The Ultimate Guide to Postpartum Care: What to Do After Giving Birth
Having a baby is an exciting experience, but it can also be intimidating as seen in Theraply’s pregnancy advice guide:
Taking care of a newborn is demanding – they need to be fed and changed every few hours. They won’t sleep for more than a few hours at a time. And all the while, the mother is trying to recover from nine months of pregnancy and strenuous childbirth.
To help, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to postnatal care and what you can expect after giving birth. Also, always remember to attend your postpartum doctor appointments and to heed any advice they might give you.
Natural Delivery or Cesarean
Babies can be born in two ways: vaginal delivery or by a Cesarean section (C-section). Many women prefer to have their babies vaginally, as c-sections are a major operation. Sometimes, though, things don’t go according to plan.
Many women who planned to deliver vaginally end up having to have an emergency C-section. This happens more often in first-time mothers and women with other health complications. Other women choose to have a C-section from the outset.
If you have had a C-section before, most doctors recommend delivering that way for all subsequent pregnancies. Vaginal delivery after a C-section can cause unwanted complications.
How Vaginal Delivery Impacts the Body
Vaginal births are extremely strenuous and can take quite a toll on the mother’s body. Many women experience perineum tearing during delivery. This occurs when the skin between the vagina and anus stretch too much. These tears can be painful. They usually require stitches and regular cleaning to avoid infection.
Another common result is general vaginal soreness even if when there is no perineum tearing. The muscles and tissues in this area have stretched to their limit. They need to heal just like any other muscle. This also usually causes new moms discomfort when they sit or stand for extended periods. As well, it can cause complications when they urinate and have bowel movements.
Constipation, gas, and bloating are also common after giving birth. Other issues include leaky bladders, vaginal discharge, and bleeding.
How C-Sections Impact the Body
Women who have cesarean sections experience many of the same things as women who deliver vaginally. However, the healing process from C-sections is much longer. The hospital stay is longer, too – women with no complications can expect to spend 2 to 4 days in the hospital.
The surgical incision usually takes about 6 weeks to heal. Weakness and pain in abdominal muscles are common since they are recovering from major surgery. Depending on how long a woman was in labor before having the C-section, she may experience perineum soreness and tearing. Even with a C-section, a woman may still have vaginal soreness.
Pain with bowel movements and urination is also common, along with gas and constipation. Women who have C-sections should also expect to have vaginal discharge after birth even if they weren’t in labor long.
Precautions after Delivery
Regardless of how the baby was delivered, the recovery time after pregnancy is usually at least 6 weeks. During this time, women who have just given birth need to rest and avoid straining themselves as much as possible. Constipation can be eased with the use of stool softeners, postnatal massages, and a healthy confinement meal plan.
Women who had C-sections or perineum tears should keep the areas clean by cleaning them gently with soap and water once a day. New moms should also expect to experience vaginal discharge and postpartum cramping.
Vaginal Discharge After Birth
After birth, the uterus needs to shed all leftover material from the pregnancy. The result is postpartum bleeding (also called lochia). This is similar to a heavy period and can last up to 6 weeks. The bleeding is heaviest for the first 3-10 days, after which it slowly recedes.
As the bleeding tapers off, the discharge changes in color. It will transition from pink to brown, and eventually a yellow or creamy white. During this time, women are advised against using tampons. They should use pads instead.
Vaginal discharge after birth can be expected after both C-sections and vaginal births. A postnatal massage can help speed up the process, which means less time stuck wearing pads.
New moms should watch out for extremely heavy bleeding and clots. Heavy bleeding is going through more than one maxi pad an hour. These can be signs of hemorrhaging. Women should also monitor the discharge for foul smells or discoloration, which can indicate an infection. Contact a doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Many women experience cramps during the recovery period. They feel similar to period cramps. However, they should not be anywhere near as intense as labor contractions. Postpartum cramps are especially common during breastfeeding. The hormones released by breastfeeding trigger these cramps.
New moms should ask their doctor about over the counter pain medicine to help make them more comfortable. Heating pads and postpartum massages can also alleviate pain and cramps.
There is a lot that goes into post-pregnancy care. There are a lot of different opinions and traditional practices. As such, it can be hard for new moms to know which ones to listen to and which are valid. To make things easier, here is a complete guide of what to do after giving birth.
