This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase through one of my links (at no cost to you). See my disclosure for specifics.
Before going through it, I had no idea what to expect postpartum. Folks warned me about postpartum depression and the exhaustion that comes with feedings every 2 hours. They gave me breastfeeding suggestions and told me stories of dropping their babies (yikes).
But most of the time people talked about the transition from pregnancy to baby management, they skipped over the really nasty stuff.
I wish I learned a bit more about the postpartum recovery period–ya know, before going through it. So if you’re pregnant (or simply curious) here’s a bit of my experience in the ‘fourth trimester.’ Including all of the leaky, painful things you should be aware of! (Don’t worry, this post isn’t suuuuper TMI . . . it’s all natural!)
Part 1: Postpartum Pain Management
Let’s start with postpartum pain management. After giving birth to Abigail I was pretty blessed to have a minimum of pain.
I did not have a C-section, didn’t tear (so no stitches), or have any complications other than preeclampsia.
Though my recovery was mild (at 4.5 weeks postpartum I felt 100% physically), there was still a decent amount of pain the first 2 weeks.
We had to stay at the hospital for 72 hours post-birth due to my preeclampsia. At that time, it sort of felt like my body was breaking down.
#1 Postpartum Must-Have: IBUPROFEN
The nurse came in an hour or so after my placenta was delivered (it wouldn’t budge) and got me some ibuprofen for the Pitocin-contractions. Yes, I was still having moderate contractions because they insisted I continue taking medications to make sure my uterus closed up properly.
Here’s a smarter person than me explaining this process called ‘involution.’
“Puerperal changes begin almost immediately after delivery, triggered by a sharp drop in the levels of estrogen and progesterone produced by the placenta during pregnancy. The uterus shrinks back to its normal size and resumes its prebirth position by the sixth week. During this process, called involution, the excess muscle mass of the pregnant uterus is reduced, and the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is reestablished, usually by the third week” .
To speed up the involution process, they gave me Pitocin (or perhaps Cytotec as well?) Breastfeeding also promotes uterine involution, so once I returned home from the hospital, I made sure to have ibuprofen around in case the cramps began again.
Most of the time, those involution cramps were like mild period cramps. Except for the one random time they had me bed-ridden and feeling horrible for an hour. Regardless, ibuprofen is definitely something you’ll want to have on hand to combat those random postpartum aches and pains.
#2 Postpartum Must-Have: WITCH HAZEL WIPES & #3 DERMOPLAST SPRAY
Even though my perineum didn’t tear, there was still quite a bit of swelling and soreness down there. I’m not sure why I didn’t expect moving around to be difficult after delivery, but it definitely was for a couple of days.
Lucky for me, the hospital gave me some fantastic witch hazel wipes and dermoplast spray! No toilet paper use for me!! Witch hazel helps a ton with pain and inflammation . . . it was quite literally what the doctor ordered.
I definitely recommend having some witch hazel essential oil or wipes ready to go at home (in case you run out at the hospital).
#4 Postpartum Must-Have: SLEEP
Okay, this might be an obvious postpartum must-do, but I really felt like I should mention it. Even though all I wanted to do was cuddle with my new baby, Abigail, a close second after giving birth was my intense desire to snooze.
Depending on the timing and speed of your labor, you could be up all night. If you were on an IV like me, you might be able to sleep during the night you are induced but then have to get up and pee every 30 minutes. (That’s pretty much the worst thing ever for getting rest FYI.)
Whenever the nurse takes your baby to the nursery for their newborn tests, SLEEP. Say hi to your family, eat something solid and yummy, take an ibuprofen, and go to bed. Your baby will be back before you know it and you’ll get to say hi. And then after cuddling for a bit, you should probably hand her off to your husband so you can CONTINUE SLEEPING!
Giving birth is a marathon. Your body was made to be able to do it, but it’s still extremely strenuous. Not to mention the mental exhaustion you might feel after giving birth. Sleeping will help your body and mind process what has happened.
#5 Postpartum Must-Have: GROOVE RING
This is a little thing, but if you don’t enjoy getting your fingers squished, I highly recommend investing in a silicone ring. I bought one for Caleb and I when we got married (he didn’t want to lose his wedding band in the field and I knew I’d eventually be pregnant and puffy!)
I cannot recommend Groove Life silicone rings enough. Their rings are super durable and comfortable (I forget that I’m wearing it).
