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Postpartum Care: What New Moms Need to Know

new born baby in his cradle at the hospital

There’s so much excitement surrounding the birth of a new child, and the amount of information about what to do with that child once they are born is seemingly endless, but what about mom’s postpartum care? Adapted from resources from WebMD, here is Nurse Sue’s list of what moms need to know to care for themselves postpartum to ensure a good recovery.

About the Postpartum Stage

  • Contractions called afterpains shrink the uterus. Shrinking may take 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Sore muscles (especially in the arms, neck, or jaw) are common after childbirth. This is because of the hard work of labor. The soreness should go away in a few days.
  • Bleeding and vaginal discharge (lochia) may last for 2 to 4 weeks and can come and go for about 2 months.
  • Vaginal soreness, including pain, discomfort, and numbness, is common after vaginal birth.
  • If you had a C-section, you may have pain in your lower belly and may need pain medicine for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Breast engorgement is common between the third and fourth days after delivery, when the breasts begin to fill with milk. This can cause discomfort and swelling. Placing ice packs on your breasts, taking a hot shower, or using warm compresses may relieve the discomfort.

Care after Vaginal Birth

  • Use pads instead of tampons for the bloody flow that may last as long as 2 weeks.
  • Ease cramps or afterpains with ibuprofen (such as Advil). If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
  • If you have swelling or pain around the opening of your vagina, try using ice. You can put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Cleanse yourself with a gentle squeeze of warm water from a bottle instead of wiping with toilet paper.
  • Try sitting in a few inches of warm water (sitz bath) 3 times a day and after bowel movements.
  • Ease the soreness of hemorrhoids and the area between your vagina and rectum with ice compresses or witch hazel pads.
  • Ease constipation by drinking lots of fluid and eating high-fiber foods.

What to avoid:

  • Wait until you are healed (about 4 to 6 weeks) before you have sexual intercourse. Your doctor will tell you when it is okay to have sex.
  • Try not to travel with your baby for 5 or 6 weeks. If you take a long car trip, make frequent stops to walk around and stretch.
  • Do not rinse inside your vagina with fluids (douche).

Care after a C-section:

Until your doctor says it is OK:

  • Avoid strenuous activities for 6 weeks.
  • Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby.
  • You may have some vaginal bleeding. Wear pads. Do not use tampons.
  • Hold a pillow over your incision when you cough or take deep breaths. This will support your belly and decrease your pain.
  • You may shower as usual. Pat the incision dry when you are done.

These are general care guidelines. If you are concerned about any of your symptoms, call your doctor!