Healing postpartum after a vaginal delivery can be tough. After having our first baby and experiencing labor and postpartum recovery, I feel like women must be the toughest things on this planet..or maybe their vaginas.
However, even if after labor, we realize Wonderwoman must be kin, we still need to slow down and properly heal. This can be challenging to some (ahem -> me too).
You have probably nested in epic proportions; the house has never been so organized (for some reason the baby needs those pots and pans stacked precisely by size), the floors have never been so clean and the nursery couldn’t be more perfect.
Nailing shelves in at 12 am (organizing that closet that hasn’t been opened in years) and scrubbing floors till they compare to hospital grade sterilization may be how you prepared for baby.
But what about you?
How have you prepared for your body to heal after birth? Because, let’s be real: if you gave birth (or will be giving birth) vaginally, your entire lady area is going to need some serious TLC to properly recover postpartum.
10 Unbelievable Postpartum Recovery Tips For Healing After A Vaginal Birth
To help recover ASAP from giving birth, reduce pain and retain some level of comfort in life (besides looking at your newborn’s sweet face) consider these ten extremely effective tips:
1. Stock up on the RIGHT pads & medicated cooling pads (you’re welcome)
Very quickly, you will run out of those giant pads from the hospital. You also (like me) may not have been madly in love with them. Stock up on Always Maxi (overnight extra heavy flow with wings). They are not as bulky and the wings provide extra space for any leakage. I preferred these for sure. You will also run out of those guazy, ugly as heck but amazing disposable underwear the hospital gives you. Or they may give you none. Save yourself the trouble and buy your own postpartum maternity (post-surgical) disposable underwear just like the hospital has.
Also, the hospital provided Tucks Medicated Healing Pads to place directly on the maxi pad for relief. They are little round (3″) pads with witch hazel and I cannot tell you how much they relieved the burning and itching. Ah-mazing. I ran out of them quickly after leaving the hospital and it sucked. We went and bought a couple other brands that were supposed to be the same thing but they weren’t near as good!
When you want to graduate into actual underwear (and ditch the diaper feel) I would advise having a pack of ridiculously comfortable underwear on hand like these boy short boxer brief panties. Postpartum, I was thanking God that I had those boy short underwear. I liked how they didn’t ride up and they were super comfortable. Plus, I’m not one for the granny panny look. It was nice to feel…somewhat sexy(?) again, or at least, moving in the right direction.
Make sure to add a good panty liner like Always thin dailies as you transition to normalcy. I personally, liked Always liners the best because they were comfortable and effective. Make sure you are ready for the transition though! They will hold some leakage but not much more than that.
2. Take everything you can from the hospital (don’t be afraid to ask!)
Don’t be shy. Make sure to ask what you can take home. The nurse that discharged us may have been just simply amazing or flat out done working that night. She gave us ALL THE THINGS. Heck, she grabbed boxes of those mesh underwear, packs of newborn diapers, 2 hospital blankets, 2 hats, another box of pads and more. When you leave the hospital, just be sure to ask and don’t forget the peri bottle!
Note that some hospitals will let you take close to nothing, so it’s best to be prepared with your own postpartum recovery things.
On a related note, if you don’t have a hospital bag checklist yet (or even if you do), I’ve put together the best one ever. I gathered all the top hospital bag lists on Pinterest, made my own and then AFTER I had the baby, I redid this list. Here is everything you actually need to bring with you to the hospital (including a list for dad and baby):
3. Ice, ice, baby
First off, I know those DIY “padsickles” are like all the rage but I’ve been there, done that and they were TERRIBLE (in my personal experience). If I wanted to freezer burn my painfully injured vagina then padsickles would definitely be the way to go. On the other hand, when I wanted actual pain relief and comfort, these medicated cooling pads (like they have at the hospital) were MUCH better!
