The following tips can help you to speed up your postpartum recovery:
- Help your perineum heal. Ice your perineum every couple of hours for the first 24 hours post-birth. Spray warm water over the area before and after peeing to keep urine from irritating torn skin. Try warm sitz baths for 20 minutes a few times a day to ease pain. Aim to avoid long periods of standing or sitting, and sleep on your side.
- Care for your C-section scar. Gently clean your C-section incision with soap and water once a day. Dry with a clean towel, then apply antibiotic ointment. Avoid carrying most things (besides your baby), and hold off on vigorous exercise until you get the OK from your doctor.
- Ease aches and pains. If you’re achy from pushing, take acetaminophen. Ease overall achiness with hot showers or a heating pad — or even treat yourself to a massage.
- Stay regular. Your first postpartum bowel movement can take time, but don’t force things. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods (whole grains, fruits, veggies), go for walks, and use gentle stool softeners to get and stay regular. Avoid straining, which isn’t good for perineal tears or your C-section scar, if you have either.
- Do your Kegels. There’s no better way to get your vagina back in shape, make sex more enjoyable for you and your partner, and resolve postpartum urinary incontinence — no matter how you delivered. So get started with postpartum Kegel exercises as soon as you’re comfortably able, and aim for three sets of 20 every day.
- Be kind to your breasts. For achy breasts, try using a warm compress or ice packs and gentle massage. Also be sure to wear a comfortable nursing bra. If you’re breastfeeding, let your breasts air out after every nursing session and apply a lanolin cream to prevent or treat cracked nipples.
- Keep your doctor appointments. Checking in with your doctor is essential, since it helps ensure that everything is healing as expected. Your OB/GYN can also check in with you emotionally and, if necessary, suggest how to get help to adjust to being a new mom. If you had a C-section, be sure to make your appointment to remove your stitches, as leaving them in for too long can make scars look worse. And of course definitely let your doctor know if you have any symptoms that concern you, like fever, pain or tenderness around an incision.
- Eat well to ease fatigue and fight constipation. Eat a combination of complex carbs and protein for energy, plus plenty of fiber (found in fruits, veggies and whole grains) to help prevent hemorrhoids. Drink at least 64 ounces (about eight glasses) of water every day.
- Keep moving. Exercise is likely off limits for at least the first few weeks if you’ve had a C-section, and you won’t be immediately back to hard-core pre-pregnancy workout routines if you had a natural birth. However, walking is still within your limits. Stroll around your house and, eventually, around the neighborhood. Walking helps with gas and constipation and speeds recovery by boosting circulation and muscle tone. Plus it boosts your mood and has been shown to help ease depression-like symptoms.
Your postpartum recovery checklist
Here are a few things you’ll want to stash away while you’re still pregnant to make your postpartum recovery go as smoothly as possible:
- Acetaminophen. It can help with perineal pain and overall aches.
- Maxi pads. You’ll probably need these for at least a couple of weeks, until postpartum bleeding lets up.
- Ice packs. There are lots of ways to ice your perineal area — from frozen padsicles to your standard lunchbox ice blocks (wrapped in paper towels, of course, to avoid frostbite).
- Lidocaine spray. It helps ease the pain of postpartum hemorrhoids.
- Stool softener. In case you get stopped up, this can gently help get things going.
- Postpartum recovery belt. If you think you might want one, the Belly Bandit or other similar belt can help keep things in place as your belly shrinks back to size.
For a list of more items visit the Mommy Marketplace.