Postpartum Care: 10 Optimal Guides After Birth for New Mothers

Hello parents!

I’m thrilled to present the nine ultimate guides after birth to new mothers.

Stay tuned as I dive deep into providing invaluable insights and tips to ensure optimal care during your postpartum journey. 

Although you think you have prepared for this moment, you will be second-guessing yourself on the most vital aspects of your recovery. This period is one of the most challenging as a new mother.

So hang tight.

Whether you had vaginal or cesarean delivery, I got you covered.

Let’s all dive in together and discover the best tips you need to know for a fantastic recovery!

1. Immediate Postpartum Care

Spontaneous Vaginal Birth – Routine Care

After delivery, if the doctor mentions “skid marks” – it means you have small tears that don’t require stitches. Expect a slight burning sensation during urination.

For increased comfort, use ice packs within the first 24 hours post-birth.

The nurse will provide you with these ice packs, which typically offer 20-30 minutes of cold relief. Once they lose their chill, replace them with regular pads.

If you notice heavier bleeding than usual and significant abdominal cramping, discontinue using the ice packs.

They don’t absorb well and make it challenging to gauge bleeding amounts. Instead, wear a regular pad, and the nurse will monitor hourly bleeding levels.

Feel free to request pain medication, such as Ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to manage discomfort when not using the ice packs.

5 Care Tips for Mothers with Lacerations after Vaginal Delivery

1. Use ice packs.

This is recommended as it helps reduce swelling and pain in immediate postpartum.

The ice packs’ cold temperature helps constrict blood vessels, thereby minimizing swelling in the treated area.

Additionally, ice packs can provide a numbing effect that helps alleviate discomfort.

Applying ice packs consistently every 4 hours within the initial 24-hour period is recommended, and continuing as needed.

2. Apply topical relief.

Utilize witch hazel pads, dibucaine ointment, and/or dermoplast spray to soothe the perineum.

Apply these after every bathroom visit.

Witch Hazel Pads

Indications:

Witch hazel pads are commonly used after a vaginal birth to provide topical relief and soothe the perineum. They can help alleviate discomfort, reduce swelling, and promote healing.

Side Effects:

Side effects of witch hazel pads are generally minimal. However, some individuals may experience mild skin irritation or allergic reactions. If any adverse reactions occur, discontinue use and consult a healthcare professional.

Cherry’s Pro Tips:

  • After using the bathroom, perform perineal care by gently cleaning using a peri-bottle with warm water and pat dry.
  • Apply one witch hazel pad to the space between the vagina and anus, which is usually the location of the tear. When using dibucaine ointment, apply a small amount of the medication onto the witch hazel pad or tucks as directed by your nurse.
  • Leave the pad in place to provide continuous relief, or use it as needed throughout the day.
  • If you experience discomfort or irritation, stop using the witch hazel pads and consult your healthcare provider.
  • If you run out of witch hazel pads, you can purchase more from a nearby store or pharmacy, considered over-the-counter medication.

Always follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider and consult them if you have any concerns or questions regarding using witch hazel pads.

3. Use sitz bath.

Incorporate a sitz bath into your routine 24 hours post-delivery. 

Utilizing a sitz bath offers several benefits.

It helps promote blood circulation in the affected area, providing pain relief and facilitating faster healing and works well with postpartum hemorrhoids.

The warm water immersion helps soothe any discomfort or swelling in the vagina after birth.

Only warm water without additives is vital to avoid potential irritation or adverse effects.

Do the sitz bath 2-3 times daily for a good week until your laceration heals. 

How would you know that your laceration is healing? 

Once the pain or discomfort in your bottom subsides.

4. Take pain medication.

If you have severe lacerations, take your pain medication around the clock for the first week and continue taking it as needed for the succeeding weeks.

Your care provider may prescribe a safe narcotic for pain relief for the first few days.

The medication prescribed by the doctor is perfectly safe for breastfeeding, so there’s no need to worry.

