivering a baby.  Don’t push yourself to pain, and don’t do anything your doctor tells you not to!  But, if movement feels good, if being up and around is less tiring than sitting, by all means… move!

Rest ~ The obvious.  The elusive.  I know.  It’s important, though, to achieve that balance between moving around to keep the sore muscles loose and feel human, and getting enough rest… to feel human.  There are few things more necessary in those first few days with a new baby home than making time for sleep.  You’re likely not going to sleep more than 3 or so hours at a time for many weeks, so catch those 3 hours when you can!

Take people up on their offers for help, purchase some convenience foods, stock the freezer, let the other children watch a movie… do what you need to do to get some sleep!

Hydrate Yourself ~ After delivery I guzzle the ice water.  Labor is work!  You lose tons of water, and if you’re not hooked up to an IV (yay!) then it’s absolutely vital that you rehydrate right away.  (Yes, I drink water during labor, too, but still.  It’s draining.)  Even without the whole giving birth factor, dehydration tends to make a person feel sluggish, bring on the headaches, cause constipation (something a new mom does not need to deal with!) and generally make life miserable.

Water is my liquid of choice, but it does get old when I drink so much.  Bring on the juice, Emergen-C, and coconut water, too.

Vitamins ~ Don’t stop taking your prenatal vitamins after delivery.  The postpartum period is taxing on the system, and vitamins will provide extra support.

Kegels ~ The mere thought of kegel exercises following delivery gives me the shivers, but I do manage a few a day or two after.  Don’t cause yourself additional pain, but it’s good to get the pelvic floor whipped back into shape when you can.

Keep Clean ~ I’d give up a meal and even some sleep in favor of a shower or bath in those early postpartum days.  I know the newborn daze leaves little time or desire for primping, but don’t skip your daily (or even twice a day) shower.  You’ll feel more human and it won’t be quite so scary to answer the door when the doorbell rings.

Tucks/witch hazel ~ Even before the hemorrhoids attack, I like to have witch hazel pads and wipes handy.  They’re wet and cold, and they almost feel as good as the ice packs.  If you’re a first time expectant mom, know that the hospital will give you a peri-bottle to squirt on your bottom after using the restroom.  Feels good.  Use it.  ;)

Oh, I’m forgetting things.  I know I am!  (And I’m sure there’s more to be said for c-section recovery, which I know nothing about.)  Chime in, moms.  How do you feel better faster in the postpartum period?

Up next:  The Postpartum Dad  (yes, really!)

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Comments

  1. Best tip I ever heard: get gel core maxi pads. Pour 1/4 c witch hazel on on the gel core and store in a gallon-size ziploc in the freezer. Witch hazel and cold and *ahem* absorbtion *ahem* all at once!

  2. Sleep on a beach towel. I had NO idea how much sweat a human body could produce until after my second baby. For about 5 weeks I had to change my jammies in the night and switch out beach towels from SWEAT. Talk about grody to the max!! This cuts down on the workload of changing sheets everyday…or in the middle of the night because the sweat seeps over to hubby’s side…for real.

    • Oh, the sweating. Mine was worst after my second baby. I don’t remember it with baby #1 or #3. This time around I notice it at random times of the day, but not while sleeping. So odd!

  3. For a c-section, it’s pretty similar, yet different. Hydrate, vitamins, probiotics (to counteract those antibiotics you received through IV), and rest, rest, rest! You will need to get moving within 12-24 hours of surgery, at which point you’ll be quite sure that your stomach will fall off, but it won’t. But beyond the initial slow walks down the hospital hallway, once you get home, resting is the way to go. Lay down as much as possible and don’t overdo it. You’ll recover much more quickly if you’ll get lots of rest on the front end. I call it the Pampered Princess routine, and to make it happen, I do freezer cooking ahead of time and rely on friends for help. We have no family in town, so with just our friends helping out, we have had meals 3 times a week since our baby was born on August 1. They’re amazing! Here’s my post on Taking Care of Mama after a baby: http://mamagab.blogspot.com/2012/07/taking-care-of-mama-caring-for-yourself.html

  4. A couple of things…. Meal help is probably the BEST gift we have been given, and it relieves so much stress. An afterpains tincture and Ca/Mg liquid supplement for afterpains. Placenta medicine for afterpains and mood/energy. A lying-in for two weeks to rest and recover. There are so many wonderful things that can make a birth recovery better!

