Whether your baby is born vaginally or by caesarean there is bound to be some post-birth soreness. Your body will take days or even weeks to fully recover from pregnancy and birth. Time is usually the best healer but there are some things you can do to ease any discomfort you experience while your body heals.
**disclaimer** none of the below information is intended to be a replacement for medical advice. Always check with your care provider if you are experiencing discomfort or pain after having a baby.
From the top down the most common sore bits are:
A post-birth headache is not uncommon, especially if you had an epidural or a long tiring birth.
Top tips for headache
* In most cases some paracetamol will be enough to ease it.
* Drink plenty of fluids and rest when you can.
* Some women find they are sensitive to light and sound so resting in a quiet, dimly lit room seems to help.
* Always let your care provider know immediately if you experience dizziness, vision changes, sudden vomiting or the headache comes on rapidly.
There are two common sources for breast pain after childbirth. These are nipple pain and sore, engorged breasts.
Top tips for sore nipples
* Sore nipples are usually caused by a poor latch. It is really important to address the underlying cause of your nipple pain. Ask one of the midwives or lactation consultants for support and to check your baby's latch and for tongue or lip ties.
* Sore nipples can be relieved by hand expressing a few drops of colostrum or breast milk directly onto the nipple after each feed and allowing them to air dry.
* There are also commercial nipple balms such as Lansinoh or Earth Mama Angel Baby that are soothing and breastfeeding safe.
As your breasts start to produce milk you may experience engorgement which is when your breasts feel hard, sore and warm.
Top tips for engorged breasts
* allowing your baby to feed often and for as long as they like to empty the breast as much as possible.
* a warm face washer or heat pack applied to the breast during feeds.
* expressing some excess milk (but be careful not to express too much as this may encourage your breasts to make even more milk).
* cold cabbage leaves applied to the breasts between feeds.
You would think that after all the hard work your uterus has done growing and birthing a baby that it would be pain free from now on but that's not necessarily the case.
Your uterus now needs to go back to its original size which means more contractions. After your first baby these after birth pains may not be noticeable but if this is not your first you will probably not miss the sensation of your uterus shrinking (particularly while breastfeeding)
Top tips for after birth pain
* warm compress/heat pack.
* use the same coping techniques you used in labour: breathing, visualisation etc.
* some women have found using post-birth herbal teas help with the cramps.
* paracetamol or ibuprofen.
If you have had a caesarean your incision site will be sore and tender for a few days at least (possibly a few weeks).
Every day in hospital a nurse or midwife will check your incision to ensure it healing and that there are no signs of infection. A caesarean is major surgery and it is normal to feel sore and experience some difficulty moving around after it but it is important to try to get (gently) moving within 24 hours of the birth.
Top Tips for caesarean recovery
* get some big undies (e.g. Bonds Cottontail type undies) that sit on your waist as anything that sits on the incision area will be very uncomfortable.
* place the sticky side of a sanitary pad against the front of your underwear and the soft side against the caesarean scar to prevent rubbing.
* use a folded up small towel to gently hold against your belly if you need to cough or sneeze.
* post-birth recovery shorts or belly binding.
* if your wound starts to ooze, you feel feverish or redness appears around the site, contact your care provider immediately.
* once the incision has healed you can start doing some gentle scar tissue massage.
Vagina and Perineum
After having a baby it is no surprise that having a sore and tender vagina is pretty normal. Your vagina has been through a lot and will need some TLC for a few days.
Top tips for a sore vagina and perineum area
* get a new squeezy sauce bottle or peri bottle and fill with warm water and squirt your vaginal/perineum area while weeing to reduce any stinging.
* pour water onto a maternity pad and place in freezer. When needed place a clean thin cloth between the pad and your skin and place pad in your undies for a few minutes.
* or you might prefer to warm a heat pack and place over your clothing between your legs.
* if you have any stitches or grazes fold up some gentle toilet paper or tissues around your hand and hold against the stitches when you are weeing or pooping.
* drinking Ural can help make your urine less stingy
* Arnica cream or tablets can be purchased at most pharmacies and some women find they help with healing and reducing any swelling/bruising.
* use the softest toilet paper available and be gentle when wiping.
Hemorrhoids are a very common (and very loathed) result of pregnancy and birth. They are best treated both internally and externally.
Top tips for a sore bum (external)
* topical, over the counter, hemorrhoid treatments such as Proctosedyl or Anusol.
* witch hazel applied to a cotton ball and placed directly on the hemorrhoid.
* ice and/or warmth - use the same way as for a sore vagina.
* lay down and rest as much as possible but if you have to sit in a chair for longer than a few minutes roll up two face washers and place where your bum cheeks will be so that you aren't applying pressure to any sore areas.
* avoid straining when you are having a bowel motion. Placing a low stool or telephone books under your feet to raise your knees can sometimes help you pass a bowel motion.
Top tips for a sore bum (internal)
* ensure you are drinking plenty of water and fibre-rich fruits and vegetables. You want to avoid constipation like its the plague. Avoid any foods that you know have a tendency to 'block you up'.
* eating prunes or drinking prune juice can help soften your bowel motions.
* over the counter stool softeners can help if you are still experiencing constipation.
The Good News
I know it sounds you may be sore all over but rest assured most women will only experience a few of the above. Some women may not feel any of them and have a very easy postpartum recovery period!
The majority of women will feel almost fully healed within a week. Usually the first 48 hours are the worst and each day you will feel slightly better than the last.
Like any recovery the best medicine is taking it easy and allowing time to do its magic. Take it as an excuse to lay down to cuddle and fall in love with your new baby!
If you have had a baby what were your favourite ways to soothe any sore bits?