After natural 4 births, I am happy to share what you need to know after natural labor and childbirth. I am going to share 6 essential postpartum instructions that have been super helpful for me after my births. Most of these post-birth healing tips are what my experienced midwife asked me to do after labor and I am happy to pass this wisdom on to you!
Before we get into the 6 post-labor essential tips, if you haven’t had your baby yet, I have two videos that I believe could transform your labor experience. My Positive Natural Birth Story and How to Stay Calm During Labor.
If you have had your baby, Congratulations Momma! You did it!
In this post I am going talk about your bleeding after birth (also known as lochia), afterbirth contractions, how to care for your perineum, when you should start kegels, rest and what to expect with your milk supply.
If you learn better from watching videos, I have a video covering all of this information, but be sure to check out the post as well for little extras I did not share in the video.
A Word about Medical Advice:
I am certainly not a medical professional, but I have had 4 natural births. I certainly give God credit for this! But I feel that these experiences have helped me want to share knowledge with you, all that I wish I had before I had my labors.
However, I 100% yield to a medical professional’s opinion and advice. I have so much respect for all the training that they have done, because I am married to one. Take everything I am saying and run it by your medical professional before moving forward. I think one the most important decisions you can make through your whole life is who you allow to be your medical professional. It is a business after all. Just make sure you trust your life and the life of those you love in their hands.
Once you have that kind of trust, it helps you not second guess everything they recommend. I have used midwives for all of my births, so I am biased. But there are wonderful OBGYNs out there and thank God for them when we have an emergency.
What to Expect After Natural Labor
If you have a natural birth, your body should recovery more quickly than if you have a c-section or even an epidural. But of course there will be healing that needs to take place. Please do not let them items instill any fear in you. God will grant you the grace that you need for labor, when you need it. Not a moment sooner. Also, you will have your baby in your arms and that is the most blessed and magical reward you could have for going through labor.
Truly, once you see your baby face to face you will see how worth it labor was and is. After birth, your body will still be working, but instead of growing a human, it will be trying to rest and heal. My hope is that by sharing what you might experience after labor that you will less shocked and anxious about what could be happening. For example, when a large clot of blood came out after labor, I was super concerned…after learning what I am going to share in the next section, it all made sense and would have been less alarming to know ahead of time what to expect after natural labor.
1. What is Bleeding Like After Labor? (Also Called Lochia)
Why do you bleed after giving birth?
It was certainly concerning for me when I saw the blood after having my first child 7+ years ago. I had no idea that the reason I was bleeding was, because there was massive wound inside of me. In fact, if everyone could see this wound they would definitely tell you and me to put our feet up and relax. The wound is from where the placenta was formerly attached to the uterus wall, but has detached after delivering the baby.
After you deliver the baby, a couple minutes later you should deliver the placenta. This is nothing compared to delivering the baby, so do not let that add to your nerves if you have not gone through labor yet.
The blood will start out bright red, but the bleeding should shortly diminish and begin to turn a dull brownish color. You should not be soaking more than 2 pads per 2 hours right after birth. If you have more bleeding than this you definitely need to contact your health provider ASAP.
Why am I bleeding bright red again after I had been bleeding brown?
And if you begin to bleed bright red again after the blood has begun to fade brown, you have probably been too active and you need to rest. Rest is very important after having a baby for so many reasons, but bleeding is a big one.
After your birth the baby it is important to continue to massage your uterus (I show you how in the video). The best place to do this is while you are sitting on the toilet emptying your bladder. This has always helped me get the clots out without filling up lots of pads.
2. What Are Contractions Like After Labor?
Yes, you read that right! There are contractions that happen after birth. I know, you are like, “are you kidding me!” Hold on though, they are nothing compared to labor contractions or waves. The reason you are continue to contract is 1) to birth the placenta 2) to help your uterus go back into place. These contractions are very helpful to your body’s recovery, but they can be painful.
How painful are afterbirth contractions?
These vary for each person, but they have personally seemed to get more intense after each labor. It is important to work through these contractions much like you did through labor. Keeping a very neutral face, breathing slow and not having a tight mouth will really go a long way to keeping your body calm and relaxed. Keeping your body relaxed dramatically reduces the amount of pain felt. A tight muscle is more like to be a painful muscle, so relaxing is the key.