Make the necessary precautions when taking these kinds of medication.

DO NOT drive, as it can make you dizzy.

Watch out for other side effects like nausea, sleepiness, constipation, and confusion.

Take it with food and plenty of water.

5.  Get supplies.

Stock up on essential postpartum supplies such as disposable underwear, overnight and regular pads, and healthy snacks.

Hopefully, you remembered to bring the peri-bottle your favorite nurse gave you from the hospital.

Being prepared will make the recovery process more manageable and with less hassles.

Cesarean Birth – 9 Essential Steps for Recovery

1. Set realistic expectations for new moms.

Pain is normal after a major surgical procedure like a C-section, but it shouldn’t hinder mobility.

Use a pain scale to communicate your pain levels with your nurse.

By doing so, she can evaluate your pain management and make sure you are getting relief from the medication she gives you.

2. Follow the prescribed pain medication schedule.

Stick to your doctor’s pain medication schedule to manage discomfort effectively once you go home from the hospital.

But while you are still at the hospital,  ask your nurse to offer pain medicine when it is due.

During the initial days, you will receive pain-relieving medication, such as Percocet, and Ibuprofen and acetaminophen. This combination aims to optimize your comfort and manage any discomfort effectively.

3. Allow the incision to breathe.

After a cesarean section, an abdominal dressing will be placed over your incision for the first 24 hours.

After that, the gauze is removed.

Let the incision air naturally, and avoid covering it with any materials.

For temporary added protection while active, consider using a peripad over the incision to prevent discomfort and irritation from underwear friction.

4. Keep the incision area clean and dry.

After getting discharged from the hospital, you can shower instead of bathing in a tub.

There are no specific guidelines for cleaning the incision site. Gently allow water and soap to flow through it, and avoid scrubbing the incision.

Avoid applying lotions or creams.

Gently pat the area dry after showering, or use a hair dryer in cool setting to dry the incision area.

5. Watch for signs of infection.

Be vigilant for symptoms of infection, such as redness, swelling, bleeding, or foul-smelling discharge.

Notify your healthcare provider immediately if you notice any of these signs.

6. Early mobility.

Encourage yourself to start moving as early as you can.

Begin by getting out of bed to use the restroom.

Adjust the head of your hospital bed to help you sit up and turn your body comfortably.

Moving and walking within 8-12 hours after a C-section has numerous benefits.

It decreases stiffness and sore muscles, helps pass gas early, and avoids complications like the formation of blood clots.

7. Ask for assistance.

Always ask your care team for help the first time you get out of bed. 

They can provide support and ensure you use a safe movement technique. 

8. Prevent constipation.

Ensure optimal hydration by proactively quenching your thirst and follow a high-fiber diet to promote regular bowel movements.

Engage in mild exercises like walking and basic stretching to help alleviate constipation.

9. Do not lift anything heavier than your baby.

Lifting items that are too heavy can cause strain on the incision site and stress the body.

During the recovery period, limiting physical activity to exclusively carrying your baby is advisable.

Your body needs time to heal, so take it easy and avoid doing chores once you get home.

2. Optimizing Postpartum Care with Proper Nutrition

Nutrition plays a crucial role in recovery post-childbirth.

When choosing the right food, choose a balanced combination of high-protein options, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 emphasize the importance of consuming “nutrient-dense” foods to meet our dietary needs.

These foods allow for personalization based on individual tastes, cultural preferences, traditions, allergies, and other considerations.

Nutrient-dense foods are naturally low in sugar, fat, and sodium, depending on how they are prepared.

So, what qualifies as nutrient-dense?

Think of vibrant fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds.

Additionally, consider incorporating low-sodium or sodium-free, fat-free, or low-fat dairy products and lean proteins such as chicken breast and turkey.

While paying attention to our dietary choices can be challenging, a simple tip is to incorporate more dark green, leafy vegetables, and red and orange varieties.

Surprisingly, many Americans, including pregnant and lactating women, fall short of the recommended vegetable intake, particularly when it comes to red, orange, and starchy vegetables.