Also, keep in mind that inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to injury. However, too much inflammation can be a not-so-good thing. To remedy this, make sure you are doing what you can to decrease pain and inflammation. This means, taking it easy, following the doctor’s prescribed pain medication plan and using those medicated cooling pads.
4. Don’t be afraid of stool softeners & other effective remedies for the dreaded first poops (TMI)
After pooping out what seemed like a watermelon (having the baby), you may be hesitant to ever want to do anything down there ever again. That’s normal. What you can do is take the proper steps to make this part WAY easier. First, make sure to take a gentle, dependable and effective stool softener like Colace which is the #1 doctor recommended brand. It works, trust me. My doctor highly recommended it and it’s worth it.
Next, something you may not even realize (if you’ve never had a baby) is afterward, squatting to go #2 is…difficult. One of the things they told me before I left the hospital was to try to be on my “tip toes” during a bowel movement because squatting would help tremendously. That was impossible. After talking with a few other moms who had this exact same issue, I heard over and over to try out the Squatty Potty toilet stool. It may seem ridiculous now but anything to help with that painful event will be WELCOME next time! There’s no way I’m not ordering this.
Last (TMI) tip: during a bowel movement, if things are extremely painful down there, try using an effective peri-bottle like this one (buy your own and put the free one from the hospital in the second bathroom) and dowsing that area with warm water. This soothes and can make all the difference, trust me.
5. Sitz it up
I wish I had known about sitz bath’s BEFORE I had our baby. Now, it seems, sitz baths are super popular. I’ve spoken to moms who’ve told me this has made a world of a difference, so I’ve already pinned every sitz bath article I can find (in preparation for baby #2).
Basically, a sitz bath cleanses and comforts your lady bits while you soak in a warm, shallow bath. It also can help with pain and itching – which, if you have ever been pregnant, you know how terrible that was!
There are two ways to do a proper sitz bath. The first way is by using a simple plastic cover that sits neatly over your toilet like this top Amazon sitz bath by Yunga Tart. The second is to use your bathtub and make sure the tub is clean! Check out Healthline’s article on exactly how to do this. I found it extremely helpful. The reason people opt for the first option (the plastic cover) is that you risk infection with an unsterile tub.
Use a high-quality Epsom salt made specifically for these types of baths like Epsoak Epsom Salt (which is Amazon’s #1 choice). I linked the large bag because sitz baths are usually recommended 2-3 times a day! That’s a lot of Epsom salt, so you’ll want to probably save and buy the larger quantity. You can also try different essential oils but lavender and witch hazel help soothe, cleanse and are anti-inflammatory. I seem to find those oils the most in sitz baths. I personally, don’t trust just any essential oil (because who knows how much oil is actually in there) except those like Aura Cacia’s Lavender Essential Oil.
6. Numbing spray + peri-bottle combo + medicated wipes = life savor
When you leave the hospital, chances are you will receive Dermoplast Pain Relieving Spray and you will be thankful as heck. The nurse told me to never forget to use this after each and every time I went to the bathroom. The problem is, that’s a lot of spraying and we had to go out and find two additional cans. Save yourself the hassle and have it ready beforehand! Another similar spray that is gaining momentum lately is Earth Mama Herbal Perineal Spray. It’s a more natural product and I’ve heard raving reviews. Next time, I’ll buy both and see which is better!
Okay, so let’s talk about that dreaded peri-bottle. Basically, the hospital gives you this cheapo little bottle to squirt warm water down there every single time after going to the bathroom. It sucks and it’s not an option. However, there is a MUCH better alternative out there. Fridababy makes a peri-bottle called the Fridget with a nozzle specifically designed to be held upside down, giving you much more control with each use. Take the peri-bottle the hospital gives you and stick in the second bathroom or in your diaper bag, then save yourself the frustration and use the Fridget.
