A Postpartum Care Plan & Recovery Tips for Faster Healing (Vaginal Birth)
Having a Postpartum Care Plan before you give birth will be crucial for faster healing.
I know it sounds fancy, but a care plan is nothing more than a detailed plan where a patient can benefit from personalized instructions to help with a particular condition. In this case postpartum recovery.
As a nurse, I am no stranger to Care Plans, and as a mom who had 2 vaginal deliveries I can definitely provide you with valuable information.
I have crafted a handy Postpartum Care Plan with essential postpartum recovery tips and instructions to help with the healing and postpartum recovery process after your vaginal delivery.
It wont be an official “nursing care plan” as it wouldn’t be addressing a personalized recovery. Instead, it will be based on common postpartum conditions after a vaginal birth with recovery tips and instructions for each situation you might encounter.
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Postpartum Recovery Overview
The postpartum recovery period can be a trialing time for most new moms.
Let’s face it, pregnancy was exhausting, giving birth was a major undertaking, and now postpartum recovery can prove to be quite the challenge, because well.. now you also have to care for your newborn.
Yes, that is the price we pay for growing, carrying, and giving birth to a human. So, you my friend, are nothing less than incredible!
But, no worries, there are many things we can do on our end to speed and ease our postpartum recovery if we know what to expect after birth and how to tackle it.
So, let’s make sure that you get back to being your incredible self faster after your vaginal delivery by applying these tried and true postpartum recovery tips.
Postpartum Recovery Timeline
In less than a year, your body created, carried, and delivered a beautiful little human. In turn, it now has to recover and heal from the tremendous changes it endured throughout that process.
As per the Journal of Prenatal Medicine, the postpartum period takes place in three phases:
The initial phase (acute period): involves the first 6–12 hours postpartum. If you had a hospital vaginal birth you will receive your postpartum care there.
The second phase (subacute postpartum period): lasts 2–6 weeks. During this phase, the body is undergoing major changes in terms of hemodynamics, recovery, metabolism, and emotional status. This second phase is what we will be talking about today.
The third phase (delayed postpartum period): can last up to 6 months. Changes during this phase are extremely gradual.
For the purpose of this Postpartum Care Plan we will be focusing on the second phase of the postpartum recovery period.
It focuses specifically on the first few postpartum days after the hospital. You will learn about possible postpartum condition, resources that will help with the healing process, and postpartum care instructions for each one.
The top 7 major categories in this Postpartum Care Plan include:
- Perineum Care
- Constipation (Prevention and Treatment)
- Belly Care
- Breast Care
- Total Body Postpartum Healing
- Emotional Postpartum Care and Healing
- Home with a Newborn
Let’s get started…
Postpartum Care Plan for Faster Healing (Vaginal Delivery)
1. Perineal Postpartum Care
If you have a vaginal birth you might feel like an 18-wheeler just ran over your lady friend! Okay, maybe that was a bit graphic. But trust me, you will know exactly what I mean.
Vaginal deliveries are no strangers to possible tearing (internal, external), stretching, episiotomy, and so on. Although the extent and degree of discomfort varies from women to women, discomfort will be almost inevitable.
There are many things we can do to help speed up the perineal healing process after vaginal delivery.
Next, are some of the top postpartum healing tips, products, and instructions do do just that.
Use a peri bottle and cleansing sprays
I cannot stress enough how important this is.
Using a peri bottle will help you cleanse your perineal area without having to wipe the already irritated area.There are also cleansing sprays to help soothe and clean your perineal area.
Earth Mama Herbal Spray is a great natural alternative and an Amazon favorite. It is made with organic herbs and no parabens, butane, propellants, or artificial fragrance.
Peri bottles and cleansing sprays are a great way to keep your lady parts clean, cool, and happy.
Postpartum Cleansing Instructions:
- Use the peri-bottle and/or cleansing spray to clean your perineal area every time you use the toilet
- Fill your peri bottle with warm water to ease discomfort
- You can opt to use the peri bottle with warm water after you urinate, and the cleansing spray after a bowel movement
Witch hazel pads are a MUST on every postpartum recovery care kit.
The witch hazel pads were a lifesaver after I had my son. They were the ONLY thing that provided some sort of perineal comfort.
After 45 minutes of pushing, a bad case of hemorrhoids, an internal tear, and a few stitches, witch hazel was my saving grace.
Witch hazel pads help soothe and heal the peritoneal area and hemorrhoids faster.
Witch hazel is widely known for its ability to ease inflammation, soothe sensitive skin, and for its antiviral properties.