After giving birth, it is important for new moms to get plenty of rest. Of course, a newborn that needs feeding and changing every few hours. This can make resting easier said than done. Many women in Singapore and the surrounding areas choose to go to a confinement center in Singapore for postnatal treatment. However, confinement centres can be rather expensive. Most are also only for mother and child – they don’t allow the fathers to stay.
But now, new moms can get a lot of the same services in the comfort of their own home. Such services include in-home confinement food, postpartum massages at home, lactation massages to treat engorged breasts and more. This allows parents to save money and makes it easier for dads to spend quality time with their new baby.
Postpartum massages are an important part of post-pregnancy care. So, why massage the uterus after birth? Postnatal massages help the uterus return to its normal size and shed any remaining pregnancy tissue. In turn, this helps with postpartum bleeding and discharge. This is also why they are essential for anyone who has had a miscarriage.
Sometimes there is still tissue left in the uterus after a miscarriage. Left untreated, this tissue can lead to massive infections and even death. A postpartum miscarriage recovery massage will help expel this tissue and encourage healing.
The best confinement massage technique is called Jamu. Jamu helps the baby belly shrink quickly. It also relieves constipation, soreness, stress, blocked milk ducts, postpartum bleeding, and gas. These are all common after pregnancy. Jamu is also very popular because it gives new mothers a chance to relax and have some time to themselves during one of the most difficult periods of their life.
Origins of Jamu Massage
Jamu massage is a popular Javanese postnatal massage technique that has been around for centuries. The word itself means “herbs”. The technique capitalizes on the healing power of certain herbs. It also involves the use of hot stones and massage oils formulated especially for postnatal care.
The hallmark of Jamu massages is the stomach binding wraps. After each massage, the therapist wraps the new mother’s stomach with tight strips of linen. These wraps help the belly return to its pre-pregnancy size.
How It Works
Jamu is a full body massage with hot stones and oil. Jamu oil is typically made from lemongrass oil, ginger, and other herbs. This herbal blend encourages healing and detoxification.
The massage usually starts with the mother lying on her stomach. The therapist massages their backs, legs, and necks with the hot stones and oil. Then, the mother turns over onto her back. the therapist massages the arms, legs, stomach, and breasts.
After the massage, the therapist applies Jamu herbs. These help to expel the wind from the belly. Lastly, they wrap the belly with Bengkung binding. The binding can be worn 6 to 10 hours a day, although some women prefer to take it off for sleeping.
Postpartum Massage Benefits
Here are all the benefits you can expect from Jamu postnatal massages:
- Helps relieve soreness all over the body
- Works out the blood clots and tissue remaining in the uterus which helps them pass faster
- Minimizes the amount of time spent wearing pads
- Breast massage alleviate soreness from swelling
- Unblocks clogged milk ducts
- Increases milk production
- Speeds up the postpartum healing process
- Promote blood circulation
- Help soothe digestive issues like gas and constipation
- Rids the body of water and fluid retention
- Expel wind or flatulence from the belly
- Relieve muscular and sciatic pain
- Promote relaxation
Massage oil benefits:
- Helps firm the skin
- Reduces stored fat
- Gets rid of stretch marks
- Reduces the appearance of scars
- Evens out discoloration
Benefits of the Bengkung binding:
- Helps belly and uterus return to normal size faster,
- Provides support to abdominal and muscles
- Reduces soreness and backaches
- Helps new mothers feel more comfortable with their changed bodies
Lymphatic Drainage Massage
A lymphatic drainage massage is a special type of Jamu massage. It focuses on increasing the activity and circulation of the lymph system. It helps the body rid itself of any toxins that may have accumulated during the pregnancy or delivery.
Why Is It Needed?
Many women choose to use pain medication during childbirth. The most popular of these medications is an epidural. During an epidural, doctors inject anesthesia into the space around the spinal cord. The medication creates a numbing sensation or loss of feeling below the injection site.
When epidurals are used in vaginal deliveries, they block sensation from the waist down. They usually need to be adjusted for C-sections to ensure that the mother doesn’t feel any pain during the procedure.
Epidurals are usually very safe procedures with minimal side effects – provided the mother is not allergic to the anesthesia. However, there is a rare side effect of the procedure that causes the cerebral spinal fluid to leak. This is a very dangerous condition that can cause severe headaches, nausea and vomiting, infection, coma, and eventually death.
