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Happy Pregnancy

Tips for Recovery After a Difficult Labour and Pregnancy

by Sherry Lee 02 Jul 2023

For many women, the first six weeks after delivery will involve a lot of tiredness and hormone fluctuations. It can also be a time of confusion and uncertainty.

Feeling sore "down there" is common, particularly if tearing occurred. Soaking a maxi pad in witch hazel or using a sanitary pad protector can help.

1. Take it easy

Getting back to normal after a difficult labour / pregnancy can be tough. It's important to go easy on yourself - it takes time for your body to recover after childbirth, no matter what kind of birth you had. Don't be surprised if you're still sore and tired for weeks, even months after giving birth. Take it slow, and remember that you're doing the best you can.

Many women are tempted to rush recovery after a difficult delivery, but that can lead to more pain and problems. If you're able to, try to get some help with housework and other chores so you can relax more. Also, be sure to eat enough to stay well, and drink plenty of fluids.

Your perineum -- the area where your rectum meets your vaginal opening -- may be sore for weeks after you give birth. It can also swell and have red, bloody areas. It may take up to six weeks for this to heal. To help reduce the pain, sit on a soft surface, use an ice pack or have a warm sitz bath. It's also important to eat fibre-rich foods and drink lots of water, to avoid becoming constipated. If you're worried, ask your doctor about a stool softener or a laxative.

Often, women who have had a C-section have a harder time recovering than those with a vaginal birth. This can be due to a longer hospital stay, a slower digestive tract, and more complications after the operation. If you have a C-section, it's especially important to eat fibre-rich food, drink plenty of fluids, and exercise regularly. You can usually start walking around three days after your C-section.

2. Get plenty of rest

get plenty of rest 

Even though your primary focus may now be on your baby, you need to rest. Sleep when the baby sleeps – which is probably often – and take some time to relax. You may find it helpful to meditate, practice yoga, read a book or just sit quietly for a while.

If you have a difficult birth, it can take a while for the pain and aches to subside, especially with a c-section or perineal tear. It's also common for women to feel emotional or distressed after childbirth, but it's important that you speak with your healthcare providers if this continues to be an issue for you. They can help with support, coping skills and possibly referrals for mental health treatment if needed.

Be sure to ask for help from family and friends during this time, too. It can be hard to balance taking care of a newborn and getting enough rest, so consider asking for help with cleaning, cooking or other household chores while you're recovering. If you're able to get some rest and relax, this can make you feel much better about your experience with your difficult delivery.

3. Get plenty of fluids

get plenty of fluids 

Getting plenty of fluids is important for your recovery, especially after a C-section. Your doctor may advise you to drink a special fluid mix called IV fluids. This fluid helps you rehydrate after your surgery, and may also help prevent postpartum hemorrhoids. You can also use a clear, sugar-free sports beverage to stay hydrated. You can get these at your local grocery store or pharmacy.

Drinking enough fluids can also help you avoid urinary tract infections, which are common in the first few weeks after childbirth. You should try to have at least two glasses of fluids after each bowel movement and before bed. You should also eat lots of foods that are rich in fluids, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This will help you maintain a healthy weight and also keep your stool soft to prevent constipation, which is common after pregnancy and childbirth.

In addition to drinking fluids, you should also eat a variety of foods that are high in protein, such as dairy, beans and meat. Protein is essential to help your body recover from childbirth and to keep you strong while breastfeeding. You should try to eat at least three meals a day and snacks between meals.

If you had a vaginal delivery, it's normal to have pain and soreness in the area of your vaginal opening (perineum) for several weeks after birth. You can ease pain by sitting on a pillow or padded ring or cooling the area with an ice pack. You can also bathe in warm water, but always dry yourself carefully from front to back. You can also use a peri bottle filled with warm water, which you squirt over the perineum after you pee, to keep it clean and lubricated.

4. Get plenty of food

 get plenty of food

Whether you had a vaginal delivery or C-section, your body has been through a lot. Your hormones are shifting and you’re tired from months of sleep deprivation. You need to eat well and drink plenty of fluids.

Don’t let your cravings control you and don’t skip meals. If you have a hard time eating after delivery, try taking small bites and chewing them well. You may also want to try drinking warm liquids like tea and soup or having a jello-like broth.

It may take a few weeks for the soreness to go away and your perineum to heal after a vaginal birth, depending on how long you pushed and whether you have an episiotomy or a ruptured perineal sac (a condition called a tearing or episiotomy). You can help ease discomfort by sitting on a pillow or padded ring or by cooling the area with an ice pack or by placing a chilled witch hazel pad between a sanitary napkin and your vaginal opening. Some women find a warm sitz bath helpful, too.

You’ll also need to be prepared for constipation after birth, especially if you had a C-section. As you recover, your digestion slows and you’re more likely to have painful bowel movements or hemorrhoids, so eat lots of fibrous veggies, drink plenty of water and ask your doctor about stool softeners, if needed.

After a difficult labour or pregnancy, some new mothers experience a period of feeling sad, anxious and down. This is called the baby blues and it’s normal for anyone who has been through such a life-changing event. Talk about your feelings with others and get support if you need it. Many hospitals have a birth debriefing service to help you process what happened and understand why you might be having these feelings.

5. Get plenty of sleep


Getting plenty of sleep is key to recovery. This is especially true if you had a difficult delivery, as you may still be dealing with pain from the vaginal or c-section incision or from tearing during your vaginal birth, or an episiotomy. Try to rest when your baby does, and don’t be afraid to take pain-relief medication if recommended by your doctor. Asking your partner, friends or family members for help with baby and housework can also give you the time and space you need to relax.

Regardless of whether your birth was easy or complicated, it’s likely that you will feel tired for several weeks after your baby is born. This is normal, and it will eventually pass. It will help to eat well, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. It is important to avoid heavy lifting, and to talk to your doctor about when you can start to exercise again.

Many new mothers experience a jumble of powerful emotions after childbirth. This is sometimes known as the baby blues, and symptoms can include mood swings, crying spells or anxiety. It is common, and it will usually subside within two weeks. Try to talk about how you’re feeling with a trusted loved one, and remember that it’s normal.

It is also important to remind yourself that you did not fail during your labor or delivery, no matter how your experience was shaped by medical interventions or complications. And try not to let comments from friends and relatives who had easy or quick deliveries sting.

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