By Anne Margolis, CNM, LM, MSN, BSN, RN
Those of you who have given birth to a baby know that many physical and emotional changes occur, many of which catch you by surprise. As a new mom, postpartum care is essential to both your physical and mental health and well-being. Working with your midwife and doula can help guide you through the healing process and provide you with resources to make your recovery as smooth as possible.
I cover this in depth along with holistic modalities for all the common discomforts along the journey to having a baby in my Natural Birth Secrets book 2nd edition, and how to prepare for postpartum healing and support during pregnancy, in my Guide to Postpartum e-course.
The First Few Weeks
The first few weeks of postpartum can be a difficult time for new moms, with many physical and emotional changes happening, while the days seems to be a blur of feeding, diapers and a complete lack of sleep. Here are a few of the struggles new moms can face in those first few days and weeks after baby.
Pain and tenderness are one of the most common issues experienced by new mothers. This is due to the stretching of muscles and tissues during labor, as well as from any tearing that may have occurred. The area can be quite sore and tender, making it uncomfortable to sit down or even go to the bathroom.
Lochia, or vaginal discharge, is common following childbirth, and even after cesarean birth. While seeing such a large amount of blood is naturally alarming- this is completely normal. Wear whatever you need to be comfortable, and know that it gets better with time and completely stops at some point after four to six weeks. I love these postpartum panties from Mommy Matters which absorb leaking fluids while also having a pocket to hold an ice pack which helps provide some much needed relief.
As a new mother, it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed and exhausted during this time- don't be too hard on yourself.
While some mood changes are common after giving birth, postpartum depression and/or anxiety can be serious and should not be ignored. If you're feeling too overwhelmed to function, having frightening thoughts and are unable to care for yourself or your baby, it's important to seek help right away. Organizations like Postpartum Support International are available 24 hours a day to provide mental health support.
When you find yourself getting frustrated with caring for your baby, it's ok to step away and take a few deep breaths. Remember, you did something amazing by bringing life into this world and you deserve to be easy on yourself. Be honest with your midwife or doctor about what's going on so they can help you come up with a plan that's healthy for everyone.
How does a vaginal birth affect your body?
After more than twenty-eight years as a midwife, I know that some moms will experience some degree of tearing during vaginal childbirth despite all preventative measures. The vagina must stretch to allow the baby's head to come through, which can result in various types of tears ranging from first to fourth degree. Small tears can occur that do not need repair but still need to heal. The discomfort with a first or second-degree tear can last for a week or more, making simple everyday activities like going to the bathroom, coughing, sneezing, and even having a bowel movement painful and sensitive.
Third and fourth-degree tears are more common after episiotomies, can take longer to heal, and the pain and tenderness associated with these injuries may be felt for several months. If you have recently had a baby and are experiencing this type of discomfort, it is important to take things slow and understand that this is normal. Your body is healing, and you will eventually be able to regain your strength and pelvic floor.
What happens to your pelvic floor as a result of childbirth
Childbirth can have a significant effect on your pelvic floor, which is made up of the muscles and ligaments that hold the uterus and other organs in place. Pregnancy hormones cause these muscles to relax, making them more likely to tear or stretch during labor. During birth, you may experience pain, tenderness, and tearing in the area due to the strain of childbirth although there is much you can do to prevent tearing - there are no guarantees.
No matter what type of birth you had, it's important to take care of your pelvic floor afterward. Doing regular pelvic floor exercises can help prevent stress incontinence and support your bladder and rectum, improving your overall health and strength. A pelvic floor physical therapist, in addition to your provider, can help guide you through the postpartum period and advise you on ways to rehabilitate your pelvic floor after childbirth.
How can new moms expedite healing?
Giving birth is a beautiful, life-altering experience that can cause immense physical and emotional changes. As a midwife, I understand the importance of allowing your body the time it needs to heal, while also recognizing the value in doing everything possible to ease and expedite the process.
One of the most important things new moms can do to accelerate and support postpartum recovery is to practice good self-care. This means getting adequate sleep, nourishment, and rest. The days after birth can be incredibly draining, so it's essential to take time for yourself to rest whenever you have the opportunity. Additionally, wearing comfortable clothing and using cooling packs to alleviate swelling can help keep your body feeling comfortable as it heals.
If you experienced tearing or an episiotomy during childbirth, Mommy Matters has created an amazing product called NeoHeat. Finally, we have a real mechanism to heal the perineum after birth! NeoHeat’s red and infrared LED light provides fast, effective and lasting relief from possible injury caused during childbirth, while reducing the long-term risk of infection, accidental bladder leakage, and even pain during sex. I am so happy to have something to help women heal, in the comfort of home.
I often recommend a perineal spray to help with instant relief. The SOOTHE Perineal Spray is a great way to help relieve any pain or discomfort. This natural spray is specifically formulated with herbal extracts and organic oils known for their anti-inflammatory and calming properties. Dr Tara, who created this product, recommends keeping it in the fridge for extra cooling relief.
By taking the time to care for yourself and utilizing products that are specifically designed to soothe and support postpartum healing, you can make this time a bit smoother.
I know how difficult it can be for moms to recover from vaginal birth. I love red light due to its healing properties, while being extremely safe. In this case, high-powered red & infrared LED light therapy is designed to activate internal and external healing of the perineal/vaginal tissue. It helps accelerate wound healing, increase circulation, reduce inflammation, and provide rapid pain relief.
Red LED light energy and thermal energy work together to help speed up the recovery process. The red LED light energy helps reduce pain, while the thermal energy increases circulation which accelerates the healing process. In fact, this type of therapy can reduce healing time by up to six times compared to traditional methods. It not only reduces pain and heals 6x faster than traditional methods, but it also reduces the long-term risks of infections, incontinence, and painful sex. Most importantly, it is a natural and effective method with no need for medication. If you're looking for an easy and natural way to help speed up your postpartum recovery, I recommend trying out high-powered red & infrared LED light therapy.