When going to the bathroom, the thought of using toilet paper will probably be cringe-worthy (nails on a chalk-board cringe-worthy). Preparation H makes flushable medicated wipes that will solve this problem. I couldn’t be more thankful when my mom bought these for my postpartum kit (she’s a nurse and prepared the whole thing!). Speaking of Preparation H, if you are one of the mommies who has extreme pain down there, don’t discard using the good old fashioned Preparation H cream. I asked one of my friends this week what her postpartum recommendations were and this was one of her top suggestions!
7. Wear the best loose, stretchy clothing possible
One of the things I did correctly before having our little one was buying the best comfy clothes. After labor, I lived in leggings, a nursing tank and long cardigans. When adding to our Amazon list, I put in two pairs of the best leggings ever and a few super duper cute and low-cost cardigans:
8. Pay attention to your needs!
Remember to keep taking your prenatal vitamins postpartum. Vitamins A, B and C are excellent for healing wounds. However, I am a big advocate of quality vitamins. You may not know that synthetics and fillers are in many cheapo ones from Walgreens, Walmart, and even GNC. A friend turned me onto Nutrilite vitamins since they are the #1 health supplement brand in the world and the only company that grows their product on certified organic farms and creates the vitamins all in one place. My doctor raved about them as well. I use Double X which you can find here.
Make sure to drink plenty of water after delivery. The hospital even gave me this GIANT pint-sized thing with a handle, telling me to “drink, drink, drink” all the time. The problem with drinking water (for me personally) is that I’m not very good at it unless I have an easy to use water bottle. I know that sounds silly, but if I carry my Nalgene water bottle around then I ACTUALLY drink out of it. If someone hands me a glass of water, I usually forget about it. I don’t know why that is. The Nalgene has an easy pop top which is my favorite. I strongly dislike the screw top or sucking water bottles. Which is a weird thing to strongly dislike but I do.
9. The donut pillow will be your new BFF
Sitting will be…painful for a few weeks or more after labor. I spoke to women this week who told me, for her sitting after labor wasn’t even an option. She laid on her side instead. Some hospitals may give you a waffle pad for free when you check out but I heard all about the donut pillow and I’m getting one for sure next time.
This pillow is shaped just like it describes, allowing you to put pressure everywhere else BUT the one place you don’t want anything to touch. It’s made of a good quality foam and I’m told it’s a life saver.
10. Be prepared for some swelling & tinglyness
Last but not least, be prepared for postpartum swelling and tinglyness if you opted for the epidural. Some women experience numbness or tingling and are afraid of nerve damage due to the epidural but this is actually completely normal. I did not have any lingering effects of my epidural but a close friend of mine had her baby three weeks ago and still feels a little numb on one hip!
Postpartum swelling can happen to some women and this can be a real concern. After labor, ankles and calves can actually swell up way more than before! To remedy this, try using Tea Tree Oil Foot Soak with Epsom salt for relief and a solid pair of compression socks built for this very thing.
Important concluding takeaways
It’s okay that you stick with your maternity jeans for a few months postpartum. Do it. No one will judge you and every other mom out there will let you know they did the same.
REST. Don’t host anyone! I have a terrible story about this in a related blog post:
Try to get the house stocked with things like toilet paper and similar essentials before you have the baby, so you save any last minute store trips. On that note, having a properly packed labor and delivery bag helps tremendously as well. You can read about this and download the free printable here:
Lastly, you may hear all these horror stories of labor. In fact, I don’t know why women felt compelled to tell me terror labor stories they heard when I was pregnant. Seriously?! But it’s not as bad as it seems. I was absolutely terrified to give birth. Literally, I wanted kids but I was so petrified that I wasn’t sure I could even do the whole labor thing. It’s not that bad. Plus, having a beautiful new life as a child is the best thing that has ever happened to me. There is no question that labor is worth every single moment.
To make things easier, I created a handy little Amazon “Idea List” that includes all the recommendations from this post. (Screenshot below.)
Congratulations on your little one to-be and hope these tips helped you tremendously!