  5. this is such a well timed post for me–first time mom who delivered last Saturday. Yippee for my natural unmedicated birth which I think has made my recovery process easier! I love your prospective on walking I had been avoiding taking a walk outside with the hubby and puttering around trying to get stuff done in the house but I think we will take a short and slow walk tonight to show off our baby girl!

  6. In addition to the soreness, swelling, tearing, etc. I think the afterpains are pretty painful, definitely worse with this baby than with my first one. I’ll take Ibuprofen sometimes, but I find the most helpful thing is a heating pad (I have one filled with rice that I microwave).

  7. I am so excited to save my placenta and encapsulate it! This is my third baby, due beginning of October, and I read about drying, powderizing, and encapsulating the placenta in order to take advantage of its healing properties–with all its hormones (specific to my body, I might add!) and such. I just wonder if I had done this after my second baby I could have avoided my “health meltdown” and dizzy spells and thyroid quitting. Anyway, I hope this will be a successful postpartum recovery tool.

    • I’ve heard of that online just a few times. NO ONE around here has mentioned it, so of course it’s an “out there” notion. Let me know if it helps you!

  8. C Section recovery, the best thing ever was wearing an abdominal belt soon after you get up the first time in the hospital, then continue to wear it more often than not the first 10 days or so after baby comes. Made getting out of bed, standing up, moving around SOOOO much easier. Wish I had been given one after my first c section.

    • Stephanie says:

      Totally agree! Did not wear it with my first and I felt like my guts where falling out with every step, not to mention when I tried to get in and out of bed. I wore it faithfully for a week or two after my second and it made a world of difference!

  9. My little one is almost 8 months old but there are days where I still struggle to sit for long periods of time! I’m so glad that we can talk about this. I love the advice of sleeping on a beach towel. I wish I’d thought of that during those early weeks of sweating, leaking, etc! Witch hazel is amazing. I also enjoy a lukewarm bath with epsom salts, high-fiber foods, and lots of protein. Drinking lots of water is essential for breast feeding as well – it’s amazing how much energy that takes!

    Great advice about walking around as well. I did that too. The moby wrap was fantastic because I could keep my little one snuggly and we could both get fresh air on a slow walk around the neighborhood.

  10. I had an emergency c and my nurses didn’t let me get up and start walking for 24 hours which was a bad idea! 12 hours or so after delivery I sat up in bed and put my feet on the ground and stood up for a minute and while it was painful it also felt really good to stretch out and not be confined to the bed anymore! My best advice is within 12 hours of the c to at least sit up {with the help of the nurses/your husband of course} and at least stand for a minute. Getting blood flowing and moving around {slowly and carefully at first} is probably one of the best ways to jumpstart the recovery process! Drinking water, like others have said, is also extremely helpful!

    We only had two people bring us a meal in the first three weeks, so we had to take care of our meals and once my husband went back to work it was on me so I didn’t have a choice but to get moving pretty quickly. But the two times we did get meals we were both so thankful and so relieved!

  11. Courtney B says:

    The sitz (sp?) bath! It was a lifesaver those first couple of weeks. I had a 2nd degree tear and hemorrhoids and really warm water with salt added a couple of times a day (or more at the beginning) was SO helpful!

    Also witch hazel, I 2nd was amazing! I poured it onto a thick pad and froze the pads and then used them. Instant soothing!

  12. In addition to ice packs, pain medication, and witch hazel pads, they also gave me a can of Dermoplast spray, a pain relieving/numbing spray for “down there.” It helped immensely!! I am due with my 2nd in a week, and I think I’m more nervous than ever!

    • I was more nervous with my second too! I always wondered it’s because I somewhat knew what to expect, whereas with my first, I didn’t.

    • I had Dermaplast after my first delivery (hello 3rd degree tear and about a bajillion stitches!) and it was great. Not only did it numb the painful parts but it was nice and cool. I just had my second last Thursday and it was an entirely different experience. I was super nervous after my loooong and difficult delivery with #1 because while I had done it before I didn’t really know what to expect.

      • Congrats on your new baby! So, was it “easier” the second time?