How to help ease afterbirth contractions and pain?
A heating pad or hot water bottle on your stomach can help to reduce the pain. Also, you can try laying on your stomach, which you have probably been dreaming of most of your pregnancy haha! One trick that has always made a huge difference for me is to emptying my bladder before nursing the baby. Nursing the baby will sometimes bring on afterbirth contractions, so anticipating that with an empty bladder seemed to help. Keeping your bladder empty will also help your uterus clamp down effectively.
After Labor, Empty Bladder Before Nursing Baby
A good flow to have is when it is time to nurse the baby, go to the toilet massage your uterus while you are emptying your bladder. Change your pad, use the peri bottle to spray off (more on this below) and dab the water off. Then sit down to nurse the baby.
What about pain reliever after natural labor?
Discuss pain meds with your doctor or midwife, but I certainly kept some Tylenol and Ibuprofen on board and tapered off a little bit each day. Some homeopathic options are Coffea, Arnica, Chamomilla, Kali carb or Nux vomica, but I have never tried any of these remedies.
I could certainly tell when it was time to take some pain reliever and I tried to stay on top of the pain by being consistent to take my pain reliever on time.
3. How to Care for Your Perineum After Labor?
What is your Perineum?
I mostly think of your perineum as the skin outside of your vagina. For some women, they might stretch and tear during labor and could require stitches or glue. I know this is terrifying for most women, but many women have great perineum recoveries given time to properly heal. God has given the body an amazing capacity to heal itself!
I have personally never torn and I think a lot of that has to do with using a birthing tub to help soften the skin. I also believe it was because I could feel everything down there when I was pushing. When you are numb from an epidural it is hard to know how and when to push. I could feel when my perineum was stretching while I was pushing the head out and I think the body has an instinctive ability to not blow through the perineum’s capacity until it stretches. But honestly it could happen to anyone! My midwife was literally shocked that I did not tear with my first and I was shocked too! The student midwife was adding coconut oil to the perineum the whole time I was pushing, so I should probably thank her as well for helping me not tear too!
Why do you need a peri bottle after labor?
A peri bottle is a little spray bottle that helps you stay clean down there without wiping and pulling at the perineum. The peri bottle is also helpful to spray the blood off and clean up the inside of your legs they may have blood on them, without wiping anything. I liked to take a dry rag and just dab ever so slightly when I was done with the peri bottle. The hospital or the midwife will probably send you home with a peri bottle, but in the case that they do not here is a popular one you can order off of amazon.
Pro-tip for the Peri-Bottle
Make sure you use warm water, cold water is literally so brutal!
A Herbal Sitz Bath is Magical After Labor!
One of my favorite parts of having home births was getting a hot herbal sitz bath after labor. My midwife would take this herbal sitz mixture and place it inside of a baby cap and make a huge tea bag for the bath. The tea bath was so relaxing and healing for my burning perineum. This sitz bath is made to give relief to the stretched irritated skin. It can also be used for urinary tract infections.
I am not sure if you will have access to a tub at the hospital or birth center, but you could always ask and see. The midwife would place the baby in the bath with me and I could snuggle the baby while the midwife washed some of the vernix (thick white coating on the baby) out of the baby’s hair.
The tea bag was good for around three days, so I would dry it off between baths and reuse it in the days to come to heal my healing down there.
How to care for the perineum after labor, if you had stitches?
You have to be so careful not to pull the stitches or let the perineum get infected. It helps to avoid stairs, keeping legs together and not spread (and good Lord yes no sex! Whew! It hurts me to even think of that after birth). Also, avoid picking up older children and avoid riding in a car for at least a week. If you are just super sore or have signs of an infection make sure you let your health professional know.
4. You Can Start Kegels Right After Labor
These pelvic floor exercises should be started in the days right after labor. One exercise my midwife told me to do, was to do the modified kegel where you put both of your feet flat on the bed with your knees bent. Then pick up your bottom off the bed by squeezing your bottom together. She told me to try and do this as many times as I could the first day and try to work up to 200 keels a day after the first day.