They have tons of design options for ladies and gents. Dozens of thicknesses, colors, patterns, and sizes–it’s super easy to find exactly what you love. I found one in my favorite color, lavender, and I bought Caleb a thick, black (manly-man) silicone ring!
The best part about Groove Life is their lifetime warranty. Seriously! If you break or lose your ring, they’ll replace it for free.
Caleb ripped his ring in half while working in the yard, and all I had to do to get it replaced was remember my Groove login and put in the request!
I bought one of their super-affordable rings for backups to our wedding bands, but pregnancy and postpartum are also great times to buy some. Because unfortunately, the finger-puff might not go away entirely postpartum. The good news is, you can wear your silicone ring until either your finger goes back to regular size or you get your wedding band resized. (And you’ll have a ring you don’t have to worry about losing when you’re gardening or washing the dishes!)
Check out Groove Life rings if you’re even mildly curious. They’re fantastic.
#6 Postpartum Must-Have: STEP STOOL
My final postpartum pain management suggestion: invest in a step stool. Postpartum, sitting down, standing up, or even climbing into bed can be uncomfortable.
The soreness and inflammation made it challenging for me to climb into bed (and into our truck), but stepping on a stool made all the difference! There are quite a few cheap and cute options online like this XXX or even a cube!
Speaking of stool . . .
Part 2: postpartum Poop Management
I’ll make this part quick and painless, but it absolutely must be discussed!!
For many women in labor, their body empties itself before the pushing begins. (I don’t think I need to explain why!) Another source of postpartum pain, however, is not overactive bowels, but slow-moving ones.
Yes, you heard me correctly. You could get really really constipated after you push out your little baby. This constipation coupled with the soreness down there can lead to some seriously uncomfortable movements. And I’m not even going to try to touch on the mild postpartum trauma that is pushing something else out of your body right after you’ve given birth.
To be honest, it took me a couple hours to be brave enough to get up and try!
#7 & #8 Postpartum Must-Haves: STOOL SOFTENER AND A POOPY STOOL
To avoid the postpartum pain of straining while going number 2, I highly recommend taking a stool softener. They even offered me one right after giving birth, but I (for some unknown, silly reason) declined.
I changed my mind soon after!
Once I got home, I learned it is also *helpful* when you’re stopped up to align your bowels . . . seriously.
And that’s where squatty potties (or the pleonastic phrase I enjoy ‘poopy stools’) come in handy! They get everything all aligned so your bathroom break can (I’m so sorry for this) go smoothly.
Part 3: Postpartum Leak Management
Last, but certainly not least, is managing the fluids coming out of your body. Depending on your body, you could have already been leaking colostrum before giving birth. Certainly, sometime soon postpartum, you will begin doing so (and then when your milk comes in, you may start leaking even more!)
#9 Postpartum Must-Have: NURSING PADS
To avoid the postpartum pain of embarrassment from a milk wet spot on my shirt, I’ve been using a combination of reusable and disposable nursing pads. If you haven’t encountered these before, they’re basically just menstrual pads for your breasts.
The leaking certainly does not stop there, ladies!
After giving birth, you deliver the placenta as well as a whole bunch of goop. Postpartum, there is an entire process of your uterus returning to normal and shedding the environment that grew and nourished and protected the baby for the last 9 months.
Basically, you’re going to get a 3-6 week-long period that gradually gets less and less leaky as time progresses. Immediately after giving birth, there will be a lot of blood.
And I mean a lot. Perhaps you’ll even leak some blood clots! (Always make sure they are within safe size by consulting your doctor.)
But this leaking isn’t going to be a problem because the hospital will probably trick you out with some fantastic non-leaking accessories:
#10 Postpartum Must-Have: PUPPY PEE PADS & BIG PADS
I laughed out loud when the nurse showed me all of the layers I would need to keep from bleeding onto the hospital bed. Here’s a diagram I created for you:
Luckily, this amount of leak-proofing doesn’t last for long. Here’s the *average* schedule of how postpartum bleeding decreases over time:
#11 Postpartum Must-Have: GRANNY PANTIES
Once you return home, it’s probably a good idea to invest in some inexpensive and disposable underwear in case you do leak. Also, I’d suggest making them of the larger, granny variety to avoid any tightness or rubbing down there.
That’s all of the postpartum goodies I can think of right now! Obviously, these are items that help you with your physical recovery, but there is definitely an entire mental recovery (and rewiring) as well.