My Post-Birth Essentials: What New Mums Actually Needby Annabel Port
Holding my newborn baby, I’d shuffled over to a drawer for some clean clothes. I bent down and felt warm liquid seeping from what had previously been my private area, but five days earlier had been the star of a badly made thriller. Or, as others call it, birth.
I knew immediately what it was, even though this was not something I’d ever experienced before. It wasn’t blood. That feels thicker. It was 100% definitely wee. I was wetting myself.
It was faintly horrifying. What if I was now just ‘open’ down there? What if from now onwards my body would create urine and which would then immediately gush out.
I remembered my pregnancy yoga classes and being repeatedly told to do pelvic floor exercises. I finally properly understood why. I started straight away with the enthusiasm of a dedicated athlete preparing for the pelvic floor Olympics. I probably exercised that area more than any other part of my body. Ever. But it worked. There was no more seepage. And I’m hoping I’ve got at least another 40 years before I start leaking down there again.
To be honest, it didn’t massively bother me. For a start, the wee was absorbed by the giant maternity pad that I was wearing. The type that would be used by elephants if they had periods. (Which they don’t. The only animals that do are elephant shrews, bats and the spiny mouse. We have no idea how lucky and exclusive us women are.)
These maternity pads are completely essential. Even somebody who practises free bleeding each month would baulk at doing this with post-birth blood. There’s quite a bit of it, which is totally normal (although tell your midwife if there are any clots larger than a 50 pence piece). Some kind of mattress protector would also be helpful. To avoid your mattress being taken away as evidence of a suspected murder. (Slight exaggeration.) An old towel will probably be fine. If not, you can buy maternity mats for the bed.
Obviously, these big pads are not the natural companion of a tiny lacy G-string. They are more suited to a giant pair of comfy, dark coloured knickers. I bought a pack of black knickers two sizes bigger than my normal size. To be honest I still wear them now as they are so comfy. You can also get disposable knickers that incorporate the maternity pad. They are often made of a fabric that allows wounds to breathe so are great if you’ve had stitches or a C-section.
Another reason I wasn’t that fussed about the errant wee is that I’d already climbed the mountain of the first post-birth wee. Which if you’ve had stitches can be slightly daunting. If you’ve ever dipped pH paper in urine (who hasn’t?) you’ll know it can be fairly acidic. And nobody enjoys a stream of acidic liquid flowing over a recent wound. You can make your urine less acidic by drinking loads of water. And you can also pour water over your bits while you’re weeing. A little jug or bottle is fine but there are also bottles specially designed for this purpose called peri bottles. (Don’t get confused with bottles of peri peri. Big difference.)
For a water-free option, I have heard that if you put your hands on the floor while you wee, this also helps avoid any stinging. I never tried this though. Mainly as, despite the pregnancy yoga, I can’t really get my hands on the floor.
Nature was kind to me though as I wasn’t doubly incontinent. The exact opposite in fact. Lots of water and a high fibre diet can help with constipation. But I was so bunged up I had to resort to prune juice. There is nothing like childbirth to make you feel like a little old lady. The shuffling a few metres instead of brisk walking. The giant pants. The leaking of urine. The prune juice. And it taking several hours to gingerly stand up and sit down.
It didn’t help that all the baby pushing had given me terrible piles. It was like part of my body had gone inside out. My midwife recommended Anusol which helped a bit. But these piles did not help with the first post-birth poo. Nor did the idea of pushing anything else out of my body ever again. If you’ve had a tear during birth, the advice is to hold some clean toilet paper over the area while you’re pooing. I took that advice. And I can confirm it stops you feeling like you’re going to tear back open again. (Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure a poo can’t do that.)
I was pretty lucky in terms of pain. My tear had required stitches (it’s amazing how blasé you can feel about someone sewing your fanny up when you’ve got a newborn in your arms.) It felt uncomfortable down there and I couldn’t walk very far but I was never in pain. There’s lots of stuff to help if you are very sore though. Many recommend My Expert Midwife’s Spritz for Bits, Tucks medicated cooling pads, sitz baths and perineal cold packs.
I hope none of this has put you off birth. It’s probably a bit late to back out now anyway. And it all just feels like a tiny inconvenience for a few weeks. You’ll soon be back in that lacy G-string. Before taking it off now you realise how comfy those big knickers are. Just don’t forget your pelvic floor exercises if you want them to stay dry.