It’s no secret that giving birth to a baby is tough on the body. However, there are a few things about recovering from giving birth that not many people want to talk about. There are a few things I wish someone had told me about postpartum recovery. I would have been better prepared for what to expect and I wouldn’t have felt so alone in what I was experiencing.
Here are 3 things I wish I had known before giving birth about postpartum recovery.
1. Perineum Recovery Care
If you deliver your baby vaginally, you may experience some trauma to your perineum. According to this article, 9 out of 10 first-time mothers who have a vaginal birth will experience some sort of tear to their perineal area. Don’t worry, most tears or abrasions are small and can heal on their own. There are different types and severity of tears, and it is important to understand how to care for your perineum after your baby is born. I personally had second-degree tears requiring stitches with both of my vaginal births. As a first-time mom, I did not know much about how to care for my perineum postpartum. I was extremely grateful for my wonderful postpartum care nurse at the hospital who took the time to teach me the proper care for tears requiring stitches and gave me tips on how to ensure quick healing.
Here are a few tips to encourage smooth and quick perineum healing. First, going to the bathroom will take extra time. I had a routine every time I went to the bathroom for the first couple of weeks following giving birth! Here is my postpartum perineum care bathroom protocol:
Pee while spraying the area with room temperature-warm water in a peri bottle. This will help reduce any burning, especially if you have stitches. Spray more water after peeing to clean the area since you won’t be able to wipe until the area has healed. Spray the perineal area with a perineal healing spray with natural, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties, then spray the area with a numbing spray if you are experiencing pain or discomfort. Add Witch Hazel pads to a new, clean pad or mesh/disposable underwear to help reduce inflammation, soothe discomfort, and heal your wounds and tears. This protocol will speed up the healing process and make you feel more comfortable during your recovery time.
Second, try doing a sitz bath every day to help encourage healing and offer relief from discomfort. Sitz baths are where you soak your tender parts in a few inches of water rather than submerging your whole body in water. You should ask for approval from your doctor or nurse before you leave the hospital just to make sure sitz baths are safe for you. You can do a sitz bath in your bathtub or use a sitz bath basin placed on your toilet. I preferred using the sitz bath on the toilet because it was easier to sit and stand up. I was very sore after giving birth and the sitz bath gave me immediate relief. I preferred using warm water in my sitz bath but some people prefer cold water so figure out what is comfortable for you. You can also add fragrance-free Epsom salts, essential oils, or herbal sitz bath add-ins for additional healing and pain relief benefits.
2. Breastfeeding is Hard
Although breastfeeding is a natural process your body is designed to do, it does not necessarily come naturally to you or your baby. It is a skill to be learned and practiced. It is easy to feel defeated if you struggle with breastfeeding at the beginning. I want to encourage you that if you persevere and get help when needed, it will get easier and become effortless! Breastfeeding is such a beautiful bonding experience for mama and baby, and the more you prepare, the more likely you are to succeed!
I struggled with breastfeeding as a first-time mom. It was painful, awkward, and uncomfortable. My nipples cracked and bled. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and I dreaded every time my baby wanted to eat again. I kept thinking to myself, “this should be easy, right? Every other mom seems to be able to breastfeed just fine.” Thankfully, I was able to seek help from the hospital lactation consultant and fellow breastfeeding moms. After a couple of weeks, I was able to breastfeed my baby without pain or anxiety. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t assume it comes easy to everyone.
I would encourage you to take a breastfeeding course while in your third trimester. There are quite a few online options out there to choose from. Also, invest in comfortable nursing bras and breastfeeding essentials from Momcozy. Being prepared can help set you up for breastfeeding success!
If your breastfeeding journey comes to an end sooner than you imagined, it’s okay and you are not alone. The ability to breastfeed or the length of your breastfeeding journey does not define your worth as a mother. You will figure out what works best for you and your family!
3. Nights Can Feel Lonely
While pregnant, you probably got some comment from a friend or even a stranger at the grocery store, “sleep now because you’ll never sleep again!” I don’t know about you but I always felt like those types of comments were far from helpful. It’s true that you will most likely struggle to feel adequately rested every day and you will have to wake up throughout the night with your baby. I wish people would instead offer practical advice, experiences, or encouragement. The first few weeks of nights with your newborn can feel really lonely. It can feel like you are the only person awake in the middle of the night as you try to rock your sweet new baby back to sleep. When my babies were newborns, I would dread the nighttime. I would start to feel anxious and a pit would form in my stomach. It wasn’t until my babies were older that I read someone compares the feeling to homesickness and to me, that’s exactly what it felt like.
My advice to new parents would be to share these feelings with their partner. At first, I would feel bad waking my husband up in the middle of the night because I felt like it wasn’t necessary. My baby just wanted to nurse and go back to sleep but I couldn’t help but feel lonely and wonder how long I’d be able to sleep until the next time my baby woke up. Once I shared my feelings of loneliness about the night wakings, my husband would wake up with me and sit with me as I fed our baby so I didn’t feel so alone.
I would also recommend connecting with other moms who also have newborns. Chances are your mom friends will also be waking up in the middle of the night to care for their baby. With my second baby, I had a couple of mom friends who also had newborns and we would text each other in the middle of the night just to check in with each other or send an encouraging message. This was extremely helpful for my mental health. Knowing there were other moms experiencing the same things as me made the nights feel much less lonely.
If you are a new parent about to give birth, I hope this information doesn’t scare you but rather prepares you for what is to come. With more education, you will feel better prepared and equipped to handle these things, and most importantly, you will know you are not alone in your postpartum recovery journey. We are here for you and cheering you on. You’ve got this, mama!
Perineal Tears During Childbirth article