When it comes to labour, a lot of the focus tends to be put on the actual process of giving birth itself… there’s books and classes dedicated to telling first time mums how to recognise the signs of labour, the waters breaking, timing contractions, the stages of labour, breathing techniques, hypno-birthing, pain management, birth plans etc.
There’s very little discussion about what happens to your body after you actually give birth…
When I gave birth to my little boy a couple of years ago, I can remember being really overwhelmed by just how beat up my body was, how much bleeding there was afterwards and how sore I was down below.
No one really prepared me for it, because no one really talks about it. Once the labour is over and the baby is out, focus immediately shifts to the baby. Feeding, sleeping, dressing and care of your new infant… but what about mama?
Well for one thing, I can remember being completely shocked by how much I bled after the birth…
Yes, just like that Daniel Day Lewis movie told us, there will be blood… and lots of it. The Lochia or ‘Lochia-ness monster’ as I like to call it, is the lovely name given to the bleeding you’ll go through after labour.
And when you think about it, it makes sense that there would be quite a bit of bleeding. You’ve carried a baby for nine months (and then some!), so it’s natural that everything needs to be cleaned out so to speak… plus there’s the wound left behind by the placenta… yeah that old thing!
All in all, after labour Mother Nature gives us a right belt of reality. Often the bleeding is heaviest in the first 3-10 days after labour, but you can expect it to last up to 4-6 weeks. Everyone is different of course, but you can expect the heaviest flow to taper off in that time. If you’re concerned about the flow, or pain or clots don’t hesitate to phone your maternity hospital who’d be happy to advise you.
You’ve got to accept that it’s essential to stock up on big mutha maternity pads… yes I mean absolutely ginormous pads that look as though they belong in the 19th Century.
In hospital, you may be offered what are often referred to as ‘the big green pads.’ Essentially these are hospital grade pads that are akin to adult nappies… honestly they are huge. But trust me, you’ll need them. Super absorbent and enormous, they are ideal for those first few days when things are at their worst. Indeed, I can remember even doubling up on them a couple of times.
I bought these BV pads online from Inhealth.ie for €2.99 for a pack of 10. While they are completely awful looking, I’d highly recommend having at least one pack of these in your bag. Bear in mind they have no adhesive or wings however so they won’t stick to your underwear. So handy…. NOT!
My bet is a man designed them! (Can you tell my third trimester hormones are raging here?)
Anyway, to help with this lack of adhesive, my advice is to have big granny style knickers that are snug enough to help keep the pad in place. You know those big stretchy, seam free, full briefs I’m talking about. Plus if you wear leggings instead of loose PJ trousers, that will also help keep things together, especially when you’re shimmying in and out of bed and you don’t want the pad to move and have any leaks etc.
Of course there’s plenty of other types of maternity pads out there too. Boots and Mothercare have their own ranges. Personally, I wasn’t keen on the Boots pads last time around… I found they just didn’t cut it.
This time I’m going to try these new Lil-Lets Maternity pads. Surprisingly they are as long as the green hospital grade pads, but they have adhesive and wings! Yay, plus there are super soft and velvety. These will set you back less than €3.00 for a pack of 10, so well worth investing in.
Post-Partum Care Products
No matter what way you give birth, labour is going to leave its mark on your body, because until they figure out how to beam the baby out of your womb, there is no easy way to do it.
I can only speak for my own experience of labour which was a vaginal delivery. Last time around, I had second degree tearing and stitches which unfortunately became infected when I got home. I remember being in a complete daze for those first few days, but the pain from my stitches was one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. While I made every effort to fastidiously care for the area, it still happened to me. I put it down to being told by a midwife not to have baths! She told me to have two showers a day instead.
In my opinion, that was awful advice and this time I will be soaking in some plain tepid water when I can!
Anyway, I was very unwell with a temperature, zero appetite and in absolute agony… I couldn’t sit down and peeing was so painful I almost passed out and fell off the toilet on a number of occasions… I began to spritz myself with water as I was peeing to dilute the acidity and lessen the pain… I remember texting a friend to ask, was this normal and she said no it should be that bad, so I went to my GP, who took one look and told me I had an infection. After antibiotics and painkillers, things began to get better, but having stitches down there is very unpleasant at the best of times and it’s important to care for them properly. Even if you haven’t had stitches, you’ll likely still be swollen and sore, but there’s plenty of ways to soothe the pain.
This time, with the benefit of hindsight, I’m more prepared and I’ve bought these Multi-Gyn Perineum Compresses from Boots €15.99 and will hope to try them out after labour. Essentially they are pre-treated compresses you attach to your pad and aim to aid healing while soothing and cooling the area too.
You can also get a number of nifty healing sprays now that weren’t around when I had my first baby. Again these are filled with therapeutic goodies like aloe Vera and witch hazel and you can spray on yourself or your pad to help you heal sooner.
What I also like the sound of is making a DIY ‘Padsicile…’ Essentially this is treating your maternity pad with things like aloe Vera and witch hazel, putting it in the freezer and then applying it for an instant hit of cooling, soothing and healing. Sounds like it could be a complete hit!
Remember to bring in a water bottle with a sports top… not for drinking from, no this is a pretty ingenuous way to help keep you soothed and clean down below. Also bear in mind peeing after birth can be a bit tender and quite sore if you have stitches so if you spritz some water it will dilute the acidity of the urine and make things a bit easier. Remember if you’re in any doubt have your stitches checked for an infection.
An inflatable ring pillow can be great for taking the pressure off your arse! Yes one of those haemorrhoids pillows.
An ice pack is another live saver, don’t be afraid to sit on one for a while to soothe any pains and help take down the swelling.
Throw in a pack of arnica tablets into your maternity bag and take some after labour. They aren’t safe during pregnancy, but after you give birth they can help with bruising and healing.
Finally, don’t be afraid to be firm with visitors and tell them to back off until YOU feel ready. Take care of yourself in those first few days back at home and don’t apologise for resting at every available opportunity.