Giving birth to a child is one of the most profound and life-changing things you can do. What they don’t tell you is that it’s also one of the most physically taxing things you’ll ever experience — and that’s assuming you don’t have any complications.
There is an entire series of books on what to expect when you’re expecting. However, the advice trickles off once you push something the size of a watermelon out of your body. Here are six postpartum recovery tips that all new moms need to know.
1. Say No to The Husband Stitch
Thankfully, the so-called ‘husband stitch’ has largely fallen out of favor, but the field of obstetrics is still full of hidebound old men who think giving birth on your back is the best way to push out a baby. After-delivery care for mothers may require stitches to repair tears in the vagina or perineum. These medical interventions are necessary.
The husband stitch, also known as a vaginal tuck, adds one or more additional stitches to the vagina to “make it tighter” after the trauma of childbirth. What makes it worse is that this extra stitch was often performed without the mother’s consent.
It’s a disgusting and misogynistic practice, and while you shouldn’t kick your OB if they suggest it — even in jest — the option is always there for you. It’s best to have someone in your corner who will speak up for you if you find yourself too exhausted after giving birth to advocate for yourself.
2. Pay Attention to Your Body
Your body has undergone massive changes throughout the last nine months as you made space for the new life growing within. During the first few weeks after you bring your little one home, most of your focus will be on them. Make sure you’re taking time to pay attention to your body as it slowly returns to normal. Postpartum hormones can fuel severe mood swings, hair loss and more.
You don’t need to spend all your time focused on every little thing, but monitoring how your body starts changing back once the postpartum hormones start evening out can make it easier to identify if problems arise.
3. Understand the Difference Between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Your postpartum hormones aren’t just impacting your physical health. They can significantly impact your mental health, as well. You may find yourself delighting in the baby’s first smile and then sobbing your heart out the next moment with little to no provocation. These baby blues are normal as your hormones start evening out and should resolve within the first couple of weeks. On the other hand, postpartum depression may not occur until a month or longer after birth and can last a year or more.
Learn how to recognize the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression
4. Protect Your Nipples
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to bond with your baby and provide them with the nutrition they need, but it isn’t easy. Your infant may find it difficult to latch on. A poor latch can also damage your nipples over time, making the skin crack and bleed. This can make the simple act of breastfeeding incredibly painful.
Take steps to protect your nipples. Start by talking to a lactation consultant, preferably before you leave the hospital. They can teach you how to ensure the infant latches properly and provide tips to help prevent sore, cracked or bleeding nipples. A salve can also help, though you may need to wash it off before your next feeding because while it’s safe for the baby, it tastes awful.
5. Don’t Rush Back Into Sex
Yes, your doctor may clear you to jump back in the saddle at your six-week postpartum appointment, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to start having sex again. Don’t feel like you need to when the doctor says it’s OK. It can take weeks for tears and stitches to heal and months for everything to start feeling normal again.
If you just can’t wait, take it slow, use some lube and don’t push yourself. The last thing you want is to tear a half-healed stitch or cause yourself some pain.
6. Know When to Call a Doctor
Even if the birth went well, there are still postpartum conditions that merit calling a doctor. Hemorrhaging and filling up more than one pad an hour could be dangerous or fatal if untreated. Severe insomnia due to pregnancy or headaches that don’t respond to treatment could also be a sign of underlying conditions, as can edema or swelling accompanied by pain.
Even if your birth went well, rare complications can still occur after you and the baby get home. This is why it’s so important to spend some time paying attention to your body during these first few weeks. Don’t be afraid to call a doctor — you’re not annoying them with your questions.
Take Care of Yourself
Giving birth can be a wonderful, beautiful experience but also incredibly stressful and traumatic. You just spent nine months growing an entire human being inside your uterus. Now that you’ve done that hard part, take the time to take care of yourself.
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