It’s not always easy to think about the postpartum essentials that you will need before the baby is even here! However, being prepared with the right items can help you recover from childbirth better. As a pelvic floor physical therapist here at Revitalize Physical Therapy, women frequently ask for recommendations of postpartum essentials. After talking about them a lot, I thought it would be a great idea to finally create an actual list to share with everyone!
This list isn’t going to have all your standard postpartum recovery items on it such as padsicles, nipple cream, nursing bras, pads, and snacks. While those are definitely still great items to have for postpartum, this list is a little bit different. It includes my favorite postpartum essentials that will help your RECOVERY from a pelvic floor rehab perspective. AND they are recommended by a “veteran mom” that has gone through the postpartum phase 3 times.
I would also recommend preparing for your recovery phase in advance, so you can make sure to have some of these items on hand. Everyone is different with their needs in the newly postpartum phase. Ultimately, every woman’s body has undergone major change and trauma and that requires intentional steps for recovery. After working with hundreds of postpartum women and going through the experience myself, I hope you find the below checklist of postpartum essentials just as helpful!
Proper Support Garments
Why we love this: After childbirth, via vaginal delivery or cesarean delivery, your body went through a lot of trauma. You will have inflammation within the pelvic region. Using a type of support garment that has compression through the pelvis will help decrease that inflammation and help the tissues heal better. You can achieve this with a good quality pair of compression leggings or shorts. We recommend compression short undergarments. You can wear them underneath almost any kind of outfit and they provide just enough compression to help provide support without being restrictive or uncomfortable.
Also, during the initial postpartum phase, the core muscles are not functioning well so you will likely feel very weak in the core. For a lot of new moms, they tend to turn to belly binders or wraps to gain that “support”. However, we rarely recommend a belly binder or wrap for our postpartum moms unless they are in so much pain and unable to function without that support. Wearing a belly binder/support will increase the abdominal pressure. This also puts quite a bit of pressure onto the pelvic organs and pelvic floor. This can lead to or exacerbate several pelvic floor issues such as prolapse and incontinence.
If you want to read more about this, check out our article about it here. If you feel very weak or unsupported and like the added support from a belly binder, we recommend using a Mama Strut instead. This will provide compression for the above reasons, but it also provides more support for the core and pelvis if you are having some pain. The Mama Strut is great if you are experiencing significant perineal swelling or pain and any pelvic pressure or heaviness. Bonus, you can even slide ice packs right into these shorts as well!
Why we love this: Trust us, we know there is nothing fashionable or exciting about having to wear a diaper (essentially) for weeks on end. And I’m going to tell you now, the postpartum bleeding (for most women) is HEAVY...for several weeks! I definitely was not prepared for that after having my first baby. Since then, I’ve learned just how great Depends are for postpartum. You don’t have to worry about leaks because the Depends will catch them. You don’t have to worry about ruining your underwear (or bed or couch or recliner if you are like me), and then you can toss them afterwards. You'll have less mess to clean up. Trust me, they are just overall more comfortable and easier.
Why we love this: After 9 months of pregnancy, all the hard work of laboring and delivery, and then the numerous poor-posture-positions that you are in during the first several weeks postpartum, your muscles need a little help! A normal change that occurs during pregnancy is a postural change to accommodate for the shifting center of gravity. This means the low back will arch more and then the shoulders and neck will round forward more. No matter what you do during pregnancy, your body has to make this adjustment in order to keep you from toppling over. Once the baby is here, our posture tends to worsen due to feeding the baby and from holding the baby. As a 3-time exclusively pumping mom, I am convinced that pumping is THE WORST for our posture!
Using a foam roller will help improve your posture, open up the chest and alleviate tight muscles. Most women also find sore and tight muscles commonly after delivery. Using the foam roller can help with this also. Gently stretching or applying static pressure to a tight/sore area is okay to do whenever you are feeling up to it postpartum. There is no need to get more aggressive at this time. You also want to be mindful that you aren’t doing certain rolling techniques that will strain your core or pelvic floor initially
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Why we love this: I might be a little biased...but Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy is crucial to better Postpartum Recovery!! It should probably be #1 on this list of postpartum essentials 🙂 Typically when a patient gets cleared by their OB or midwife, they get the green light and think that they are entirely back to normal now. However, there are plenty of things such as diastasis recti, prolapse, pelvic floor overactivity, and scar tissue that aren’t being assessed during your six week check-up! These things can have a significant impact on your day-to-day function and should be assessed by a pregnancy and postpartum specialist before returning to higher activity levels.