Try to stick to organic witch hazel pads.
Your perineal area is already compromised so ensuring you are using natural and non-toxic postpartum care products (specially while breastfeeding) is ideal.
Cool Comfort Pads from Naticare have organic witch hazel and aloe. These pads are also non-GMO, Paraben free and chemical-free.
Postpartum Recovery Instruction:
- After cleansing your perineum put a new witch hazel pad (or two) on your maxi pad with every pad change.
- You can also opt to put the witch hazel pads directly on your affected areas and then putting the maxi pad to lock it in place.
Related Article: 13+ Postpartum Body Changes (+ Care Tips and FAQ’s)
Sitz baths are another great postpartum care kit product essential.
It not only helps cleanse the perineum, but it relieves itching, irritation, and minor pain.
In addition, the warm water used along the sitz baths help increase blood flow to the perineal area which can promote faster healing.
Making a sitz bath part of your postpartum care routine is essential to faster postpartum healing.
Sitz Baths Soak (organic) from Purasoothe is a great choice.
It is made of organic lavender, coconut and sweet almond oils, organic vitamin E, witch hazel, and organic frankincense which promote healing and relief discomfort naturally.
Always ensure is okay with your doctor to do sitz baths postpartum.
Postpartum healing with Sitz Bath:
- Fill the tub with a 3-4 inches of warm water (make sure the tub is clean)
- Add the sitz bath soak
- Soak for a few minutes (15 to 20 minutes)
- Tap dry
If you opt for the Sitz bath kit, follow the same process. The difference is that you will be soaking your perineal area in a basin placed in your toilet seat instead of the tub.
You can repeat this process 2-3 a day as needed.
Tap don’t wipe
This might seem like an obvious postpartum care tip, but you’ll be surprised as to how easy it is to forget it.
When we use the toilet, we might do things on autopilot. That is why is important to remember to tap the perineal area instead of wiping it in the first few days postpartum.
Another great practice is to use cleansing water wipes, since toilet paper material tends to get stuck… well, down there.
Water wipes are also ideal for your baby as they are a natural baby product composed of only 99% water with a touch of grapefruit seed extract to guard off mold.
We buy them in bulk and are a must in my house for our entire family.
Vaginal Care Instructions:
- Right after every perineal cleanse, ensure to tap the area dry. Many times, I wiped instead of tapping and trust me, that wasn’t pretty!
- Use water wipes as you start to heal to clean the area throughout and avoid leaving toilet paper residue.
Spray and numbing creams
In the first few days postpartum you might also need numbing sprays to go along with your witch hazel pads.
Your heath care provider will make an assessment and decide if you need a medicated spray to help with your perineal pain and discomfort.
Consult with your doctor if you are opting to breastfeed before using any medicated sprays.
Numbing Spray Instructions:
- After each perineal cleanse, spray the area few times and apply witch hazel pads on top of your maxi pads.
Following birth your uterus will continue to expel bodily fluids.
Keep handy a good amount of maxi pads postpartum. They can go pretty fast since you should be changing your pads and cleansing the area often. Specially in the first few days.
A great maxi pad option is the Menstrual Overnight Pads (Certified Organic Cotton) by Rael. They are made with 100% organic, OCS certified, non-GMO Texas cotton grown and nurtured without the use of toxins, pesticides or synthetic chemicals.
You can should also keep disposable bed mats in bed for the first few days to prevent staining your bed sheets.
Related: The Ultimate Postpartum Care Kit for New Moms (All Natural and Non-toxic)
After a vaginal delivery, your perineal area will need as much tender loving care as possible.
The first few hours postpartum not only has your body undergone a major physical change, but it will commence the healing process.
That all results in swelling and discomfort as your body attempts to repair and restore damaged tissue.
Ice pack instructions:
- To reduce swelling and bring soothing relief apply ice to the affected area 48 hrs following delivery or for as long as needed
- You can use an ice pack, or a frozen pea bag wrapped in a small towel or cloth
- Ensure you apply cold therapy intermittently (10 mins on-off)
- You can also use maxi pads with a built-in cold pack
2. Prevent and treat constipation
Constipation is a common postpartum issue caused by multiple factors (iron supplements, pain medication and dehydration). So is important to include it in you postpartum care plan. If you developed hemorrhoids as a result of childbirth, incorporating a stool softener to your postpartum recovery care kit will not be a bad idea.
Here are a few other ideas to help prevent and relieve constipation.
