Postpartum Remedies: Understanding and Alleviating Postpartum Challenges
How do you relieve postpartum?
One of the first things to understand about the postpartum season (the fourth trimester) is that it cannot be avoided. There are a variety of hormonal, physiologic, and physical changes a woman must go through after birth, many of which cannot be controlled. But, there are remedies for postpartum symptoms!
The best way to approach this season of life is expectant management.
To best prepare for the physical and mental changes of the postpartum period, a woman can do her best to ensure her physical body is at its strongest version, that her mental health is addressed (and treated if necessary), and that she has support systems in place for those (guaranteed) hard days.
How long do postpartum hormones last?
There are four hormones commonly discussed related to the pregnancy and the fourth trimester. They are estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and oxytocin. Immediately after birth, estrogen and progesterone fall. They settle to their pre-pregnant levels around 6 months postpartum. Oxytocin and prolactin surge after birth. Oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) usually settles back down around 2-3 months postpartum, while prolactin levels don’t officially settle back down until breastfeeding has ended.
What are some common postpartum complications?
There are a variety of complications that a woman may face after delivery. These may be related to breastfeeding, maternal health, or maternal mental health.
- Excessive Bleeding: vaginal bleeding is expected after delivery (up to 6 weeks postpartum); however, if bleeding doesn't slow over the weeks or you continue to pass clots, reach out to your provider
- Infection: infection can affect a cesarean section incision or vaginal stitches; pay attention to changes in pain, redness, and any discharge
- Issues with Voiding/Stooling: constipation and urinary incontinence are extremely common; stay hydrated, treat hemorrhoids, and pay attention to your diet
- Breast Pain/Issues: expect some pain and discomfort when milk comes in (within a week of delivery); nipple discomfort is also common; however, the breasts should NOT continue to be painful after these initial days
- Postpartum Depression (PPD): baby blues are common for many - this occurs and resolves in the weeks right after birth; you may be struggling with PPD if symptoms persist for weeks or months - talk to your provider right away
Common postpartum questions and concerns
Can I tighten my stomach after having a baby?
While it is okay to focus on tummy pooch post-delivery, there are some things to remember.
1. Wait until your body is ready. Most providers recommend at least 6 weeks before you begin any form of targeted exercise.
2. Keep it simple and start slow. Pelvic tilts and simple ab contractions are a great way start. Follow a plan or a resource you trust. And don’t forget that your abs have had a break for nearly a year.
3. Consider an exercise ball. These can easily be used around the home. Their incorporation of balance is a great core strengthener.
What is the 6-week rule after birth?
Most commonly, the 6-week rule refers to the time period in which a woman and her partner should wait before resuming intercourse after delivery. This applies regardless of the delivery method. In the United States, women are commonly seen by their obstetric care provider at 6 weeks postpartum, when they are then cleared to resume intercourse, exercise, and any other extra physical activities.
Note that this timeline is not appropriate for all. Many women choose to resume intercourse sooner. Alternatively, many others are not ready at the 6-week mark and set their own timeline for resumption.
How does sex feel after birth?
The resumption of sex after birth is different for everyone. It can be affected by many things, including healing, mode of delivery, stitches or sutures, and mental or emotional readiness.
Common expectations related to sex after birth:
- Vaginal dryness: related to the lower levels of estrogen
- Soreness in the perineum: related to stitches or sutures (even after healing)
- Pain during sex: may be related to dryness or your (temporarily) stretched vaginal muscles
- Body consciousness: especially as the uterus is still returning to pre-pregnancy position; stretch marks, weight gain, breast changes, and c-section scars may also be places of self-consciousness
- Breast leakiness: inconvenient let-downs are common (particularly during orgasm)
How do you get in the mood for sex after birth?
Sex after birth, particularly the first time, can be scary. Take it easy on yourself. Talk to your partner about your concerns, ensuring that you both understand that with time you will heal, your body will return to “normal,” and your full libido will return.
Those first few times, consider engaging in foreplay, starting slow, and giving your body time to wake up. Have lubricant close by to combat that common dryness and don’t forget to consider contraception. Ultimately, don’t rush it, either in the moment or in deciding that you are ready at all.
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What can I do to tighten my vagina after giving birth?
While it is true that the vagina does change after birth, most of those changes are temporary and there will be a return to “normal.” Common vaginal changes include the vagina feeling stretched out or wider, dryness, and soreness.
To tighten a vagina post birth, most providers will recommend pelvic floor exercises. These exercises are commonly referred to as Kegel exercises, and they are intended to tone the vaginal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles. They can also help when dealing with urinary incontinence.
Is it safe to do Kegels after birth?
Kegels exercises are safe after birth. For an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, some woman may begin them within a couple of weeks. Ultimately, just wait until you are ready, or you get the all-clear from your provider.