The moment a baby is born, a mother is born too. So don’t forget to take care of yourself, new mom. Here are some postnatal care tips you should keep in mind.
In this article, you’ll read:
- Postnatal care for normal and cesarean delivery
- Normal delivery recovery time
- Post cesarean recovery
- When can I start doing household work after delivery?
Congratulations, Mom! You’ve just spent the last nine months growing, carrying, and delivering the tiny bundle of joy that you find squirming in your arms, and now you’re ready to start the wonderful journey of motherhood. We’re sure you did everything you could to ensure that the little one would have everything they need to start their new life right.
Now that they’re here, all your time and energy for the next few weeks are going to be focused on them, right?
Well, Mom, don’t forget about you. Taking good care of yourself postpartum is as important as caring for your baby. Childbirth is beautiful, but it’s also a traumatic experience for a woman’s body. We’re going to give you a run-down on what to expect and what you’ll need to give yourself some TLC after all your hard work.
Normal delivery – going the natural route
Whether you opt for a natural delivery or a cesarean, your body will have some wound healing to do. If you deliver vaginally, much of the concern is about keeping it intact “down there,” especially if you have any vaginal stitches after birth.
How many stitches in a normal delivery?
Having a baby out of your vagina is no joke. For most women, the delivery will most likely take a toll and do some damage to their vaginal area.
Doctors will either make an incision to your perineum to prevent it from tearing, and this cut is called an episiotomy, or you may have natural tears as a result of labor.
But according to Dr. Maureen Laranang, an OB-Gynecologist from the Makati Medical Center, not all mothers get stitches from a normal delivery. Some would need stitches to close the episiotomy, while some have it to have torn skin repaired.
Congratulations on your little bundle of joy! Now, sit back and take care of yoursel
Do they hurt? And what is the normal delivery stitches recovery time?
If you have vaginal tears that need repairing, the stitching is usually done in the delivery room and using a local anesthetic, so the procedure itself would not be painful.
However, you may feel some pain or soreness after giving birth, particularly when walking or sitting. As for the normal recovery stitches healing time, the wound usually heals within a few weeks of birth and the stitches will eventually dissolve. However, if you tear badly during labor, healing may take up to a month or more.
1. Postnatal wound care
But regardless is you have vaginal stitching or not, Dr. Laranang says that it’s still important to maintain proper hygiene in that area. Dr. Maricar Casimiro-Sy, the former Chief Resident of Makati Medical Center’s Department of Obstetrics, says,
“It is important to keep the wound clean with water after using the toilet and to keep the area dry.”
Here are some tips when it comes to cleaning and taking care of your wound and the vaginal area after giving birth:
- When having a bowel movement, you may support the perineum site by pressing on the stitches with a clean pad of toilet paper and avoiding straining too hard.
- Always wipe from front to back to keep from transferring germs to the wound. Aside from keeping the wound sanitary, you will want to avoid putting pressure on the site.
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time by lying on your side or taking slow walks.
Normal delivery stitches infection – when to call the doctor
According to Dr. Laranang, one of the reasons that warrant a visit to your OB-GYN is when the normal delivery stitches have opened. How will you know?
“You’ll feel it because when you wash your vagina, you will feel that there is a gap. You can also check by looking at it in the mirror and see if there is an opening. If that’s the case, go to your OB right away so she can recheck,” she explained in Filipino.
Also, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor about your wound if your stitches become painful, give off a foul odor, or if your wound does not heal.
For moms recovering from a c-section, avoid resting your baby on your wound when breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
The big C
If you choose to have a C-section—or if circumstances push you into one, we know it happens—then you will need to deal with the incision site.
Dr. Lora Tansengco, an OB-Gat St. Luke’s Medical Center, says that recovery after a C-section can be more difficult because of this deep slice through many layers of tissue into your abdomen and uterus.
What is the c-section recovery timeline?
As the cesarean section delivery is considered a major operation, it is expected that the healing of the wound and recovery will take longer than with normal delivery.
“Our patients are usually admitted for 48 to 72 hours for observation. If there are no complication, we have them discharged. Within a week, we expect their incision to dry up and the would to heal completely within 6 weeks,” said Dr. Laranang.
2. Postnatal wound care for CS moms
Like in a normal delivery, it’s very important to care for the wound properly to prevent any infection. Here are some ways to make sure that your CS wound will heal quickly:
- Just like any wound, you should keep the incision area clean. If your doctor leaves tape on the site when you are discharged from the hospital, try not to remove it until it falls off on its own.
- Clean the wound by letting warm, soapy water drip over it in the shower, and don’t rub the wound to keep from irritating it.
- Resist the urge to scratch your wound (even if it’s itchy) to prevent infection.