Postpartum Constipation prevention and treatment:
- Consider going short walks in your early postpartum day (if okay with your doctor)
- Increasing high fiber foods (pear, apples, avocados, lentils, quinoa)
- Drinking plenty of water
- Use Colace if needed
Colace is a stool softener said to be safe to take while breastfeeding (source), although you should always consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medication.
3. Postpartum Belly Care
A loose and achy belly is one of the most noticeable postpartum body changes.
Using a postpartum belly bands helps keep things in place as your belly shrinks back to size.
They also aid with postpartum discomfort, swelling, and circulation by means of compression.
Two common and popular options are:
4. Postpartum Breast Care
The are a lot of remedies out there for postpartum perineal healing and comfort relief. Fairly so!
However, breast discomfort, engorgement, and even pain can also prove to be quite the challenge postpartum.
If you opt to breastfeed, the first few days/weeks your body will start producing more and more milk to meet the demands of your growing baby. Until your body starts to regulate the supply your baby needs, you might feel your breast full, warm, achy, and even tingly (during “let-down” as the baby sucks).
Postpartum Breast Care Instructions:
- Take a warm shower and slowly message your breast to hand express excess milk
- After the shower feed baby or pump to decompress breasts
- Apply cold compresses to your breasts after feedings for 10 minutes at a time (cold can reduce swelling and inflammation)
You can still experience some of these symptoms if you aren’t breastfeeding. Therefore, applying the same techniques will also help.
If your breasts become extremely engorged, painful, you are unable to feed baby, and/or you develop a fever… contact your healthcare provider.
Related Article: 5 Common Breastfeeding Problems and How to Fix Them ASAP!
5. Total Postpartum Body Care
As if all the above weren’t enough to deal with, postpartum incontinence can also be an issue.
But, don’t worry. There is something you can do to help with that.
Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and help with incontinence after birth.
So, what is a Kegel exercise? Think for a second if you really have to pee but have to hold it instead. The contraction that happens in our efforts to hold the urine in place is a Kegel.
We tend to do this contraction on demand, but we can also do it voluntarily to increase the strength and endurance of our pelvic floor muscles.
Postpartum Kegel Excessive Instructions:
Here are the instructions Sutter Health recommends you follow:
- Gently tighten and then relax the muscles of your perineum (you can do this lying down or sitting)
- Start with 2-3 seconds per tightening, then 5-10 seconds
- End by holding your contraction for 20 seconds
- Begin with 2-3 contractions per session and build up to holding 5 contractions several times per day
Good postpartum nutrition
After giving birth your body undergoes many changes.
It is crucial that healthy and nutritious foods form part of your postpartum care plan.
Eating colorful produce, healthy proteins, fats, and certain grains will provide you energy, help you combat anemia and accelerate wound healing.
Here are a few examples:
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli)
- Vitamin C packed fruits (berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, and pineapples)
- Healthy proteins (organic eggs, organic chicken, grass-fed beef and wild salmon)
- Whole and sprouted grains (rice, quinoa, oats)
- Nutsand seeds (almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts)
- Healthy oils (olive and coconut)
- Legumes (black beans and chickpeas)
Some women continue taking their prenatal vitamins for a few weeks postpartum as additional supplement, especially if they will be breastfeeding.
Ask your healthcare provider if he/she recommends you continue taking dietary supplements postpartum.
If you will be breastfeeding I highly recommend The Breastfeeding Cookbook by Liesel Teen From Mommy Labor Nurse.
You’ll get full access to the 117 page eBook, and it is available via online access, or free for you print. It contains Breastfeeding Tips and Info, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks , Desserts, and Drink Recipes.
I would also like to add that there is no shame in opting for that frozen lasagna aunt Tracie dropped off 2 days ago. Sometimes, in the early postpartum recovery days the goal is also to survive the newborn phase!
Opt for Postnatal Vitamins
Now more than ever your body needs all the help it can get.
You can opt to take the prenatals you we taking while you were pregnant, or opt for postnatal vitamins created specifically for your postpartum and lactation needs. Postnatal vitamins have plenty of vitamins and minerals that will help aid and speed postpartum healing.
The Actif Organic Postnatal Vitamin with 25+ Organic Vitamins and Organic Herbs is a great choice. They have amazing Amazon Review and it is an Amazon’s Choice product. In addition, they are said to increases breast milk production by up to 50% and contain Choline to support healthy brain development.
The Actif Organic Postnatal Vitamins are Certified non-GMO, gluten-free, BPA-free and free of corn and corn derivatives.