Other side effects of epidurals include:
- Difficulty with bladder control
- Nerve damage
- Low blood pressure
- Itchy skin
These side effects are usually mild and disappear on their own. However, some women report experiencing them for years after giving birth.
While the body is usually good at eliminating toxins on its own, it doesn’t hurt to give it a little extra help. Usually, the lymphatic system efficiently expels waste from the body, but surgeries and the strain of childbirth can cause a build-up of fluid. This condition is called lymphedema.
A lymphatic drainage massage can help combat lymphedema. It speeds up the detox process by expelling retained fluids and any lingering epidural chemicals. This allows your body to spend more energy on healing and less on detoxification. It will also help with weight loss and increase energy levels.
How Do I Get a Lymphatic Drainage Massage?
If you want a lymph node massage, just ask your therapist when you schedule your appointment. They might even offer it from the outset if they know you had anesthesia. The lymph massage will be very similar to the regular Jamu massage. You can expect the therapist will focus on the areas and pathways of the lymph system.
These areas include:
- Under the chin
- Under the collarbone
- Inside the elbows
Post Pregnancy Massage FAQ
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Jamu massage:
How soon can I get a massage after giving birth?
Women who have had a vaginal delivery can schedule their first massage 7 days after birth.
Those who have a C-section should wait at least 3 weeks after delivery. They will need to get clearance from their doctor before making their first appointment. If there are no complications, uterus massages usually start the following week at 4 weeks postpartum.
How many times should I get a postnatal massage?
The recommended number of postnatal massage sessions is 8-11. Sessions usually take place once a week, so 8 – 11 sessions cover the difficult early recovery period.
Should I get a massage after delivery via cesarean?
Yes, but your massage therapist will avoid the incision area and uterus massage until at least 4 weeks postpartum. A massage in that area before it is properly healed would be painful and could cause the incision to reopen.
Can I get a postpartum massage at home?
Yes! Many services offer in-home confinement postnatal massages. All you need is a few towels and a flat, firm, and comfortable place to lie down. If you don’t have a mattress that works, many in-home massage services can bring their own massage table.
Are Jamu herbs and oils safe for breastfeeding?
Yes, jamu herbs and oils are organic and safe for breastfeeding mums and contact with your baby’s skin. They are gentle and not known to cause any adverse reactions.
Postpartum depression is also sometimes called the “baby blues”. It is the single most common childbirth complication. Awareness of the condition is increasing. However, many women suffering from postpartum depression don’t even know that they have it.
Signs and Symptoms
Postpartum depression manifests differently in everyone. Some of the most common signs and symptoms are:
- Feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, or empty
- Extreme feelings of anxiety or fear
- Anger, irritability, restlessness
- Feeling unable to bond with the baby
- Doubting your ability to care for your baby
- Feeling like the baby would be better off without you
- Thoughts of self-harm
- Body aches
- Not sleeping at all or sleeping more than normal
- Changes in appetite
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Avoiding family and friends
Post Pregnancy Treatment
Luckily, postpartum depression is very treatable. Most doctors and pregnancy healthcare providers know the warning signs. They will often ask screening questions to see if you need treatment.
Treatment will be different for every individual. It may include counseling, support groups, or cognitive behavioral therapy. There are also medications like selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and hormone therapy.
Another very important aspect of treatment is learning self-care. Treatment professionals will give you tips for making time for yourself and will probably recommend relaxation techniques. Post-delivery massages can also be very helpful.
A lot of moms might feel reluctant to seek help for postpartum depression because that means acknowledging that they have it. There are still negative stereotypes surrounding these mental illnesses, and many moms might feel ashamed.
However, it is important to know that postpartum depression does not make you a bad mother and is not your fault. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can feel better.
A healthy diet is essential for a speedy recovery after childbirth. It’s important for both mother and child as the baby gets anything its mother eats through the breast milk.
The ideal diet should warm the uterus, nourish the mother’s body, and support the production of breast milk. One of the reasons confinement centers are so popular is that they provide these meals. They allow moms to have one less thing to worry about when it comes to cooking or what foods to eat.
New moms who choose not to go to a confinement centre now have the option of in-home confinement meal plan catering. It is the same great food, conveniently delivered to your door.