- While most doctors prescribe an antibiotic to keep the site from getting infected, if you find that the area around the incision is unusually warm and red, is leaking discharge, or is more painful than normal, call your doctor right away.
- Doctors also recommend a belly binder for additional support in the incision site.
- It should take between four to six weeks for your incision to heal, and in that time you’ll need to take special care to keep the wound from splitting. Hold your abdomen when making any sudden movements like laughing or coughing, and avoid resting your baby on your wound when breastfeeding.
- You can try using the “football hold” when feeding your baby—which is where you hold your baby at your side with your elbows bent and your baby’s head resting in your open hand while their backrests along your forearm—or you can lie on your side in bed while you breast-feed.
Aside from wound care, mothers should take extra care to get their bodies moving after the first 24 hours after C-section surgery. We know, you’re probably in a lot of pain, and sleeping all day with your baby in your arms sounds so sweet, but Dra. Tansengco tells us,
“Complications from prolonged immobilization and bed rest can arise if the mother refuses to ambulate early.”
Moreover, take your recovery in stride. Don’t expect to be up and about for at least a month. You can take your C-section recovery week by week – with you feeling stronger every week, until your body gets back to its normal, pre-CS state.
While you’re recovering, you should also be careful not to put so much stress on your body, as you are still susceptible to complications.
3. Postnatal care: common complications you don’t want to come across
1. Be careful of blood clots
Whether you have a vaginal delivery or a C-section, expect there to be a lot of blood. Dr. Tansengco says,
“Childbirth is always very bloody. Blood loss in cesarean deliveries averages one liter while in vaginal deliveries it is half a liter.”
You will also have a heavy flow of blood for the first few days after you give birth.
Then, a vaginal discharge called lochia can last for a few weeks after delivery. While it is just like having a heavy period for a longer amount of time, it’s good to monitor your flow to catch any problems. Watch for blood clots or a strange smell in your discharge and report these to your doctor.
Blood clots may form and lead to a pulmonary embolism. So moving around (slowly but surely) will be good for you because it gets your blood flowing, which can then deliver nutrients to parts of your body that need it most.
Also, mommies should drink a lot of water during this time to replace the fluids lost during delivery and through this heavy flow. You will likely experience contractions or “afterpains” for a few days after delivery.
It’s your body’s way of compressing the blood vessels in your uterus to bring them back to normal and ease the bleeding, but if the contractions become unbearable don’t hesitate to take painkillers. Being able to rest in comfort is important for recovery.
If you experience random leakage wear sanitary napkins in the meantime.
2. Trouble with urination
All the excitement going on down there during delivery can bruise or damage your bladder and urethra. This can result in either difficulty with peeing, or the inability to control it.
If you experience pain when urinating, try pouring warm water across your vulva while on the toilet. If you experience incontinence or random leakage, you will simply have to wait while your tissues recover and wear sanitary napkins in the meantime.
Incontinence should resolve itself in about three months, but Dr. Casimiro-Sy tells us that doing Kegel exercises will help tighten your pelvic muscle and address this problem.
If you’re one of the lucky moms who didn’t develop hemorrhoids during pregnancy, just wait because these can also appear after delivery. All the bearing down during labor can cause veins in the anus and lower rectum to swell and stretch, making it very painful to do a number two.
If you’re still having a lot of trouble with your bowel movement, your doctor can prescribe a stool softener to help you with it in the meantime.
4. Getting back to normal
It’s tough to imagine life ever going back to normal with the round-the-clock care that newborns demand, but Dr. Tansengco says that the mother’s body usually goes back to its non-pregnant state six weeks postpartum.
This means that if you led an active life before going into labor, you can probably start getting back to your normal exercise routine after six weeks.
But it doesn’t mean you should be a couch potato before those six weeks are up. Dr. Casimiro-Sy says that mothers can start light exercises as soon as they feel up to it and can increase the intensity over time to a level they are comfortable with as long as they don’t push too hard before six weeks of recovery.
Mothers who underwent C-sections will have to deal with a slightly longer recovery period of eight weeks. But light exercise and walking are even more important after caesareans to prevent abdominal adhesions—this is when internal scar tissue builds up, causing your organs to stick to the tissue they wouldn’t normally be connected to.
When can I start doing household work after delivery?
As Dr. Laranang said, it will take about a week for a new mom to recover from the delivery. So on your follow-up checkup a week after giving birth, it’s best to ask your doctor if you can go back to your normal routine. If there are no complications and your wound (whether vaginal or CS) has healed, she will probably give you the go signal.
If you had a vaginal delivery, you can probably go back to doing some house chores, except for the heavy lifting. You should also stick with light, aerobic exercises for at least three months postpartum.
