Most families spend a significant amount of time preparing for labor and birth when they are expecting a new baby (or babies). But what happens when the dust settles, and you are home with your new baby? All the attention is usually given to the baby, but during the early postpartum period, the mother will be healing – even if they had a vaginal birth with no perineal tearing.
What is the Postpartum Period?
Postpartum is a term used to refer to the period of time following the birth of a child. The postpartum period is typically defined as the first 6 months following birth, but is broken into 3 phases:
- Initial or acute postpartum period: 6–12 hours after birth
- Subacute postpartum period: 2–6 weeks following birth
- Delayed postpartum period: up to 6 months
Particularly in the subacute postpartum period, there is a great deal of physical healing that takes place. Here are some ways to promote physical healing during this time:
Sitz baths are an easy way to give your body some time to heal and relax. You can buy one at a local drugstore or online, and the best part is that they are very affordable. Some people mix in herbal remedies in the water for an extra boost of healing.
Padsicles are a wonderful, wonderful thing. You can Youtube how to make them and the only thing you’ll need to buy are a pack of maxi pads and some witch hazel. After birth, you can take one out of the freezer and put it on. Once it is no longer cold, remove it immediately. Lots of new moms rave about this and it takes very little preparation!
Keep your feet up. Rest. It is really easy to overdo it in the immediate postpartum period after birth. You may notice swelling in your legs or ankles so keeping your feet elevated will alleviate this. Try and limit your time out of bed and don’t be afraid to ask a family member or close friend for help if you need it.
You may be thinking, what does breastfeeding have to do with healing? A lot, actually! In the hours and days following birth, your uterus is going to continue to contract back to its pre-pregnancy size. Oxytocin is the hormone that produces these contractions that help shrink the uterus and breastfeeding helps promote the production of oxytocin. This is just one of the many ways in which breastfeeding encourages postpartum healing.
It is estimated that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. experience symptoms of postpartum depression. New parents cannot best care for their children when they themselves are suffering. Postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis are completely treatable conditions. Postpartum doulas help make this transition period easier, but both birth doulas and postpartum doulas are educated in identifying the signs of postpartum depression and providing referrals to appropriate specialists.