Examples include beets, radishes, tomatoes, cabbages, bell peppers (for reds), acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers (for oranges).

Starchy vegetables, like corn, peas, white or sweet potatoes, beets, and turnips, contain more calories but less fiber than non-starchy vegetables.

Now that we have this knowledge, let’s make it a priority to load up on our greens, reds, oranges, and starchy veggies.

Breastfeeding and Nutritional Requirements

Breastfeeding and pumping mothers have unique nutritional needs to support milk production and maintain their health and their new baby.

The recommended daily calorie intake for women in a pre-pregnant state ranges from 1600 to 2400 kcal.

According to the CDC, consuming an extra 330 to 400 kcal is crucial when breastfeeding.

These figures can be influenced by factors such as your body mass index (BMI), activity level, and whether you exclusively breastfeed or use formula.

Why is this significant?

Meeting the recommended calorie intake is crucial to sustain lactation or breast milk production.

Otherwise, your body’s energy stores will be utilized.

You provide nourishment for your baby, so following the guidelines is wise.

By consuming the correct calories, you’ll ensure your baby receives the necessary caloric intake for proper weight gain and optimal growth and development.

Essential Nutrients for Postpartum Recovery

Considering how most of us struggle to maintain a balanced and healthy diet in our busy lives, daily multivitamins and minerals come to mind.

This is especially true for moms who must manage the household besides caring for their babies.

If you find it challenging to eat a well-rounded meal, it’s advisable to consider supplements.

However, more than any run-of-the-mill supplement will suffice.

It’s essential to consult your doctor to determine the right supplements for your needs.

A generic multivitamin may not be the best choice as your iron requirements change after giving birth compared to during pregnancy.

Moreover, specific multivitamins lack essential minerals like iodine and choline, which you can obtain through dairy products, iodized salt, eggs, meat, beans, and lentils.

For individuals with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians or vegans, supplements become even more necessary.

Vitamins D and B12, iron, iodine, omega-3, calcium, and choline are particularly vital for vegans and vegetarians.

Everyone has unique nutritional needs, so it’s critical to consult your doctor for clarity and guidance tailored to your situation.

Hydration

Let’s delve into how much water a breastfeeding mom requires.

Various sources have provided insights, but no specific quantity can be universally applied.

The key is to drink when thirsty and increase your intake if your urine appears concentrated – aim for a pale yellow color.

Opting for water as your beverage is ideal, eliminating the need to add unnecessary sugar to your diet.

A straightforward approach is to have a jug of fresh and cool water within reach before you settle down to nurse your baby.

Additionally, consider having a portable water container on hand to stay hydrated while on the move.

If you have an aversion to drinking plain water, squeeze some lemon on your drink or dunk any fruit you like for a better taste.

Staying hydrated is vital for maintaining energy levels, supporting lactation, aiding digestion, and preventing constipation.

Meal Ideas

Crafting nutritious meals can seem daunting, especially during the first six weeks.

Here’s a sample meal plan for a breastfeeding mom, designed for a 30-year-old female who is 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighs 140 pounds, has a BMI of 23.3, and has been exclusively breastfeeding for a month.

The estimated calorie intake is 2,485 kcal per day based on the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals from USDA.gov.

Individual factors like age, height, weight, activity level, and duration of breastfeeding influence the calculation.

It’s helpful to use calorie monitoring apps to track your intake, macronutrients, and micronutrients.

Nourish yourself adequately while breastfeeding.

Healthy Snacks

Eating healthy snacks is equally important to maintain energy levels and nutritional balance throughout the day.

Opt for snacks rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Some healthy snack options include:

  • Greek yogurt topped with a handful of berries and a drizzle of honey.
  • Sliced apples with almond butter.
  • A mix of raw nuts and dried fruits like almonds, walnuts, raisins, and apricots.
  • Hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks.
  • A smoothie made with spinach, banana, and a spoonful of chia seeds.