“For those who had a normal delivery, we advise them to refrain from carrying heavy objects, as they just gave birth and are still recovering. Heavy exercises are also not advisable yet,” said Dr. Laranang.
For CS moms, your doctor will probably advise you to take it easy for a few more weeks. The heaviest you should be carrying is your newborn, and even then, it’s best to do it while sitting.
Just had a baby? Here’s what to expect on your first month after giving birth
Just gave birth via CS? Here are some tips to recover after a C-Section
Postpartum must-haves: 7 items you absolutely need after giving birth
5. How can your partner help with postnatal care?
Though many of these complications can feel private and embarrassing, and you will probably be performing these after-care rituals on yourself, it’s still very important for new dads to be involved in their wives’ postnatal recovery.
“Giving birth can be stressful physically, mentally and emotionally. Therefore, support from the father is important,” says Dr. Casimiro-Sy.
Mothers can be very fragile due to the physical battering, and fluctuating hormones can do a number on even the strongest mom’s emotional state.
It’s important for fathers to provide support by helping with the physical tasks of caring for moms and their new babies—lifting the baby while mom’s stitches heal, watching the baby while mom takes recovery time for herself, changing diapers, etc.—but emotional support is equally important.
Fathers should also keep an eye out for any signs of postpartum depression. While baby blues are normal, if a mother experiences a depression that only worsens with time or seems to last longer than a couple of weeks, it’s important to contact your doctor who can then provide professional help.
How about sex?
According to Dr. Laranang, there is no exact specified time for a mom to start being sexually active again. However, it is based on the woman’s comfort. Before she’s ready, she should have already recovered – physically, mentally and even emotionally.
“There’s no specified time when you can have sexual intercourse again, as it is based on the mom’s comfort and desire. She should be comfortable enough – no more pain or bleeding down there, and the wounds should be completely healed,” she said.
The doctor also advises husbands to be more understanding of their wives in this area. So dads, let mommy focus on your newborn and postnatal care first, okay? Communicating their needs is very important to couples who are also new parents.
6. Mommy Care Kit
Image from Frida Mom
All this recovering sounds like a lot of work to do on top of caring for a newborn, and it is. So here is a list of after-care essentials you can buy ahead to have ready for when you get home.
If you find yourself in need, you’ll be so happy these are already at hand without making a trip to the store.
1. Sanitary pads
We’ve already mentioned all the bleeding, vaginal discharge and incontinence you may have to deal with, so having an ample supply of super-absorbent sanitary pads at home will ease your mind.
2. Squeeze bottle
If your home toilet isn’t equipped with a bidet, having one of these around will be key to cleansing after a vaginal delivery. It might seem funny to have something you associate with mustard or ketchup in your bathroom, but a squeeze bottle will help direct water in a steady stream to hard-to-reach areas without irritating them. Wash this bottle daily when you start using it to keep it sanitary.
3. A small basin or Sitz bath
This can help ease the pain of your episiotomy, or hemorrhoids if you develop them. When soreness becomes an issue, mothers can set a basin filled with a few inches of warm water over the toilet and sit in it for a few minutes.
4. Witch hazel pads
If you can’t get your hands on pre-packaged witch hazel pads, fill a small, resealable container with cotton pads and pour in enough witch hazel to soak all of them. These are very useful for soothing and cooling itchy stitches, vaginal soreness or hemorrhoids. Press them against the site or leave a pad rolled up on your sanitary napkin to keep it in place for a longer period of time.
5. Gentle, unscented liquid soap
You might think you can use any old soap at home, but fragrances, antibacterial compounds or other unnecessary ingredients in most soaps may irritate your incision or episiotomy. Choose a pure Castile or glycerine soap or ask your obstetrician for recommendations.
6. Ice packs and cold compresses
Sitting on an ice pack can help ease soreness around your perineum. Cold compresses can help the same soreness but can also be used to soothe nipples sore from breastfeeding.
To cut down on work later, gather as many washcloths as you can, soak them in water, put them each in individual Ziploc bags then throw them in the freezer. This way you’ll have a compress ready and waiting each time you need it.
7. Nutritious food
Stock up on healthy and nutritious food as the delivery date draws closer. New parents won’t have too much time to think about preparing meals so you should plan how to stock your pantry before the baby comes.
It’s important to eat well after delivery because the right nutrients speed up wound healing and give you the energy you’ll need to care for your child in very little sleep.
The fiber in your diet will also help you avoid constipation, which can hurt your episiotomy or C-section incision if you have trouble going to the bathroom.
Also, don’t forget that you’re eating for two, and you’ll want to pass on lots of vitamins and minerals to your baby through your breast milk. All in all, make sure you eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables to help your body do the work it needs to.
It’s important to eat well after delivery because the right nutrients speed up healing.
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