        • Thanks! Yes, it was a lot easier. I had a medicated birth with both but the first was med-free for the first 56 hours (no, that’s not a typo) and then I got the drugs and pain meds. It took another 14 hours after that for my son to be born. This time I had to be induced because I had gestational diabetes so I opted for the epidural and I was only in labor for 11 hours with 30 min of pushing. I think it helped that my epidural was MUCH better this time (even coverage, I could move my legs and feet and I had enough sensation that I knew when to push). I also had a great midwife who was familiar with my first delivery and the problems I had. She did everything she could to make this one better. I still had a 2nd degree tear but I was up walking around within a couple of hours and sitting cross-legged in my bed later that night.

          The best thing I could have done was to have an honest conversation with my midwife about the aspects of labor and recovery that I was nervous about.

      • I feel like a fool. The nurse handed me a can of Dermaplast this time. I had never used it. I read the can and thought it might hurt me, so I left it alone. Rats! Might have felt good…

    • They gave me Dermaplast this time around and I was scared to use it. LOL Now I know better.

  13. I agree with moving around. I didn’t do that with my first (I didn’t know any better, no one had told me). I expected recovery after my 2nd to be even worse than my first, since he was over 2.5 lbs bigger than she was. To my surprise I felt almost back to normal right away. Looking back, it was probably because I was also chasing an 18 month old around at the time and there just wasn’t any time to sit!

    • Exactly! I slept with my baby all day every day for weeks the first go around… and I was still tired. Now I know to rest when I need it, but get moving when I can.

  14. I only had one baby- she just turned 13. The memory of the pain fades with time and all you remember is that you have this amazing kid! I wish someone had warned me not to used perfumed soap “down there” while you’re still sore, and for quite a while afterward. It REALLY stings…

  15. Sitz baths! Both in the hospital, as often as I could, and once I got home (they gave me a take home version to sit on the toilet and do). The warm water feels awesome.

  16. Ditto to the ice packs (and everything else, actually!). My 3rd (almost 4th) degree tear made moving around very difficult for the first week or so, but I still did get up and move some. I sat on a folded quilt at mealtimes for about 3 weeks, and that helped a lot as well. For the first few days, when it literally took minutes for me to get off the couch without hurting, I had to swallow my pride and ask people to bring me almost everything, including my hubby getting the baby for me in the night. I hated that, because I felt like, “I’m an adult! I can do things myself!” But don’t overdo it, especially while stitches are healing.

    And the most important thing to me was not to give myself a hard time for whatever expectations I may or may not have been living up to. Enjoy the new-baby moments and banish those bad thoughts! :)

  17. My first delivery was a tough one with 4 plus serious tearing…. but since it was my first I didnt know any different. Just like the other moms said ice is your friend. A nurse also told me to help take the pressure off my bottom to sit on a kids swimming pool ring. I now have 2. One to sit on while nursing or eating and another to use in the bathtub. As you heal let a little air out each day. Also I always sign up for those free adult disposeable under wear samples. These can be worn and disposed the days following delivery and your nicer underwear will not be compromised :) Last but not least the memory of the pain fades, I am now expecting baby #6!

  18. I’ve had 4 C-sections, and learned a little more with each one. I wish post-partum nurses were trained to tell C-section patients some very specific things: 1. When you start walking around, stand up straight! It feels sooooo good to hunch over because your abdominal muscles KILL. But the longer you walk around hunched over, the more painful your back will become, and the harder it will be to re-stretch out those ab muscles and stand up straight a few weeks later! Your ab muscles will scream at you, but keep standing up straight. 2. Load up on the stool softener. That first BM is no fun (remember, your ab muscles don’t really help when you push!), but it’s easier if it’s softer. TMI? No such thing when you’re postpartum :) 3. Sleep on the couch or another low surface the first few days home. It’s much easier to get in and out of “bed”. 4. Move around (easy walks) but don’t overdo it by lifting too much. Your recovery will take longer if you try to do too much too soon.

  19. Be careful to watch your lochia output when you are up moving around. There is a big difference with gravity and the loose ligament muscles that the heavy ball of muscle that is your uterus, is hanging on those first 10 days especially and while move if you have to, but make sure you spend a lot of time reducing the effects of gravity!

  20. I also had some of these tips in my post about what to expect after delivery ( http://lifes-greatest-blessings.blogspot.com/2013/01/what-to-expect-recovering-from-labor.html ) … but you covered a lot that I missed! Thank you! Great post! :)

  21. I can’t remember now if I slept on a towel or not, but I did grab a few cloth diapers and put them under my breasts as I slept, during the days when they were a little leaky.

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