After Giving Birth: How to Take Care of Yourself

The Gist of It 

  • After giving birth, you need to get loads of rest and get help from your partner and doctor when you need it.
  • Take care of your episiotomy wound by keeping it clean and dry.
  • See a doctor if you experience post-partum mood disorders.

Now that you’ve done with the most painful part, you’re probably heaving a sigh of relief. However, there’s more to come before your bundle of joy grows up to be the man / woman you’ve always wanted them to be. Their tiny little bodies would need your love and support, and you’ll be watching them learn to talk, walk, and finally run. But before we get to that, the first and foremost person you should be taking care of is yourself.

Delivering a child is a tough process, and you should get plenty of care and loving yourself after. Here’s how you should start caring for YOU:

Right After the Birth

Get a lot of rest

After the delivery at the hospital, the doctors and nurses will continue to monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and vaginal bleeding (lochia) while you’re still warded. You may feel unusually tired, which is normal after delivery. Get a lot of rest and you should also be able to start on your normal diet soon.

Get help when you need it

The nurses may ask you to start ambulating as soon as you are ready. But, take your time to first sit up in bed or sit on a chair. If you do not feel dizzy, you could slowly stand up and walk too. Ask your husband or nurse to accompany you when needing to go to the toilet as you may feel dizzy and faint.

Use pads

Note that vaginal bleeding (lochia) will continue for the next several weeks. It will be heavy like your menses and occasionally you may see small blood clots passed out. Do not use tampons, use sanitary pads instead. The colour of the lochia will slowly change from red to pink, then brown and yellow.

Get the right painkillers

Abdominal pain and cramping is normal during this period as your uterus will be contracting to get back to its original size. In addition, you may feel pain at your perineum due to the episiotomy or laceration during vaginal delivery. You will be given some pain killers to help reduce the pain. Please let your doctor and nurses know if you are allergic to any pain killers.


Learn how to breastfeed

Your breasts will feel engorged and swollen. You will be taught how to breastfeed your baby prior to going home. You need to learn the right way of breastfeeding your baby and taking care of your breasts to prevent risk of breast and nipple infection.

Prevent constipation

You will further need to take care of your perineal (groin) area. You will be given some stool softeners like lactulose to prevent you from having constipation.

When At Home

No heavy lifting

When returning to your usual activities, try to limit any stair climbing and avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby. Get help with household chores, avoid driving at least two weeks after delivery.

Daddies should give mom a hand during this period (and ever after) | Source:
Daddies should give mom a hand during this period (and ever after) | Source:

Take care of your episiotomy wound

  • Taking care of the episiotomy (vaginal incision) wound is important – keep it clean and dry. Have a sitz bath once to twice daily – dissolve 1-2 teaspoons of salt into warm water inside a large container and immerse your perineal area (area between your vagina and rectum) into it.
  • After going to the toilet, wash your perineal area with warm water to reduce the pain. You can also apply an ice pack or cotton balls soaked with witch hazel to reduce the pain at the episiotomy wound.
  • To reduce stinging during urinating, squat rather than sit on the toilet. You could also pour warm water on your genitals while urinating.
  • When on the toilet bowl, hold a clean pad against your perineum and pushed upwards during the opening of your bowels. This could help relieve pressure on the wound.

Eat lots of fruits, veggies, and fibre

Avoiding constipation is critical. Apart from the doctor’s prescription, you should also eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and fibre. Drink lots of fluid too.

When To See a Doc


Apart from the usual recovery symptoms, do contact the doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • You have a fever
  • You notice your episiotomy wound is red, more painful than usual or gapping
  • You notice heavier vaginal bleeding than usual;
  • Foul smelling vaginal discharge;
  • Signs of breast infection – feeling tender, swollen or red breast
  • Problems with passing urine like difficulty in initiating or burning sensation;
  • A hot, tender or swollen spot on your legs, especially your calves (as it could be a blood clot in your leg veins)
  • You feel very depressed, unable to sleep, cope with the baby or feelings of wanting to hurt yourself and your baby

Wrestling with Post-Partum Mood Disorders

Post partum mood disorders could be divided into three categories – the blues, depression and psychosis.

Post partum blues would be the least severe of these mood disorders. Up to 70-80% of mothers suffer from this, which usually starts about 4-5 days after delivery. Note that this stage of mood swings will usually resolve itself within one or two weeks without the use of any medication. The mother will typically experience some of these symptoms:

  • Crying for no reason
  • Difficulty in sleeping, eating and making decision
  • Being irritable and anxious

You should suspect post partum depression if you have the following symptoms:

  • The baby blues symptoms do not fade after one week
  • Strong feelings of anger or emotions occur about one to two months after delivery
  • Unable to perform normal daily functions due to strong emotions
  • Get panic attacks
  • Change in appetite
  • No longer interested in doing things that you  normally enjoy
  • Concern and anxiety regarding the baby is intense or alternatively, lacking any interest in the baby
  • Feeling need to cause self harm or being suicidal

If you suspect yourself or your partner or relative has any of the symptoms above, please seek help from a doctor as soon as possible.

Post partum psychosis is the most severe form of depression experienced after a delivery. Fortunately, it is rare and occurs in about one out of 1,000 pregnancies. The symptoms include suicidal thoughts, delusions and hallucinations.

Those at risk of developing post partum mood disorders include mothers who have had:

  • History of depression prior to pregnancy
  • History of post partum depression in previous pregnancies
  • Lacking home support
  • Recent traumatic stress like the death of a loved one, loss of job, marital difficultie
  • Experience of difficult pregnancy or obstetric complications during delivery
  • A personal or family history of thyroid problems

If a partner or family members suspect a new mother is suffering from post partum disorders, bring them to the doctor to diagnose and prescribe management – especially if the symptoms do not resolve within two weeks or is intense, severe with suicidal behaviour or thoughts.

It is important to provide the mother with physical and emotional support. Try to not leave them alone.

For the mother, to cope with post partum blues or depression:

  • Get help from your partner and family
  • Get enough sleep and eat well. Take care of yourself well
  • Share your feelings with close ones
  • Exercise outdoors just to have a change in environment
  • Go speak to your doctor. You may need just the reassurance or if required, your doctor will prescribe you with some medications which can bring more benefit than harm.

Finally, enjoy the latest addition to your family and remember the joy you feel when you hold them in your arms.


What are some of your rituals after giving birth? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!


Contributed by Dr Helena Lim Yun-Hsuen & Dr Natasha Ain Mohd Nor, obstetricians and gynaecologists

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