If you had a vaginal delivery, see a pelvic floor physical therapist around six weeks postpartum, unless you are dealing with significant issues then get an appointment ASAP because they can help you right away. If you had a C-section, see a pelvic floor physical therapist 3–4 weeks postpartum.
Why we love this: After a vaginal delivery, especially if you tore at all, your lady parts will feel very sensitive for a while. So, no matter how soft of toilet paper you buy, that might still be extremely uncomfortable to clean after using the bathroom. The peri bottle helps to clean the area with water which is less irritating to the tissues and stitches. Keeping the area clean will help prevent infection and all you need is water! Washing with soap can kill off the good bacteria in the vagina, making you MORE prone to infection.
Herbal Sitz Bath
Why we love this: Okay, I know I said that this checklist wouldn’t have all the standard things that you read on every other “postpartum essentials” checklist, but this is a must! Quick story, when I had my first baby, I was told at the hospital that I wasn’t allowed to take a bath at all and could only shower. So, I followed directions and did not soak in the tub at all. Fast forward a few weeks and I ended up with a raging case of bacterial vaginosis (isn’t postpartum glamorous??) My “treatment”, along with antibiotics, was an herbal sitz bath soak 2x/day. Now, this is something I recommend as a must to everyone.
You can do this using a sitz tub that sits inside of the toilet bowl (not my preference) or you can fill up your bathtub with water, throw this in, and soak for 15 minutes. Doing this is great for managing pain and inflammation around the vulva and perineum after delivery. It also helps keep the area “clean” since you will likely be bleeding for several weeks. Another great benefit is that it keeps the tissue well hydrated. It helps with healing if you had any tearing during a vaginal delivery. It can also help with healing after a Cesarean, but you will have to wait until you get the okay to get your incision wet.):
Why we love this: These will help keep the swelling down in the legs during the postpartum period. Your body tends to hold onto extra water and swell because of all the inflammation in the body, fluctuating hormone levels, intravenous fluids during delivery, as well as lower activity levels during those first few weeks. It is also very common that women experience swelling towards the end of pregnancy. This can carry over into the postpartum phase as well.
Compression socks were one of my top “postpartum essentials” that I didn’t even know that I needed until after I had my first baby. Wearing these during the day will help eliminate the swelling quickly, within about a week depending on the severity. As a physical therapist, I have tried several different brands of compression socks, but the Pro Compression brand has been my favorite. They are a little more expensive, so buy them now and use them for the end of your pregnancy, but they work the best and are the most comfortable. You can even use these later on to help with sore, tired feet after a long day because they help restore good blood and lymph flow throughout the area. Definitely worth it for these!):
Why we love this: Collagen consists of specific amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that our body uses for ligaments, tendons, connective tissue, and tissue elasticity. Common postpartum issues include diastasis recti and prolapse, which involve the connective tissue and ligaments in the abdomen and pelvic area. During the postpartum phase, we want to nourish our bodies in order to help strengthen and repair that connective tissue, amongst other things. While there is very little research to support this theory at this time, it is thought that if you provide the body with collagen, it can help repair the connective tissue better, providing better support and strength for diastasis recti and prolapse.
If you are considering adding a collage supplement into your diet, you also want to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of protein during the day. Aiming for 0.5 grams of protein for every pound of body weight is ideal. For example, if you weighed 200 pounds, then consuming 100 grams of protein per day would be optimal. If you aren’t getting enough protein in from the foods you’re eating, then the body will likely use the collagen powder (ie: a type of protein) in the most needed way. That might not be for connective tissue repair. While there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in this area, adding collagen into your daily routine doesn’t have a negative effect so we always say, it doesn’t hurt to try!
*Disclaimer-if you have concerns or specific health questions, consult a medical professional before as this is not meant to be used as medical advice.
A Good Book
Why we love this: To take a break from watching all the Netflix and mindless scrolling especially for late night feedings!! Less screen time at night and in the middle of the night will lead to lower stress levels and better-quality sleep, even if you’re only able to get a few hours each night. Some of our favorite “postpartum essentials” to read are: The Wonder Weeks, The Fifth Trimester and How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids.