Childbirth changes your body no matter how routine or uncomplicated the birth may be. Babies move through the cervix and out of the vagina, and that's going to cause some injury in your downtown area. Personally, I've experienced both an easy and difficult delivery, and there is one constant: there will be limitations on your activity postpartum along with plenty of discomfort. And there will be blood -- lots of it. There are strategic considerations you must adhere to postpartum; some are common sense, others not so much. Here are seven things you can't do while recovering from a vaginal delivery.
The limitations placed on recovering mothers can seem excessive, especially if you start to feel better sooner than you anticipate, but they're necessary to keep your healing process on track. While rest and relaxation might be a bit of a pipe dream with a newborn in tow, it's important to take it easy and be considerate of your healing body. It's also crucial to keep watch of your body's needs for hydration and nutrition postpartum, even though that seems less of a priority now that you're no longer pregnant. It's essential for your body's system to repair itself.
Physician's Assistant Kyra Anthony tells Romper that new moms are notoriously noncompliant (herself included) when it comes to taking care of themselves, and this can actually extend the healing period and make it more difficult. She stresses that moms should focus on doing the best they can, but there are a few big no-nos that are sacrosanct. This is what they are.
No Driving For At Least A Week
This is as much for other drivers' safety as much as your own. According to Anthony, it's not uncommon for women who've just given birth to have periods of brief dizziness, and that's a no-go for driving. You should be cleared for short drives after the first week or two, though.
No Heavy Lifting
Your organs are rearranging themselves after being jammed into odd corners of your body by your overgrown womb. Also, you probably have stitches holding together your undercarriage, as well as a perineum. Heavy lifting can not only lead to pain, says Anthony, but as your abdominal muscles heal, "you're at a greater risk of hernia than before," she warns. Also, two words: popped stitches. Having done this with my first child, I will tell you this about getting new stitches: Ouch.
Apparently, there are people who are actually having sex within a few weeks of delivering, but after I gave birth, I was considering a vow of chastity — possibly a second career as a nun. Anthony says that the 6 week wait (or longer, you do you), is absolutely necessary. "Wait until you have clearance from your OB-GYN. There's a lot that can get irritated or re-injured." No one wants a vaginal injury that totally could have been avoided.
Not only is it an irritant for your healing vagina, it's also inviting undue risk for infection. According to Anthony, it's also difficult to monitor your bleeding if you're not seeing it. Therefore, it's best to steer clear of tampons until you get clearance from your doc.
Anthony says this rule varies patient to patient, but you should expect to wait 6 weeks before returning to full workout activity. "Gradually increase your activity each day. Eventually, you'll be back to normal, but don't push it." Vaginal deliveries are stressful on your body, and you should do your best to respect that.
Adequate, appropriate nutrition is key to healing your body according to Anthony. "Your body needs the best fuel you can provide it to heal in a timely fashion and with limited interruption. You should have plenty of fruits and veggies, lots of water, and good protein. These are the building blocks for healing."
Don't Ignore Your Mental Health
Postpartum depression, psychosis, and anxiety can come on like a freight train. If you are not feeling like yourself, don't ignore it or try to motor through it. Seek help. Tell your provider, get counseling, and talk to your partner. Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself safe and your concerns heard. You have every right to be well both for the sake of your own health and the baby's.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.