Postpartum Recovery Period Checklist
Your hospital bag might be packed with newborn must-haves, but does it include everything you need to heal after delivery?
Your hospital or birth center may or may not provide a few mesh panties, pads and topical treatments for healing. But just in case you don’t head home with a starter kit—and because it’s always a good idea to have some extras—consider stocking up on the essentials before you give birth.
“I always encourage women to have a few extra supplies on hand just in case,” said Mon Health OBGYN Candi McCullough. “This way, you won’t have to worry about running to the store when you’re adjusting to life at home with a newborn baby.”
Following childbirth, there’s a good chance you’ll need these items on hand as you recover:
- Maxi pads— You’ll probably bleed for several weeks following childbirth, even if you’ve had a C-section. As it slowly begins to heal, your body is getting rid of all the excess blood it stored during pregnancy.
- Bath essentials for healing— This can include Epsom salts for your tub and/or purchasing a sitz bath for soaking. Long soaks in clean, lukewarm water help many moms find comfort and relief from the pain of vaginal delivery, hemorrhoids or tearing. Plus, it’s a relaxing time for mom to practice self-care, which is just what the doctor ordered during those first few weeks with a new baby.
- Lidocaine spray—This spray provides a cool pain relief from perineal tearing, fissures, hemorrhoids and other similar not-so-fun side effects of childbirth. You may be sent home with a bottle, but having a spare can be a lifesaver if you end up needing it. Lidocaine spray can be purchased at most drug stories.
- Witch hazel pads— Witch hazel pads can be inserted inside of maxi pads for similar pain relief. They help to heal inflammation and soothe sensitive areas of skin. They can also be purchased at most drug stores.
- Ice packs— Applying cold compression to sore areas of the perineum after childbirth can help to relieve pain. They also come in handy for wound pain following a c-section.
- Nursing pads — Whether you plan to breastfeed or not, your breasts will leak milk once it comes in around 3-5 days postpartum. Nursing pads inserted into your bra help to absorb excess moisture and avoid milk from soaking through your clothes.
- Stool softener — Whether you’ve had a vaginal delivery or c-section, having bowel movements following birth can be tough. Medications, hemorrhoids, pain and swelling can cause constipation or simply make it difficult to “go”. Still softener can be purchased at most drug stores to use as you heal during those first couple of weeks postpartum.
- A squirt bottle — Your hospital might offer one to you but if not, you’ll still need one after you’ve had a vaginal delivery. It’s difficult to wipe or clean the area as swelling, pain and bleeding are pretty intense following childbirth. A squirt bottle filled with clean, lukewarm water is an easy way to stay clean after using the bathroom and freshen up when washing is a challenge.
If you have a cesarean section, you’ll also want to make sure you have a few additional supplies.
“After a c-section, you have to think about recovery in terms of wound care in addition to general postpartum healing,” said Dr. McCullough. “Moms who have had cesareans need to take extra care of themselves as they recover from major abdominal surgery.”
If you have a c-section, stock up on these items:
- Gauze/tummy pads — After giving birth, loose skin tends to hang around for at least a few weeks postpartum. While normal, any hanging skin that lays on top of your C-section scar can interfere with the healing process. Have some gauze, or tummy pads, on hand to keep your wound covered, dry and clean as you heal.
- Large underwear— After a cesarean, you’ll need to make sure the waistbands of your underwear and clothing don’t rub against your incision. Stock up on large briefs that rise above your belly button so you aren’t irritating the area and the wound has plenty of room to heal.
- Postpartum girdle – A cough, a giggle or a sneeze after a C-section can feel uncomfortable or downright painful. Consider purchasing a postpartum girdle, which not only helps with bleeding and swelling, but also provides some much needed support for weakened abdominal muscles.
- Compression stockings – Moms who have had a C-section require weeks of rest to heal after surgery. Talk to your doctor to find out if you’ll need compression stockings. Some moms like to have extra compression stockings on hand after surgery. You can purchase them in some stores, or order them online.
“If you have questions about additional supplies you’ll need after birth, talk to your doctor or midwife,” said Dr. McCullough. “They should be able to recommend some items you’ll need to recover, especially if they’re already familiar with your medical history and previous labor experiences.”