Snacking on these foods provides essential nutrients and keeps you satiated, helping curb cravings for less healthy options.

Foods to Avoid

When it comes to breastfeeding and pregnancy, here are some important considerations:

1. Avoid alcohol altogether.

This applies during both pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If you do choose to drink, make sure to breastfeed or pump beforehand.

After consuming alcohol, wait at least 2-3 hours before breastfeeding.

2. Be mindful of caffeine intake.

Limit coffee to no more than 3 cups per day.

If you enjoy tea and soda, cap your daily consumption at one cup each, totaling 16-24 ounces.

Caffeine is also found in chocolate, decaf coffee, energy drinks, and coffee-flavored desserts.

3. Limit fish with high mercury content.

Swordfish, mackerel, shark, and southern bluefin tuna should be limited due to their mercury levels.

Opt for fish rich in omega-3s, such as salmon, sardines, cod, herring, anchovies, and canned tuna.

Aim for a weekly seafood intake of 8-12 ounces, equivalent to approximately two meals.

By following these guidelines, you can make informed choices that support your well-being and the optimal development of your baby.

3. Exercise

Gentle Movements to Strengthen Your Postpartum Body

Please listen to your doctor and DO NOT do strenuous exercise immediately after giving birth!

The body must heal and let it recover for 6-8 weeks.

Starting with gentle movements is a great way to ease back into physical activity after childbirth.

Simple exercises such as walking, pelvic floor exercises, and light stretching can help improve muscle tone, boost mood, and enhance overall energy levels.

Gradual Progression to More Strenuous Exercise

As your strength and endurance improve, you can gradually incorporate more strenuous exercises into your routine.

Physical activity improves cardiovascular health, increases energy levels, and promotes mental well-being.

It’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine.

4. Sleep and Rest

Rest and sleep are paramount for optimal recovery following delivery.

Although finding adequate time for rest and sleep can be challenging, especially while caring for your baby, remains a vital component of your healing process.

Sufficient rest enables the repair and regeneration of tissues, thereby accelerating recovery.

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a tranquil environment can significantly enhance sleep quality for both mother and baby.

Additionally, consider incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or meditation to induce a sense of calmness and facilitate sleep.

Seeking support from family members or caregivers to assist with baby care responsibilities can also provide uninterrupted rest periods.

Sleep deprivation can exacerbate physical discomfort, impair cognitive function, and contribute to mood disorders.

By prioritizing rest and sleep, you will expedite your recovery and enhance your overall well-being during this critical phase weeks after delivery.

5. Emotional Well-being

Postpartum depression and anxiety are common yet often underdiagnosed conditions.

While these conditions may differ, they can coexist or overlap, affecting some women simultaneously.

Fortunately, both disorders are treatable through therapy, medication, or a combination.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression may entail feelings of guilt or worthlessness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Baby Blues

The ‘baby blues’ is a common phenomenon that affects up to 80% of new mothers and typically includes feelings of sadness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, or difficulty concentrating.

It can last several days or weeks but generally fade without intervention.

If symptoms persist beyond two weeks or become severe, seeking professional help is recommended.

Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety may manifest as racing thoughts, restlessness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and physical symptoms like heart palpitations or shortness of breath.

6. Seeking Professional Help

If you’re seeking help, your OB doctor should be your first point of contact to report any symptoms.

After the postpartum period or once it has been 6-8 weeks since giving birth, you can reach out to your PCP or primary care provider.

Your baby most likely has regular doctor visits, so you can also discuss your symptoms with your baby’s pediatrician.

These doctors can refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health nurse practitioner.

Postpartum depression is a treatable condition.

Seeking treatment early can significantly improve your outcome.

If you find yourself without support at home and experience thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, please call the following numbers immediately:

These resources are available 24/7.

You can also contact the Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-852-6262 or 1-833-TLC-MAMA.

Therapists, psychiatrists, and support groups can provide effective treatments and coping strategies.

