Below are 8 concrete and proven ways to help along your recovery - from the obvious to the less obvious. Some of these (resting, eating well, getting help) are easier said than done, but they are more critical than ever for our mental and physical health during this intensive period of bodily repair and transition. If anything, let this give you license to not feel guilty about staying in your PJs and letting other people take care of you. See Postpartum Nutrition cheat sheet for more tips on foods that can help your body recover more quickly.
Helps your tissues and muscles heal and rejuvenate; especially crucial in the first 2 weeks (deprioritize whatever else you need to so you can get some rest)
Replenishes nutrients, repairs tissue, reduces inflammation, regulates hormoes and bowels, and improves energy
Because it’s necessary for you to be able to rest; asking for help is not a weakness – it’s being smart
Strengthens and balances pelvic floor and abdominal muscles and aids tissue repair; usually you can start right away (your OBGYN likely has great referrals)
Helps boost blood flow, prevent bood clots, minimize constipation, and reduce the odds of developing depressive symptoms; start with 10-20 mins at a time
Heals and strengthens pelvic floor muscles when done correctly; okay to start soon after uncomplicated deliveries (ask your OBGYN)
Helps avoid constipation and prevent headaches; especially important for breastfeeding moms
Reduces inflammation and swelling; usually okay 2-4 weeks after delivery (ask your OBGYN)
Pain medication as advised by your doctor, usually ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Stool softener (docusate sodium) or mild non-stimulant laxative if needed
Sitz baths, donut pillow, and ice packs for vaginal birth recovery and hemorrhoids
Cool compresses & nipple cream for breastfeeding moms (more info in the Breastfeeding Cheat Sheets)
Many C-section mamas recommend a step stool for getting in and out of bed; extra pillows for propping up in bed and holding against stomach when sneezing, coughing, laughing; ice pack for incision pain; using an abdominal binder regularly
Why does it happen? Fluctuating hormones, medicines from labor, dehydration, iron in prenatal supplements, and weakened pelvic muscles can cause constipation.
How do I know? Pain or straining during bowel movements or hard, dry bowels are common signs.
What can I do? Stay hydrated, eat high-fiber foods, go on short light walks regularly, and take a stool softener like Colace (docusate sodium) or a mild non-stimulant laxative like Miralax. Using a footstool while going to the bathroom can also make it easier to pass stools.
Why does it happen? Hemorrhoids, or painful swollen veins in the rectum, occur in ~40% of pregnant and postpartum women and can be caused by straining during childbirth or bowel movements, particularly if constipated.
How do I know? Oh, you’ll know – pain, itching, and bleeding after a bowel movement are the main signs.
What can I do? Soak in a sitz bath for ~10 minutes 2-4 times a day to reduce pain and swelling; apply witch hazel pads for pain relief; use a donut cushion to relieve pressure; use cold packs and Dermoplast for numbing and pain relief; try OTC hemorrhoid creams for pain, itching, and swelling; take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief (both are safe while breastfeeding); and treat constipation if you have that too.
Severe vaginal bleeding (soaking through full pad each hour for 2+ hours) or foul-smelling discharge
Fainting, dizziness, or chest pain
Fever (>100.4F / 38C)
New or worse pain in your belly or pelvis
Pain, swelling, red streaks, or discharge around C-section incision
New or intense abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting
Pain or swelling in your legs (especially calves) or your face, hands, or feet
New vision problems or severe headache that doesn’t go away after taking acetaminophen
Breasts are sore and red or feel hot to the touch
You feel anxious, hopeless, or sad for more than a few days
Call 911 if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby