Mothers-to-be are well-versed in the fact that labor is going to be uncomfortable. Which is why women often take time to invest in how to be ready themselves for delivery. Whether it’s reading books, talking to other mothers about their experiences, or taking childbirth classes, pregnant women typically spend some time preparing, whether mentally or physically for the birthing process. But often times, the discomforts one may be feeling during postpartum, and especially the early days and weeks of postpartum, are frequently overlooked. The truth is, while birth is undoubtedly taxing on the body, recovery can be challenging, as well. And many mothers simply aren’t properly prepared for what they may be feeling once the birth part of having a baby is over. We assume delivery is the hardest part, but many women feel recovery is equally is challenging, and it lasts longer than giving birth, too. While women should certainly go into postpartum hoping for the best, it’s good to anticipate some of the common discomforts that are a normal part of postpartum. Mothers need time to heal and to be gentle with themselves following birth. But the truth is, we are so accustomed to seeing mothers on tv and in magazines who “bounce back” so quickly, we seldom think about recovering from birth like the important process it is.
Here are some common postpartum discomforts (and some suggestions for coping with them);
1) Tender swollen stitches and/or vaginal discomfort
Vaginal discomfort, whether you had any tearing from birth and required stitches or not, is one of the most common post-birth complaints. After delivery, it should be expected that everything is going to be swollen and a bit painful. Going to the bathroom can be a bit of a scary experience the first few times. Sometimes mothers aren’t prepared for the fact that they don’t feel like their normal selves down there within a few days or even weeks. If any stitching has been done, the healing process can take a bit longer and may need some more attention. Some simple remedies moms can use are taking lukewarm herbal baths or freezing menstrual pads soaked in witch hazel to calm the swollen area. Using a natural healing butter, such as Earth Mama Angel baby bottom butter, is another great way to promote healing, as well.
2) A continuously contracting belly
A contracting uterus is, of course, par for the course while giving birth. But many moms don’t know to expect that their uterus will continue contracting after delivery. When nursing, the contracting can become even more intense, as well. This is the body’s natural way of helping the uterus return to its normal size and shape. But the process can feel painful on an already exhausted body. Ask your health provider what medications are safe to take, but most doctors and midwives will recommend Tylenol or ibuprofen during those early postpartum days to ease the pain of contractions.
3) Engorged breasts
When a mother’s milk comes in (usually about 2-5 days post-birth) experiencing some slight engorgement is not uncommon. Breasts may feel full, tender, and warm to the touch. To help alleviate engorgement in those early days, moms can nurse on demand and not skip feedings (even in the night), make sure baby is nursing well and latching properly. Help from a lactation consultant is never a bad idea if discomfort continues. Cool compresses, cabbage leaf compresses, and gentle massaging the breast before nursing can help to get the milk moving and decrease engorgement. However, if it persists, you should contact your health provider to avoid mastitis, which is a more serious condition.
4) Sore legs/muscles
Pushing out a baby can be a lengthy process that taxes not just your uterus, but your entire body. Moms are often surprised to find muscles they didn’t realize were in use ree sore for days after delivery. Achy legs, abs, shoulders, and arms are common. And if you were laboring in one position for a lengthy amount of time, you might find muscles you can’t even name are throbbing days later. It’s amazing how much goes into birthing a baby, so much that every muscle in your body might feel it afterward. While you should rest as much as possible, stretching sore muscles can help get the lactic acid moving to alleviate the soreness sooner.
5) Night Sweats
Due to the massive hormone dump that occurs both births, many moms find themselves waking up to soaked sheets. No, your little one didn’t pee on you (well, maybe). Most likely, you’re experiencing night sweats. There is little you can do to avoid sweating through your sheets altogether but keep a cool room, wear loose clothing, and use only a sheet or very thin blanket, which if you’re cosleeping, you should do anyway. Night sweats are usually short-lived. While they usually tend to reach their peak at around 2 weeks postpartum, according to a 2013 study, by one month postpartum, they are usually on their way out. So stay cool and hang in there. You’re already on the mend.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at the SCV Birth Center if you have any questions about your pregnancy, your birth plans or birth options. We are the only nationally accredited CABC birth center in the SCV, Antelope, and San Fernando Valley and we are happy to serve you.