Spanish-speaking representatives can assist you if you need a language other than English.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

7. Self-care Techniques

Self-care is essential for new mothers.

This can involve prioritizing time for relaxation, pursuing hobbies, practicing mindfulness, or simply taking a warm bath.

Try to get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly.

Avoid using substances like alcohol or drugs to cope with your emotions.

Create an environment of self-compassion by acknowledging negative feelings and being kind to yourself.

Talk to friends and family for emotional support. 

Seeking help from others is not a sign of weakness; allowing yourself to reach out for help is a brave step that can enable you to take better care of yourself and your baby. 

If unsure where to start, look up local postpartum centers offering mental health services. 

You don’t have to go through this alone. 

8. Relationships After Giving Birth

Rekindling Intimacy with Your Partner

A new baby’s arrival can significantly change a couple’s relationship.

However, with open communication, patience, and mutual support, various ways exist to rekindle intimacy and strengthen the bond between partners during this transitional time.

1. Prioritize quality time.

Set aside dedicated moments without distractions.

Plan regular date nights or create special rituals to connect deeper.

2. Communicate openly.

Discuss your feelings and concerns with your partner. Share your needs and listen empathetically to your partner’s.

Clear communication can help build trust and understanding.

3. Physical affection.

Small gestures of affection, like holding hands, hugging, or cuddling, can help maintain closeness and physical intimacy between partners.

Even with a new baby, find moments to show love and affection to each other.

4. Seek support.

Contact support networks and seek help from friends, family, or professionals.

Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance to create time for yourselves and maintain a healthy relationship.

5. Plan together.

Involve your partner in decision-making and planning for baby-related tasks and personal goals. 

Collaborative efforts can strengthen the bond and create a sense of shared responsibility.

Rekindling intimacy takes time and effort, but investing in your relationship is crucial for creating a healthy and fulfilling family dynamic.

Building the Bond with Your Newborn

Bonding with your baby involves spending quality time together, responding to their cues, and providing consistent care for your newborn.

These interactions foster a sense of security, promote healthy development, and deepen your emotional connection.

9. Regular Postnatal Check-Ups

Regular postpartum visits are critical in the postpartum period.

They allow healthcare providers to monitor the new mother’s physical and emotional well-being for the first six weeks postpartum.

These check-ups can help detect and address potential health issues early, provide support and reassurance, and are an excellent opportunity to discuss concerns about nutrition, exercise, breastfeeding, self-care, birth control, and mental health.

Optimizing postpartum care with your healthcare provider is integral to postpartum health.

10. Seek Medical Attention

Recognizing signs and symptoms that may indicate a need for medical attention is critical in the first few days to weeks after giving birth to avoid postpartum complications.

1. Fever.

Check your temperature if you feel feverish or have flu-like symptoms.

 A temperature above 100.4°F or 38°C indicates a fever.

Fever can be caused by various factors, often indicating an underlying infection such as UTI, mastitis, phlebitis, etc.

Note down any accompanying symptoms to provide specific information when contacting your doctor.

2. Passing large blood clots.

If you pass a single large clot, monitor the situation.

If you encounter a sequence of substantial clots and feelings of light-headedness, it is crucial to seek immediate assistance. Reach out for help without delay, whether from your spouse or anyone else who is with you at home.

Prioritize safety by sitting down to prevent any falls.

Retained placental fragments commonly cause excessive clots, so inform your doctor to schedule necessary tests and imaging, such as an ultrasound, for accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.

3. Foul-smelling discharge.

Following childbirth, having vaginal discharge (lochia) is expected. 

Initially, it is red for 3-4 days, turns pinkish from days 4-10, and eventually changes to a yellow-white color.

While a slightly fleshy, musty odor is expected, foul-smelling discharge suggests a possible uterine infection.

4. Heavy vaginal bleeding leading to hypovolemia and shock.

Be vigilant for symptoms such as increased heart rate, cold and clammy skin, pallor, blurry vision, weak pulse, severe dizziness, and racing heart.