This should not truly feel like exercise, but rather a subtle motion to start moving those very stretched out muscles. The pelvic floor is so mistreated for women, with many older women struggling with incontinence and others even struggling with their bladder falling out. This is not to scare you, but rather to share with you the urgency to care and strength your pelvic floor.
I have gone to a pelvic floor physical therapist and been evaluated. She was so helpful in assisting my understanding of how subtle pelvic floor exercises can be and sharing with me other exercises I would have never thought to do. So if you are sneezing and peeing on yourself in the months to come, consider seeing a specialist for your pelvic floor.
5. Why Rest, Rest, Rest Is So Key After Labor
Goodness, if I could share one word for you it would be this. When I had my first, I thought I had something to prove to the world; that I was strong and I could be up walking all the time. Now I realize how foolish I was for that, because it really slowed down my long term healing. I even had family staying in town and thought it would be a good idea to play tour guide all over town 3 days after birth. What the world!
Now I see that real wisdom is accepting our limitations and humbling myself to receive help.
How soon should you resume housework after labor?
I was told not to do any housework for one week, this was hard advice for me at first, but now I see it as a gift. The housework is will be there waiting for me in one week. When people asked how they could help, I shared that I could use help with care for my bigger kids, laundry, cleaning, meals etc. so that I would be free to sleep, breastfeed and bond with my baby in the bed.
This was hard to accept with the first baby, I would feel guilty when people dropped off food. I would think, “I am up walking around, I should be able to make food for my family,” But now I see that it was a gift to that person to serve me and I really did need the help, because I needed to be resting. The first few weeks should be primarily focused on resting with baby.
The baby sleeps the most those first 48 hours than he or she will for the next couple of weeks, so taking advantage of the rest time is such a gift from God.
6. A Word on Milk After Labor
The first milk you are going to have is called colostrum. I took a Masters Level Matural Childhood Nutrition called grad school and the teacher literally talked about how power-packed with nutrition colostrum is, for a whole week in class. It blew my mind! God has created something incredible in colostrum. But what you need to know is that you will not have a lot of colostrum, because the baby’s belly is the size of a marble.
I am very leery of hospitals pushing formula on mother’s and sending them home with samples of formula just in case. Many hospitals have had whole wings of the hospital built by funds given by formula companies, so just be cautious of whether this is in the best interest for you and your baby.
The truth is that your milk can take several days to come in and nipple stimulation is going to help that tremendously. When your milk comes in you may become engorged.
What to do when your breasts become engorged after your milk comes in?
Ice packs can be helpful between feedings, but be sure to warm up your breasts with a warm wash cloth, so that baby doesn’t get ice milk haha!
It really is helpful to be in a comfortable private place where you can get air and even sunlight to your nipples. This is not going to happen with a tons of guests in your home, so consider having family stay in hotels if you think it may be hard to rest or get private time to get used to learning to breastfeed/
Is breastfeeding painful at first?
Yes, your nipples are going to be very sore at first, but in most cases your nipples get tougher and more calloused and it no longer hurts after a week. Make sure the baby is getting a good latch. If you have no idea what that looks like, look up videos on good latch. There are so many great resources to help you on this journey and my favorite are from the La Leche League. I also love The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. It is helped me resolve so many of my breastfeeding issues over the years.
I really believe in getting a lactation consultant on board. The money spent will be well worth it! They will look at your latch, weigh the baby before and after the feeding and give you lots of help with nursing positions you would have never thought of. Again, the La Leche League is a great resource and can help you find a lactation consultant in your local area. There are even support groups you can go to and join online to ask questions as a resource.
#1 Advice for Milk and New Mommas After Labor
The number one thing I would say to moms in this area, is give your body some time and trust that it knows what to do. If you are telling yourself from the beginning that you do not have enough milk, you are self sabotaging yourself. And if anyone else is doubting your milk supply, this will not be helpful either. If you have never done this, give yourself some grace and give your body a moment to do its thing.
This was a lot of information, but I hope you will just bookmark this page and refer back to it in the weeks to come to help you heal and adjust to this new role of being a mom. I have a video that may be helpful with identifying baby’s crys and some ways to help keep baby feeling calm and happy.
I hope you feel more prepared by knowing what to expect after natural labor.