Checklist: the Essential Items You’ll Need for Postpartum Recovery
April 13, 2021
There’s a lot going on in the postpartum period. You of course have a new baby to care for, but you’re also going to need some care yourself. Regardless of how easy or difficult your birth was, it’s bound to leave you feeling uncomfortable and sore, and recovery can be a bit, well, messy. Which is why it’s smart to stock up on products that can help ease your postpartum pains and make your transition into new motherhood as seamless as possible. Here’s what to toss in your cart as you near the end of your pregnancy.
It’s normal to have bleeding and discharge, called lochia, for a few weeks after you give birth, says G. Thomas Ruiz, MD, lead ob-gyn at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. That’s where maxi pads come in—and yes, it’s best to stick to pads and avoid using tampons during the postpartum period. That’s because the lochia your body is discharging contains bacteria, Ruiz explains, and if you block it with a tampon or menstrual cup, it could push bacteria back up into your uterus and cause an infection. “You want everything to flow out,” he says. And, he adds, if you had a vaginal delivery, your vagina needs time to heal.
Buy it: Always Maxi Unscented Pads, $16, Amazon.com
Bleeding in the days and weeks after childbirth can be heavy at times. “It’s highly likely that you’ll bleed through your underwear at least once during the postpartum period,” says Michaela Ward, APRN-CNM, a midwife at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. That’s why she recommends getting disposable underwear or at least a few pairs you’re okay throwing out if they get stained. You’ll receive some stretchy, disposable mesh underwear in the hospital, and many women take a free stash of those home. If you find those to be a little too flimsy, some brands are now making absorbent “period panties” and even underwear specifically designed for postpartum moms.
Buy it: Bambody Absorbent High Waist Panty, $15, Amazon.com
After birth, your vagina will likely swell (after all, the area experienced a huge increase in blood flow and fluid.) Applying ice to the region is an easy, effective way to find relief, especially in the first 24 hours after birth. There are plenty of ways to go about it—women have used everything from reusable ice packs to ice chips into an adult diaper—but Frida Mom has come up with a genius 2-in-1 absorbent maxi pad and ice pack that’s shaped to cover the entire perineal area.
Buy it: Frida Mom Instant Ice Maxi Pads, $20, Amazon.com
A peri rinse bottle is a postpartum bathroom essential. “It’s incredible for comfort, especially if you had a vaginal delivery,” Ruiz says, since the bottle “keeps everything clean and decreases your risk of infection.” After the exertions of birth, your vagina will be swollen and tender, and wiping with standard toilet paper can be less than pleasant. To use it, Ward recommends filling the bottle with warm water, aiming it at your vagina and squirting it from front to back while you pee. “This helps dilute the urine so there’s less stinging and also helps keep the area clean,” she says. You can also use it to rinse off the area afterward. Thanks to Frida Mom’s clever upside down peri bottle design, you can squirt down onto your vagina instead of lowering your hand to squirt up.
Buy it: Frida Mom Upside Down Peri Bottle for Postpartum Care, $16, Amazon.com
Witch hazel causes blood vessels to shrink, which can be helpful if you’re struggling with hemorrhoids postpartum, Ruiz says—and with all that pushing and straining you do during birth, hemorrhoids are fairly common. But the pads have other uses too. If you tore a bit during birth (another very common occurrence) and had stitches in your perineal area, witch hazel pads can help soothe things down there. “Witch hazel pads are great for hemorrhoids as well as lining your pad or ice pack to soothe your perineum,” Ward says. “You can also put a little witch hazel in your peri bottle.”
Buy it: Tucks Medicated Cooling Pads, $16, Amazon.com
If you had stitches in your perineum, the area can get uncomfortable and even itchy. Perineal sprays act as a local anesthetic to relieve pain and discomfort. “It just numbs your bottom,” Ruiz explains. A cooling, comforting pain and itch spray like Dermoplast is a traditional go-to, but if you prefer something more natural, you can go with an herbal perineal spray that’s benzocaine- and butane-free and formulated specifically for postpartum care.
Buy it: Earth Mama Herbal Perineal Spray, $11, Amazon.com
Epsom salts are thought to help soothe aches and pains, Ward says, and therefore a popular item in women’s postpartum recovery kits. You can use a cup or so of Epsom salts in a sitz bath (a basin that sits over the toilet) to help relieve pain around your perineum and rectum. If you don’t have a sitz bath handy, you can snag one online—or, Ruiz recommends putting two tablespoons in four inches of bath water and sitting in it for 15 minutes.
Buy it: Solimo Epsom Salt, $7, Amazon.com
If you’ve had a c-section, your doctor may recommend a prescription-strength painkiller to help ease your pain during the first few days after you give birth. But if you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery and want something to help with soreness, Ward recommends alternating acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) every six hours with ibuprofen (e.g., Advil). If you happen to be breastfeeding, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are generally considered safe, but talk to your doctor before taking any medication.
Buy it: Advil 200 count, $15, Amazon.com
You won’t know exactly what will bring you the most comfort until you’re postpartum, but take it from us—you definitely don’t want to be scrambling for supplies last-minute when you arrive home with a newborn and a very sore vagina. Pro tip: While you can buy all of these things piecemeal, Frida Mom has an amazing new Postpartum Recovery Essentials Kit that contains a lot of these items, including the upside down perineal rinse bottle, disposable microfiber postpartum underwear, and witch hazel pad liners that are long enough to cover your entire maxi pad with a single liner. You’re welcome.
About the experts:
G. Thomas Ruiz, MD, is the lead ob-gyn at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. He earned his medical degree from UC Irvine School of Medicine and has been practicing medicine in Orange County since 1993.
Michaela Ward, APRN-CNM, is a midwife at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She earned her nursing degree from Columbia University School of Nursing in 2011.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances. This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.