To determine heavy bleeding, monitor the peripad by checking its saturation after an hour.

If it is heavily soaked, it indicates abnormal bleeding and should be addressed promptly to prevent complications.

5. Increased pain in the perineum.

Increased perineal pain should be taken seriously if you underwent vaginal birth with episiotomy, laceration repair, or any assisted delivery involving vacuum or forceps.

One possible cause is a hematoma—a blood collection under the skin—which can lead to bleeding, infection, and anemia, potentially necessitating a blood transfusion.

6. Unilateral leg pain.

If you experience pain in either the right or left leg, compare both legs for differences in temperature, tenderness, redness, and swelling.

Report all associated symptoms for a focused assessment and to rule out other potential causes, ensuring timely and appropriate treatment.

7. Chest pain, difficulty breathing, pale skin or cyanosis, increased respiration and heart rate, heightened anxiety, and cough.

These symptoms could indicate a pulmonary embolism (PE)—a blood clot in the lung artery.

Although PE can occur during or after labor and delivery, it can manifest days or weeks later. In case of distress, call 911 for immediate medical attention.

8. Headache, blurry vision, dizziness, leg swelling, and epigastric pain.

These signs may point to pre-eclampsia, a condition that can occur during pregnancy or postpartum.

Monitor your blood pressure at home, especially if you have a higher risk for postpartum hypertension, and consult your healthcare provider for appropriate management.

FAQs

Q: What can I do to promote my recovery?

Eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, and practicing gentle exercise are essential for the first few weeks, promoting postpartum recovery.

Q: How long does it take to recover from childbirth?

Recovery time varies for each individual, but it’s generally recommended to allow at least six to eight weeks after giving birth for your body to heal for vaginal delivery and eight to twelve weeks if you’ve had a c-section.

Q: Can I continue taking my prenatal vitamins after giving birth?

It’s recommended to consult with your healthcare provider about continuing or switching to a different type of vitamin supplement postpartum.

Q: Is it normal to experience mood swings and emotional changes after giving birth?

Yes, it’s common for new mothers to experience fluctuations in mood and emotions due to hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and adjustment to a new role.

However, if your mood swings become extreme or interfere with daily functioning, speak to your healthcare provider.

Q: How can I prevent postpartum depression?

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent it, taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, seeking support from family and friends, and getting regular exercise can help reduce the risk.

It’s also important to talk to a healthcare provider if you feel like you’re struggling emotionally after giving birth. With early diagnosis and treatment, postpartum depression can be managed successfully. 

Q: What is postpartum care?

Postpartum care refers to the care of the mother and support provided to women after childbirth.

It involves medical checkups, emotional support, and guidance on adjusting to life with a new baby.

Q: Why is postpartum care necessary?

Maternal care during postpartum is essential for new moms to prioritize their health and well-being.

It allows your health provider to monitor recovery within the first weeks, address physical or emotional concerns, and guide infant care and feeding.

This allows them to assess your physical and emotional health, discuss concerns, and create a comprehensive postpartum care plan.

Q: When should I schedule my postpartum visit?

It is recommended to have your first postpartum visit with your healthcare provider within the first six weeks after childbirth as long as you don’t have any complications like high blood pressure.

Remember that ensuring the well-being of both mother and newborn is the ultimate goal after the anticipation and excitement of those nine months.

Conclusion

Wow, information is abundant here!

These postpartum care tips probably got you excited and somewhat overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and remember: one step at a time.

Feel free to scroll back and focus on the topics that resonate with you the most.

The postpartum phase is a significant and transformative time for new moms. Take time to soak it all in.

Before you go, check out the essentials when packing your hospital bag for a c-section. See you on the next blog!

Resources

“Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025” (U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020)

Maternal Diet | Breastfeeding | CDC 

Maternal Mental Health 

USDA.gov. (n.d.). Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals. Retrieved from DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals | National Agricultural Library

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