I have been a pretty health-conscious person throughout my entire adult life. Maybe a bit too health-conscious, actually; focusing on diet and exercise to a degree that was not good for my mental health. After having a baby, it was difficult for me to feel great about all I accomplished, because I didn't feel great about myself and my postpartum body. To make matters worse, I don't really remember anyone telling me much about how to take care of my body. Turns out, there are so many things I wish I'd had known about taking care of my postpartum body, because that body was and is amazing and I deserved some TLC.
I think one of the many reasons why most postpartum women don't take care of their bodies sufficiently, is because, as a society, we're not openly and honestly and realistically discussing postpartum bodies. So, I'm going to be brutally honest with you. Knowledge is power, and you can't know how to take care of yourself if you don't know what to expect. So, if you have a vaginal delivery, peeing afterward involves a burning, searing pain for at least a few days. I iced it, took a sitz bath, used a bidet, used numbing spray, and even then I could only pee if I was squirting warm water on my perineum simultaneously. Guys, it was bad, and my first postpartum poop was even worse.
Then, I found myself peeing when I didn't want (or expect) to, so I honestly started to think my body will never quite work right again. My uterus contracted painfully. My nipples bled. My vulva was so sore that I couldn't imagine ever having sex again. Hell, I couldn't even get out of bed without help. Add to that a few extra pounds that I tried so desperately to lose and a lack of will to do most things (including eat or drink enough to feel OK) and, well, postpartum life just sucked.
Now that I have lived through three births, I want to share a few things I wish I had known about how to take care of myself after delivery. Read on for some real advice about showing yourself some self-love.
Use Stool Softeners
Your first postpartum poop will likely really hurt. If you deliver vaginally, like I did, your vulva and perineum might be a torn up, stitched up mess. If you deliver via c-section, you will have a new incision and the constipating effects of anesthesia to contend with. In other words, and regardless of the mode of delivery, your first poop will hurt.
Mine hurt so bad I took pain meds, which unfortunately compounded the problem. If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of postpartum pooping advice, I would tell myself to take stool softeners at regular intervals after delivery.
Take Care Of My Vagina Properly
If you have a vaginal delivery, peeing is terrible. I used an entire can of numbing spray in one day and then called the nurse line, because I was afraid I had overdosed on the stuff. After three vaginal deliveries, I can tell you that the best ways to love your vagina (vulva and perineum) after delivery are to use newborn diapers full of ice or pads soaked in tea and frozen. The numbing spray also helped, as did using a peri-bottle to squirt warm water on my labia while I peed.
Postpartum life is so glamorous.
When you (and your vagina) feel ready to try having postpartum sex, trust me when I say that lube is a must. I recommend grabbing a few kinds to see what you prefer. Water-based is easy to clean-up and gentle, silicone-based is silky and long lasting.
Oh, and ave fun.
Yoga Pants Are Life
I wish someone would have told me to bring yoga pants to the hospital when I had my daughter. Not only were my pre-pregnancy pants not gonna fit over my postpartum belly, but I deserved to be comfortable after birthing a tiny human.
Prevent Pee Accidents Efficiently
It seems like I pee myself a little every day. When I laugh, cough, sneeze, and definitely when I workout. Seriously, I will probably never jump on a trampoline again. I knew that this might happen, but it was still annoying AF and more than a bit embarrassing. The good news is that there are pelvic floor exercises you can do to help, and you can wear a menstrual cup or pessary to prevent leaks, or even a pad until things get back to normal.
Drink More Water
After having a baby, I totally needed to drink more wine. Kidding. Guys, I'm totally kidding.
While a glass of wine did taste really awesome, after nine months of pregnancy, what I really needed to drink was more water. It's so easy to get dehydrated when you are trapped on the couch under a newborn, which can really impact your postpartum recovery.
I was starving postpartum, but because I was so motivated to lose the "baby weight" I seriously didn't eat enough. I wish I could go back and tell myself that taking care of my postpartum body was much more important than losing weight.
Have Nipple Cream On Hand
No one told me how much breastfeeding would hurt. In fact, the class I took and hospital lactation consultant pretty much told me that hurting was a sign I was doing something wrong. If you plan on breastfeeding, my advice is to buy a non-lanolin-based nipple cream in advance. Your nipples will thank me.
Take Things Slow
I have a tendency to over-do things, you guys. I wish I had known to take things slow, especially when it came to getting back into a routine and working out. Growing humans and birthing them is seriously badass. I should have told myself that every da, and then I should have let myself lay low for a little while longer.