Taking Care of Your Postpartum Health
What I wish I knew before becoming a new mom
Life as a new mom can be exciting, unpredictable, and overwhelming. You invested the last nine months preparing for this chapter and before you know it, your bundle of joy has arrived. There is a lot to get used to especially if it’s your first child.
But it dawned on us, between the doctor visits, the prenatal classes and the birthing plans - no one really talks about what’s going to happen to you. Friends and family may bombard you with tips on how to take care of your newborn and once you’ve given birth, the doctor looks at you at your six week check up, but who is helping you take care of yourself in this new journey of motherhood?
During pregnancy, you’ve experienced a rollercoaster of hormonal changes and you’re about to go through another ride into postpartum. This means a lot of physical changes to look forward to. These changes are likely totally normal, but some of them can feel concerning if you aren’t sure what to expect.
As a team of moms, we know all too well that caring for a newborn baby is a full-time job. In order to fully care for the ones you love, you must prioritize your health. Here’s a few pieces of advice on how to take care of the postpartum body that we wish we knew before giving birth.
1. Postpartum bleeding is normal
Whether you give birth vaginally or through a c-section, you will most likely experience postpartum bleeding. Don’t be alarmed by it, it’s completely normal.
Postpartum bleeding is also known as lochia. It comes from where the placenta was attached to your womb, and begins to bleed right after childbirth lasting up to 4-6 weeks.
The pattern to look out for is red fluid in the first 3 to 4 days, then lighter (more brownish) after 5 to 6 days. The final stages of postpartum bleeding will be yellowish-white, with little blood. This is mostly white blood cells mixed with cervical mucus. The average time for lochia to become colourless is about 3–4 weeks.
A note for the soon-to-be breastfeeding mamas:
When you start breastfeeding, you might experience cramps. The cramps are brought on through the release of hormone oxytocin when the baby suckles for milk. Your body is signalling that your baby is out and helps your womb contract back to its original size. Isn’t the female body amazing?
While your womb is contracting, there may be a release of blood but it will happen quickly to reduce your risk of postpartum anemia from blood loss.
How you can to prepare:
- Period panties are designed to wick away moisture and keep you leak-proof. These Organic Period Panty by EVE have generously wide and stretchy openings for extra comfort during postpartum. We suggest trying your leak-proof panties before giving birth, so you can adjust to the new solution before you adjust to your new life as a mother.
- Reusable maxi-pads are like normal pads, without the excess plastic, chemicals, and potential leaks. We love the maxi-pad by Canadian company, Aisle.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes and prioritize comfort. Stay cool down there to prevent infection.
2. Breastfeeding can be simpler, with the right gear
Breast pumps aren't as efficient as baby nursing, so 2 out of 3 of moms rely on breast massage while pumping to produce enough milk to feed their babies. Research shows that performing massage while breastfeeding can result in 50% more milk per session. Giving yourself a breast massage while pumping can yield more milk, help establish your milk supply and alleviate clogged ducts but just using your hands can be time-consuming, tiring and stressful.
Still, a quick Google search around ‘pumping breast milk’ only confirms that we aren’t the only ones with an endless stream of questions. Some new moms go through several breastfeeding gear to find the right one — we recommend investing in a high-quality product that will last you the entire feeding journey, like the Lilu Hands-free Massage Bra.
We wish we had a massage bra like the Lilu when we breastfed. This innovative bra makes breast pumping more efficient and productive by massaging your breasts automatically. Lilu takes care of the heavy lifting, so you can go hands-free. On average, moms who pumped with the Lilu Massage Bra saw 30%-55% more milk per session.
3. Post-baby sex can hurt
Many moms find that they have little to zero interest in sexual intimacy during the beginning months of postpartum, as they worry they may experience painful sex. This is totally normal!
You could feel ready for sex a couple of weeks after your baby is born, or terrified to have sex at ten weeks post-childbirth. Either way, these feelings are totally justified.
41-83% of new moms experience sexual dysfunction (low libido, pain with sex, not finding sex pleasurable) 2-3 months postpartum. A common cause is due to the (again) sudden drop in levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone after birth, which affects sexual desire and lubrication. Breastfeeding can also make arousal difficult as it lowers estrogen levels more to help with milk production.
17-36% of new moms experience painful sex even 6 months after birth. According to the San Francisco Birthing Center, you should resume penetrative sex when these three things are true:
- You’ve stopped bleeding
- You don’t feel pain
- You are in the mood
Sometimes using a good water-based lubricant like Sutil Luxe or a buffer ring like Ohnut can help reduce pain during sex or make the return to sexual activity less intimidating. Ohnut is a donut-shaped, depth-limiting wearable that goes over a penis or dildo to act like a buffer when penetration goes too far. It helps to minimize pain and increase pleasure.
TLDR; Remember not to overdo it after your pregnancy. Listen to your body, nourish your body, pace yourself and give yourself plenty of rest. It’s not a competition!
4. Strengthening your Core is Essential
Toward the end of your pregnancy or postpartum, you may notice an indentation in the middle of your belly due to your stomach expanding. It may be daunting, but 1 in 2 women experience this common condition known as diastasis recti. This gap in your abdominal muscles can heal on its own, but targeted exercises can help alleviate back pain and close the gap more quickly.
Image from What to Expect
Just as if a gap in the belly is not enough, you may also experience pelvic floor dysfunction — the inability to correctly relax and coordinate your pelvic floor muscles. Symptoms include constipation, straining to defecate, having urine or stool leakage and experiencing a frequent need to pee. This is due to your pelvic floor muscles stretching during childbirth to accommodate your baby’s head and shoulders passing through. At 40 weeks, the baby will grow to about the size of a small pumpkin!
Pelvic floor and core strengthening exercises are crucial in postpartum recovery, not only to heal your stitches but also help regain bladder and abdominal strength. The simple, at-home exercises can help rebuild your ab muscles, can help regain your core strength, while doing Kegel exercises can help prevent development of pelvic floor disorders like incontinence or prolapse.
When should I start exercising?
As soon as you get the green light from your doctor and if you feel comfortable to do so! No matter what type of delivery you had, you can start re-strengthening your pelvic floor soon after labor.
For better guidance on Kegel exercises, you can train with a Kegel trainer. Almost 30% of women perform Kegel exercises inaccurately and potentially damaging, so using a trainer like the Perifit with a pressure-sensing technology can help give instant feedback and spot faulty contractions. Plus, adding games to the exercise makes it more fun and with pelvic training, the best results come from consistency and proper techniques.
To use a Kegel trainer, wait until sex weeks after giving birth before use.
Perifit Kegel Trainer with App. Coming to fermata Singapore in June 2021.
TLDR; You have nothing to lose by practicing it, but risk unnecessary pain and discomfort without it.
While every breastfeeding and postpartum journey is unique, you are not alone in your experience and the feelings that go along with it. Lean on your own mom friends, family, and our community, Taboo Table Talk, to feel supported in your journey.