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Delivering your baby is an incredibly beautiful experience that really demonstrates how amazing the human body is. This experience is also quite a traumatic one on the body. While that isn’t meant to scare you, it’s important to know what to expect and how to help your body heal properly after delivery. There are different steps to take based on whether you had a vaginal delivery or a cesarean/c-section to ensure proper postpartum recovery.

Vaginal Delivery

One of the most common occurrences with a vaginal delivery is either tearing of the perineum or undergoing an episiotomy to help with the delivery of the baby. While these are  considered to be normal, they will delay recovery as the wound heals. It’s important to keep the wound clean and reduce strain on the area. Sitting on a pillow or padded ring can make resting more comfortable. Using a cool compress can help reduce inflammation and pain, but be sure to check with your doctor before taking any pain medication if you’re breastfeeding. However, you can start preparing your perineum from around 2 months before the birth to soften it.  This significantly reduces tearing. You can read how in our publication The Seven Secrets to Easier Childbirth.

You can also expect significant vaginal discharge for a few weeks after giving birth. This discharge will be red at first and seem similar to having your period (just very heavy), but should become less and less and lighter in color over time. Wearing a pad is the best way to deal with this symptom. Be sure to change it regularly to avoid infection.

Lastly, you may have trouble urinating following labor and delivery. Any wound to the area will cause discomfort while urinating and you may experience nerve and muscle damage that can also impact urination. You may have trouble passing urine despite feeling the urge or the opposite — releasing a small amount of urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh. Performing kegel exercises to strengthen the area can help improve bladder control over time. You can also read about this is the Seven Secrets to Easier Childbirth.

All of these symptoms can vary in intensity and healing time based on one important factor: the size of your baby. But swelling and bleeding are the two postpartum symptoms every woman should expect.

C-Section Recovery
If you have a c-section to deliver your baby, it’s important to remember it’s a major surgical procedure and it can take up to a month to heal. The first thing to keep in mind is that straining is the worst thing you can do. Don’t lift anything heavy during your healing time and keep what you need in places that won’t require too much stretching, reaching or bending. Keep your incision clean and follow your doctor’s instruction for bandaging and coping with the pain. They may recommend over-the-counter pain medications to help you get more comfortable, but if you’re breastfeeding, your options may be different.

Just because you delivered the baby with a c-section doesn’t mean you will bypass all the symptoms above. Vaginal discharge is still to be expected as well as some abdominal discomfort as your uterus begins reducing in size.

More General Tips
While these are the main symptoms you will experience following a vaginal or cesarean delivery, there are other changes to expect. Here are some more ways to promote comfort and healing after giving birth:

  1. Get as much sleep as possible. Fatigue is to be expected.
  2. Try to eat a balanced diet to keep your energy up. Make sure to include plenty of fiber for digestive regularity.
  3. Ease back into exercise. Start with just walking around your neighborhood.
  4. Take stool softeners to avoid strain when passing a bowel movement. You’re much more susceptible to developing hemorrhoids during this time.
  5. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  6. Use witch hazel or lavender essential oil to promote healing of the perineum and rectum.
  7. Communicate with your partner, family and friends for support with any mood changes.

Remember to pay attention to your own body and that everyone is different. Don’t rush yourself back into your pre-baby routine until you feel fully ready. Having a baby means a lot more activity in your life and a lot less rest, so cut yourself some slack and ask for help when you need it.

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