You’ve probably had medical guidance throughout your pregnancy and discussed every weird and wonderful detail of growing a baby. But has anyone spoken to you about the nitty gritty bits of what happens after the birth?
Very little attention is paid to the reality of postpartum healing. In fact, research indicates that many mothers do not feel prepared for the postpartum experience.1https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10995-013-1297-7
After giving birth, it’s normal to find yourself facing some uncomfortable physical and emotional side effects. Women’s Health found that readers reported vaginal tearing, haemorrhoids, bloating and abdominal pain during postpartum. Yet, 91% never spoke to anyone about these symptoms.2https://www.womenshealthmag.com/uk/health/a29822419/always-discreet-taboo-health-topics/ It’s time to open up and chat about the things no one wants to mention, but everyone needs to know!
So, let’s talk about it…
Here’s what you might experience during your postpartum period, and what you can do to ease discomfort:
- Tenderness or tearing
No one likes to discuss ‘down below’ after giving birth, but if you’ve had a vaginal delivery, it’s probably something you’re thinking about a lot!
Vaginal birth puts enormous pressure on the perineum (the skin and muscle between your vagina and anus) so it’s very common for this area to be swollen or tender afterwards. Your perineum may also tear during childbirth; in fact, 9 out of 10 first-time mums will experience some form of tear or graze.3https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/what-happens/episiotomy-and-perineal-tears/ Rest assured that this is usually less painful than it sounds and there are things you can do to ease discomfort afterwards:
Sitting on a doughnut pillow – a doughnut-shaped pillow with a hole in the centre
‘Sitz’ bath – place the shallow ‘bath’ on your open toilet seat; sit and soak. Bliss! You can add natural herbs to further aid healing.
Ice/cold packs – place on the area for 10-20 minutes at a time.4https://www.webmd.com/baby/how-to-care-for-a-tear-after-childbirth
- Weeing and pooing after birth
We get it – the thought of anything else coming out from down there is scary! And pooping after a C-Section? It may be a nerve-wracking thought after major abdominal surgery. But it’s worse to hold things in – you risk worsening haemorrhoids (a normal side effect of bearing down in delivery) and constipation, making that first bowel movement even more uncomfortable. Take your time and breathe! You can read more about the best posture for pooing here.
Increasing your consumption of lactobacillus (a beneficial bacterial strain our Probiotic Kefir contains) will help alleviate constipation.5https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100602193326.htm Kefir will also support you, both physically and mentally, throughout parenthood. You can read more about how kefir can help here.
Sloshing warm water over the vaginal area while urinating can help reduce stinging and discomfort. I took my first wees in the shower, washing down as I went; game-changer!
- Wetting yourself
Weeing a little when you cough, sneeze or laugh? You’re not alone! It’s estimated that a massive 50% of women may experience postpartum urinary incontinence.6https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/postpartum-health-and-care/loss-of-bladder-control-postpartum-urinary-incontinence/ However, 38% of women said they were self-conscious speaking about the problem with a healthcare professional.7https://www.nct.org.uk/life-parent/your-body-after-birth/10-truths-leaking-urine-pregnancy-and-after-birth You can help by:
Doing pelvic floor exercises – during pregnancy and after birth (OK’d by your midwife/consultant)
Staying hydrated – read more here
- Night sweats
A third of women experience night sweats in their first month postpartum.8https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(13)02967-1/fulltext This is due to hormonal changes and your body’s need to rid of excess fluids. Night sweats usually start to alleviate within a few weeks after giving birth.
You may find it helpful to sleep on a towel, to lessen the need for changing the sheets so often, and to have a cool flannel nearby for strip-washing during the night.
Here are some extra resources that you may find helpful –
If you have any concerns regarding postpartum symptoms, speak to your GP or midwife.
For more information on how to support your physical and mental wellbeing during parenthood, check out 4 ways You Can Support Your Maternal Mental Health 💗
Feel free to get in touch with one of our Nutritional Therapists on live chat, weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm for free advice 🙂