Recovery from a vaginal delivery, the early weeks
Labour and birth are often long and tiring. Your body undergoes massive soft tissue change, stretching and possibly even tearing. Many people refer to labour as a marathon and that’s because it is! Did you know, the average woman expels 3 times the amount of oxygen during labour as a marathon runner expels in one race!? Labour and birth requires a LOT of mental, physical and emotional endurance. So expect to be tired after!
Your midwife will help guide you while you are in the hospital, but if you birth at a Birth Centre, then you will likely be discharged home within 24 hours, so it’s good to have an idea of what to expect.
This is the time to prioritise rest. If you are used to being busy then this can be a bit of an adjustment, but your short-term postpartum recovery can make a huge difference to your long term recovery. So read on for crucial tips.
Rest every day
Prioritise horizontal rest, which means lying in bed rather than propped up on the couch, eliminating gravity and allowing your pelvic floor muscles to recover. You can invert slightly by putting pillows under your pelvis to lift it. If you are breastfeeding, try doing this in lying. How long you need to prioritise rest is hard to say, but roughly for 6 weeks. If you had a traumatic delivery with need for assistance then you will need more rest. If you had a caesarean section, you will need to be careful for longer. But that said, if you had an uncomplicated delivery and you feel good, you still need lots of rest to allow your pelvic floor and/or your wound to heal. While YOU may feel fine, your pelvic floor and your body need the rest.
Use ice packs
If you’ve had a vaginal delivery, use ice on and around your perineum for 20mins every 2-3 hours to help reduce pain and swelling, especially in the first 3 days.
Use perineal support
Hold a wad of toilet paper and use it to apply mild pressure and support to your vagina/perineum when you empty your bowels. If you’ve had a caesarean section, create a wound pillow by folding and taping some hand towels together and press this against your wound to support it when you cough or sneeze.
Keep the perineal area clean and dry, especially if you have stitches. Wash from front to back, only using water, and gently pat it dry after toilet or shower. Don’t rub the area. Change your pad every 3-4 hours, even if it’s not full. Your caesarean section wound will likely have a waterproof bandage over it initially. Once this has been removed, you can gently you’re your wound with water only, and then pat it dry afterwards.
No straining or bearing down while on the toilet! Keep your stools soft by maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of fluids and sit in the optimal toileting position. It can be really beneficial to use a stool softener in the early days or even weeks after delivery to help pass a stool with ease. Your midwife should offer you something but you can also chat to your pharmacist.
Wear a compression garment
The SRC pregnancy recovery shorts are a great compression garment to use. These will help support your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. You can get fitted for these from 36 weeks of pregnancy, or postnatally if you didn’t get a chance while pregnant. Most women find they can start wearing them from 2-3 days post-delivery, although it may take a bit longer for you to feel comfortable getting them on. You can purchase SRC garments in the clinic at Origin and our physiotherapists can measure you to ensure you have the correct size. These garments are great for both perineal support and caesarean section wound support.