You are excited to become a mum, but there are some things that can happen in the first few weeks after childbirth that no-one really talks about – well, Uber Kids are about to change that! Becoming a mother is a magical time and nothing should distract from that, but being aware of what can happen after you give birth will make it much easier for you. A variety of things happen to your body that you weren’t told about. There are some things which, as a rule, are generally well-known such as some hair loss after the birth, sore or painful breasts and emotional outbursts that can cause you to burst into tears over an advert with a puppy in it or simply because you can’t remember where you put your keys. It can be a lot to take in and that is without having the gory bits added. There are those overwhelmed mums who genuinely can’t remember the grizzly details, with the memories only flooding back when they have their next baby, but others tend to keep it quiet. But why? We’re all in this together, and there are some things that are worth knowing ahead of the time. So, we’re here to tell you all the details.
Tears and Splits
There’s a high chance that you’ll either tear or have an episiotomy (be cut) during the birth. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about, as nine out of ten first time mums tear, with 60-70% needing stitches. You’ll be given a numbing injection before you are stitched back up, which is over quickly. Stitches have to be looked after and be regularly washed with plain warm water. They usually dissolve within 10 days. The best way to know if they’ve dissolved is to either feel them or get a hand mirror and take a look for yourself. Don’t worry if you can’t tell, as your midwife will do a check-up on them on your first home visit, and she will be able to help you with any problems or concerns that you may have.
The vagina is designed to stretch and tear and then repair, so it will go back to ‘normal’ sooner than you think. Don’t use a rubber ring to sit on as it will make the blood pool in that area and could cause bruising. Instead, use a wedge and supportive cushions to take the pressure off. The good thing about this wedge and cushion kit is that you can use it during pregnancy, after birth and as a breastfeeding support cushion, plus when your baby is learning to sit up.
Bleeding is completely normal after childbirth, it could go on for up to six weeks afterwards and is a bit heavier than a normal period – and a bit different too. It’ll be thicker, more mucousy and in most cases, a bit smellier too. However, if the smell is offensive, this is an indication that you may have an infection, so don’t hold back on raising this to your midwife’s attention. This discharge is called lochia, and you’ll have to have a good number of absorbent sanitary pads available to be able to deal with it. Lochia contains all of the uterine tissues which still need to make their way out of your body, so don’t be too disconcerted when you see clots. Generally speaking, if a clot is bigger than a 50 pence piece, this is when you need to get in touch with your midwife or a GP just to check that everything is going okay.
Keep your Lush bath bombs in the cabinet for now. If you want to have a bath, put in a few drops of lavender oil instead of anything that is heavily perfumed and contains unnatural ingredients – it’ll only sting when you get in and increase your chances of infection. As inviting as a bath may sound, be aware that while you are still losing your lochia discharge, you may have things floating around in the tub with you. That’s not to mean that this is a (quite gross) certainty, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind. If you have a shower over the bath, it may be better just to do a quick wash down of yourself first with the shower head and then run yourself something to relax in. If you’ve had varicose veins during pregnancy, the heat of the bath can help with blood flow and reduce the appearance of them, even if only temporarily. There’s no need to add salt to your bath, it won’t hurt if you do, but you’d need so much salt for it to be of any benefit that it’s not worth the effort. As relaxing as a bath can be, it’s advisable not to soak for too long with stitches in the early days, as this can result in them dissolving too soon.
Let’s just get this out of the way first – It.Really.Hurts! If you’ve had stitches, one thing that you can do to alleviate the pain of peeing is to take a bottle or jug of warm water with you to pour onto you while you’re doing the deed. It’ll help take some of the acidity out of the urine which is causing the immense stinging pain that you’ll be feeling. Some women get away with this and don’t have much pain afterwards, whereas for others it’s one of the worst things that they can remember after the pregnancy. It depends on where you tore during the birth, as some women get what we call grazes near the urethra that aren’t serious but sting like crazy when you pee for the first week. Drinking a lot of water throughout the day can also help – incredibly so, actually. It’s recommended to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep your body fully hydrated. Try to aim for this or more (especially if you’re breastfeeding) to dilute your urine enough so that it won’t be as concentrated and give you such a hard time whenever you go.
Don’t try to keep it in – it’s easy to get scared of what’s to come, but remember that with each pee that you do, you’re a step closer to it all being a distant memory. Your first poo, however, can be a different ball game. The anxiety may grow if you haven’t gone in a few days, but rest assured that it’s nothing to be too worried about, just remember to eat fibrous foods and drink regularly. Okay, so for most new mums juggling motherhood is stressful enough without worrying about healthy eating, so, it may be that you are a bit constipated – and this is where it can hurt. If you have had stitches, rest assured that these will stay in place; there are different muscles being used for you to be able to defecate, and you won’t make the tear any bigger or put a strain on them. If you haven’t been able to go after three days, get in touch with your midwife, who can organise a prescription for a laxative to take to make things easier. There are also over the counter medications you can try but it’s best to check with your Midwife or GP first.
Most of all, remember that all of this discomfort is worth it for that bundle of joy you will have in your arms and although it might seem scary now, the memory of it will fade quickly!