Remember to consult with your health care provider before you start taking any supplements.
Walk it out
It is important to note that although exercise might be off-limits for the first few weeks postpartum, being active is important.
Walking postpartum can help prevent clots from forming (particularly if you had a c-section). Walking can also help ease and prevent constipation and guard against baby blues.
Postpartum Care Instructions:
- Walk around your neighborhood
- Walk around the house
Your body loses a significant amount of fluid after birth and the first few days of your postpartum recovery. More so, if you will be breastfeeding your newborn.
It is extremely important to stay hydrated as it will help speed postpartum healing, breast milk production, and improve overall body health and well-being.
- Always carry with you a water container. I love this insulated stainless steal tumbler with a straw. My water remains cold all day and the stainless steel makes it non-toxic.
- Limit your intake of caffeinated and sugary drink. Opt for water, fruit/veggie smoothies, and broths, as your main source of hydration.
6. Postpartum Emotional Care
Postpartum comes with a whole array of emotions. The birth of new child, carrying for a newborn, hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and straight up exhaustion can send you into an emotional spiral.
Although is is completely normal to experience changes in your mood, feel emotional, and feel tired, it is extremely important to learn how to identify possible signs of postpartum depression.
Baby blues are very common. The baby blues are characterized by bursts of anxiousness and feeling “down”. They might also be accompanied by some crying spells and a few mood swings amongst other symptoms.
Normally, baby blues last about 2-3 weeks after birth and start to subside thereafter.
During this time is is important to take good care of yourself and share what your feelings with your spouse, loved ones, and you doctor.
Things that can help with baby blues:
- Getting more sleep
- Finding a little time for yourself
- Staying hydrated and well nourished
- Getting some fresh air
Note: If the symptoms continue or get worse, please discuss it with your doctor.
With postpartum depression the symptoms increase in severity. The are many symptoms associated with postpartum depression as per the Natural Institute of Mental Health, but the most common signs and symptoms might include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed
- Crying spell
- Feeling overly worried or anxious
- Severe mood swings
- Oversleeping or the inability to sleep
- Feeling like harming yourself or your baby
Important: Please pay close attention to your symptoms and contact your doctor about any symptoms or scary thoughts you might be having. They will be able to find proper care and help you through this postpartum phase.
7. Home with a Newborn
Although not a “physical or emotional” postpartum condition, coming home with a newborn could prove to be very challenging to a lot of new moms.
If we don’t know how to approach or successfully adjust to our new life with a newborn, it could potentially hinder our postpartum healing efforts.
It is for that reason that we must include “bringing home a baby” as part of our postpartum care plan.
I would like to point out that not all circumstances are the same, and not all new moms will respond or react the same to their new life with new baby. In addition, the adjustment period to their “new normal” also varies from woman to woman.
Here are a few suggestions that can make your life a lot easier in your first few days home with your newborn.
Bringing home a baby care plan:
- Sleep when the baby sleeps
- Minimize visitors
- Ask for help
- Meal prep, meal freeze, and/or batch cook
- Dishes can wait
- Give yourself grace and know that you just accomplished a strenuous and miraculous task
Check out this article for the full list on how to survive the newborn stage!
Another great resource by Mama Labor Nurse is Newborn Basic 101.
P.S: If you need help with getting ready for baby’s arrival, check out the Third Trimester Checklist Bundle.
★ Related Articles:
- 15 Important Things To Do Before Baby Arrives (Checklist)
- The Ultimate Hospital Bag Checklist for Baby, Mom, and Dad
- 11 Things to Expect After Giving Birth and Practical Tips to Heal Faster
- The Ultimate Postpartum Care Kit (Natural and Non-Toxic)
- Body After Baby: 21+ Temporary and Permanent Postpartum Body Changes
The postpartum recovery period can feel daunting and overwhelming.
After all, not only do you have to care for yourself and all of the aforementioned postpartum challenges, but you must also take care of a newborn baby.
By following this Postpartum Care Plan and recovery care tips and instructions you can help speed up the postpartum healing process after your vaginal delivery. In turn, helping you get back to feeling like yourself sooner.
Remember that postpartum recovery is a phase, and that it too shall pass. Also, because the postpartum recovery phase might look different to every mom, please remember to talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns.
The most important thing to remember is that you must take care of yourself so that you can take care of baby.
Remember the motto: “Happy mama, happy baby”.
See you in the next phase of motherhood. 😊
Was this Postpartum Care Plan helpful? Let me know if you have any questions about the postpartum recovery tips mentioned in this article?
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