A friend recently reached out to ask what I did to assist my healing after vaginal birth. This conversation got me thinking about how our health care system in Canada gives fantastic information on how to care for our babies but often neglects the care for the mother. We are prepared for the birth itself, but what happens afterwards?? It is disappointing that so many new moms are left to figure out how to take care of themselves during such a vulnerable time. We are already dealing with a huge change in our hormones, sleep deprivation, caring for a newborn baby 24/7, and on top of all that our body is fatigued and in pain from birth. I wanted to share some tools that helped me heal from my two vaginal birth experiences so that others don’t feel as lost as I did at first.
Sitz Baths: First, get yourself some epsom salts and perineal herbs for sitz baths. I got a wonderful nurse during my first birth and she recommended I take a daily, 10-15 minute sitz bath (combine that with a frozen Padsicle right after the bath for 30 minutes for the best healing) for the first 6 weeks. I found this not only helped heal the many stitches I had from my third degree and second degree tears, but also helped those darn hemorrhoids that everyone is so shy to talk about. I don’t know a single mama that had a vaginal birth and didn’t have hemorrhoids afterwards, so take care of them and you!
Stool Softeners: While we’re talking about hemorrhoids, make sure you pick up a stool softener powder to add to a drink every day for at least the first 6 weeks. I used mine the first 3 months with both kids. You’ve already done enough pushing, give your body a break to heal for the first few months.
Pain Relief: My first postpartum experience I wanted to be “tough” and not take pain medication. I stopped taking them 3 days after birth because I just have never liked masking things with Advil/Tylenol. When I played competitive volleyball there was a year that I abused Advil to try to perform better, and ever since then I’ve stayed away from it. This is one of the reasons I had two unmedicated/no epidural births. So on the night of 3 days postpartum, after no pain meds for about 12 hours, the natural uterus cramping that all mamas experience after birth was so intense that I thought I was hemorrhaging and went to Emerg at the hospital. All was well, but I spent an unnecessary 10 hours (from 11pm-9am) in the emergency room with a 3 day old baby because of my stubbornness to not take Advil and Tylenol. So my advice, just take them for a few weeks (the nurse told me they are most effective taken together at the same time). We already have so much to going on with a newborn, why suffer more than we need to?
Nipple Cream: get yourself some nipple cream and use it preventively. Inevitably your nipples are going to get sore from breastfeeding, they just are not used to the strength of a baby latch! So as soon as your baby is born, apply nipple cream (that is safe to digest for baby) after every feed. They will still likely be sore, but this should help prevent dryness/cracking that can often happen. This is the one that I love.
Hydrate: Breastfeeding and healing from birth takes a lot out of you, especially fluids! Make sure you’re hydrating with water at all times otherwise you’ll likely get headaches and have a harder time with milk production. I recomend prepping every feeding/baby rocking station/sleeping station with a full glass/bottle of water (straws are the easiest!) so there’s always water within reach when you feed/get nap-trapped!
Nutrient Dense Foods: Let’s be honest, you won’t be doing much cooking the first few weeks. You might not even have many full meals. It’ll be a lot of snacking when you can and eating while holding a baby. So when you can, try to select snacks and foods that have lots of nutritious value to help you heal. This could be a high protein no additive granola bar such as Larabars, a piece of fruit like a banana, a bowl of oatmeal (which also helps with milk production!), avocado toast with whole great bread, hummus with carrots, homemade muffins (make A LOT and toss half in the freezer for days you don’t have time to make anything) made with pancake batter so you reduce your ingredients/time baking (here’s a Banana one I really liked). And when you order food (which we do a lot on nights we just can’t cook), rotate in a salad bowl place! But some nights you’ll just want pizza and that’s ok too. 🙂
Talk to Someone: find a friend to text at 3am when you are so tired from feeding/changing/rocking your baby that you’re on the verge of tears. I was fortunate to connect with some awesome mamas in my birth class that helped me through the tough days and nights of both births. It was truly life saving for my mental health to have someone to lean on who was going through the same challenges at the same time. Even if you are not that close at the beginning, I promise sharing this journey together will result in the most wonderful friendship, for you and your kids!
I hope these tips help you on your healing journey. Mama if I missed some postpartum tips you’d like to add, please leave them in the comments to help us all. Wishing you and your baby all the love on this journey together. xoxo