Postpartum recovery

So you've had your baby - and s/he's gorgeous, of course. But what about you? Over the next few days, weeks and months, you will start to feel more like your old self, both physically and mentally (hard to believe, but true). Give yourself a helping hand and take extra care of yourself as well as your baby. Much depends on the type of birth you had, but even a straightforward vaginal birth can leave you feeling a bit battered. Long labour, instrumental deliveries, episiotomies and C-sections will add to this.

The first few days
  • Take arnica tablets to help reduce any bruising.
  • Apply soothing compresses (cloths soaked in cool or warm water with a few drops of witch hazel, tea tree or lavender oil) to reduce inflammation.
  • If it hurts when you urinate, pour a jug of warm water over the affected area to relieve the stinging sensation.
  • If sitting is uncomfortable, use a valley cushion to relieve pressure.
  • Use ice packs or gel pads to reduce swelling.
  • Start doing pelvic floor exercise (kegels) as soon as possible; this will improve blood flow to the area and help restore muscle tone.
  • If you had a C-section, start moving around as soon as possible.

The next few weeks
  • Keep getting as much rest as possible - and don't be afraid to ask for help.
  • Start gentle abdominal exercises with guidance from your midwife; these will help the natural process of contracting your abdomen after the birth.
  • When you feel ready, resume your sex life (usually not recommended until about six weeks post-partum), but take things gently, especially if you've had stitches. And don't forget contraception...
  • Keep any wounds (episiotomy, C-section, tearing) as clean and dry as possible to encourage the healing process and prevent any risk of infection.

The next few months
  • Keep eating well, and get as much rest as you can.
  • Assuming all is well, resume your usual exercise routines (but don't go too mad at first or you'll end with torn muscles!).
  • If you're going back to work, make sure everything is in place, such as childcare and any renegotiations you need to do with your employers.
  • Don't ignore your partner: your relationship is still important, even if your baby is now taking up much of your time.
  • Make sure you get some 'me' time, by visiting friends and, dare we suggest, having a night out.
  • Enjoy being a new mother!