Postpartum Care, FAQs, and Tips
The days and weeks after delivery, known as postpartum, truly are the fourth trimester of your pregnancy journey. Take your postpartum recovery as seriously as your pregnancy care. The best advice we can give is to take this time to heal. Don’t go anywhere or do anything you don’t need to for at least the next two weeks of your journey.
Rest and Accept Help
Allowing others to help is crucial for recovery after birth. You may gradually increase activities over the first three weeks at home, but stop before you’re tired. Try to discourage groups or too many visitors, as well as long visits, for the first couple of weeks.
Doulas are trained to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to women during labor, birth, and in the immediate postpartum period.
With the support of doulas, many pregnant people are able to forego epidurals, avoid cesarean births, and have less stressful births. During postpartum, doulas provide vital support for both you and baby, meaning less stress during your recovery and more time to bond with baby.
There are no restrictions on bathing and showering. For episiotomy (stitches) or perineal discomfort, we recommend sitting in a clean tub of moderately hot water for 10 minutes 3 to 4 times a day. Do not use any additives such as bubble bath, oils, bath bombs, Epsom salts, or baking soda in the bath water.
The Pelvic Squeeze Exercise
Begin the pelvic squeeze exercise in the hospital. This exercise focuses on “toning” the abdominal, pelvic, and back muscles.
How: Tighten and contract the muscles around the vagina as if you were trying to cut off your urine flow midstream. Repeat the squeeze 10 to 20 times, two to three times a day. Take special care to bend your knees and lift using your legs (not with your back) when lifting your baby or when lifting older children.
Pelvic Floor Therapist
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a specialty focused on the rehabilitation of muscles in the pelvic floor (the muscles that support your bladder, uterus, and bowels). Pelvic floor therapy helps postpartum patients clear pelvic congestion, strengthen the muscles that control continence, support tissue repair, and help with internal scarring after a cesarean section.
Supplements, Vitamins, and Iron
Postpartum supplements can help to support your body healing process after giving birth and support healthy milk supply.
Continue daily prenatal vitamins while breast/chestfeeding. If you are not nursing, you may finish any vitamins you have left by taking one daily. If you are anemic, you will be instructed to take iron for two to three months following delivery whether you are nursing baby or not. Otherwise, you may finish up your remaining iron supplement at a dose of one daily.
Nursing not only helps protect your baby, but it also has health benefits for you. Plus, it’s free! All babies require different amounts of time to nurse: from as little as 5 minutes to as long as 30 minutes, at intervals from 2 to 4 hours, can be normal variations. You want to get as much stimulation as possible to the breast tissue the first 2 weeks to establish your milk supply.
Nursing should not be painful! Slight discomfort is normal, but pain is not. If you experience pain, contact an IBCLC right away.
Plugged Ducts vs. Engorgement vs. Mastitis
Plugged Milk Duct
A plugged milk duct feels like a tender, sore lump or knot in the breast. It happens when a milk duct does not drain properly. Pressure then builds up behind the plugged duct, irritating the tissue around it.
Breast engorgement is normal and usually happens 48 to 72 hours after birth. Your breast tissue may fill with milk, causing breasts to become swollen and tender. To relieve engorgement, nurse frequently with a good, comfortable latch. If you are unable to achieve a comfortable latch, reach out to an IBCLC® (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) right away. Try to avoid extra stimulation, such as pumping, because this may actually make things worse.
Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness. If the pain, swelling, or redness worsen, or you have a fever, call your healthcare provider or IBCLC as soon as possible.