Best Foods to Eat During Confinement
What foods are best to eat during confinement? Well, the best confinement foods are those that nourish the mother’s body and keep her regular. These foods help fight fatigue, constipation, warm the uterus, and increase the supply of breast milk. Foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, and nutrients are preferable. It is also important for moms to eat plenty of iron since many women are anemic after giving birth.
One of the most popular confinement meals is pork knuckles black vinegar and ginger. The pork knuckles are rich in iron. They are a good source of protein. Ginger is one of the best vegetables for confinement.
Other popular foods include:
- Red dates and red date teas
- Chinese angelica root
- Lentils and beans
- Lean meats like fish and chicken
- Whole grains
Another benefit of confinement food is that it helps keep new moms regular. Many women have issues with constipation after giving birth and dread having to go to the bathroom. It can be very painful, especially if they had a c-section, perineum tear, or hemorrhoids. A high fiber diet helps to reduce strain and enables these injuries to heal faster.
Another key to staying regular and combating constipation is movement. It can be tempting to stay in bed as much as possible. However, it is important to get up and move around within 24 hours after giving birth. Start with short, light walks up and down the hall or around your room. Try to avoid straining and stop when your body tells you to stop.
New moms should also avoid lifting things – aside from their baby, of course! During the first couple of weeks, exercise should be regular but very light. Women should consult their doctors before they add anything new to their exercise regimen.
Vaginal Healing after Birth
Pregnancy and childbirth take a toll on a woman’s body. Whether they had a C-section or vaginal delivery, women often have pain and soreness in the vaginal area. It can be from perineum tears, hemorrhoids, or simply stretching and straining those muscles.
Vaginal pain can make everyday activities difficult and uncomfortable for new moms. Simple things like sitting, standing, or lying down can suddenly become unbearable. These simple tips can help accelerate vaginal delivery recovery:
- Do Kegels. These simple exercises will help restrengthen the pelvic muscles, which tighten the vagina and help prevent bladder leaks.
- Sit on an ice pack every few hours.
- For perineum tears, take a warm Sitz bath at least once a day
- Witch hazel can be used to relieve pain for both perineum tears and hemorrhoids.
- Sit on a pillow.
Another great way to promote vaginal healing and tightening after childbirth is a trip to your local v-spa. Steam tightening treatments cleanse the vagina and can help with vaginal discharge after birth.
Steam treatments also promote blood flow to the vaginal tissues for faster healing and toning. They are a good way to help tighten the vagina back to its pre-childbirth size.
During treatments, women sit on a padded chair with a hole in the center. An herb mixture is sprinkled over a bowl of hot coals, which is then placed underneath the hole. The steam rises through the hole while a massage therapist works out any stress in your neck and shoulders.
Treatments usually last about an hour. As an extremely popular part of postnatal care, many women like to get one at least once a month.
Breastfeeding VS Formula
It is widely known that breastfeeding is better for babies than formula diets. However, some mothers find themselves on the fence about which method is best for them and their child. While the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding outweigh formula, nursing can be painful for the mother. Societal opinion on breastfeeding can also make it difficult for moms to feed their babies.
Aside from nutrition and bonding, there is another reason that babies should be breastfed whenever possible. Breast milk, especially the early colostrum, is filled with good bacteria that the baby needs and cannot get from the formula.
All humans have bacteria that live in them. These bacteria are actually a good thing. We are dependent on our resident bacteria to keep healthy. They help fight off bad bacteria and regulate the digestion of certain nutrients.
When babies are born vaginally, they pick up a lot of bacteria from the birth canal. Babies that are born via C-section miss out on these good bacteria. This is why is it even more important that they are breastfed.
The bacteria that babies get through birth and breastfeeding are the foundation of the bacteria they’ll have for their whole lives. Studies have shown that babies who don’t get these bacteria are at a higher risk of developing conditions like diabetes, asthma, and obesity later in life.
Mothers who can breastfeed absolutely should, even if they have to supplement it with some formula.
Lactation Massage for Breastfeeding Moms
Lactation massages are standard in any Jamu massage. They can also be their own separate appointment. They’re a great massage to get after having a baby and have many benefits:
- Soothe engorged breasts
- Unclog blocked milk ducts
- Relieve soreness
- Work out hard spots
- Help increase breast milk production
While lactation massages are good for any mother, they are especially recommended for moms who are struggling to make enough milk or are feeding multiple babies.
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