Physical Recovery

What to expect and tips to assist in your physical recovery after giving birth.

Aches & Pains

Your body is probably aching from the exertion of your labour and delivery. How you are feeling will much depend on your birth experience. If you had an assisted delivery with forceps, an episiotomy or tearing, it is highly likely that your wounds are extremely tender and sore. Some may say excruciating. Mild activity will help the swelling and bruising to heal as it encourages local circulation. The pain related to episiotomy and tearing is primarily from swelling and inflammation. The use of icepacks may help relieve the pain and reduce swelling. Arnica, available in the form of a tincture, ointment or oil (to be applied only to unbroken skin) and Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, may also aid the healing process.


The sting of urine passing over the sutures can be minimised by showering or slowly trickling a jug of warm water over the pubic area to dilute the urine as it passes. Try soaking in a salt or lavender bath and use pads soaked in witch hazel to enhance healing. Calendula, golden seal, aloe vera, yarrow, chammomile, sage, rosemary and myrrh are antiseptic herbs that can be added to a bath.

For unbearably tender wounds, use a hair dryer rather than a towel to dry the area. You may need to hold the stitched area firmly with a clean sanitary pad when you are passing a bowel motion. Creams and ointments should not be applied until the skin has healed.

Postnatal Bleeding

After giving birth, you will experience a bloody vaginal discharge called lochia for several days, sometimes lasting as long as six weeks. This will turn a brownish colour before tapering to a yellowish-white. Lochia can be alarmingly smelly. It is advisable to use large sanitary pads. Tampons are not advised at this time as there is a risk of ascending infection. Furthermore, the insertion and removal of tampons can irritate the already sensitive vaginal tissue.
Blood loss may leave you feeling weak and dizzy. Be sure to eat plenty of iron-rich foods and carbohydrates for energy to maintain your blood sugar level. Frequent, small meals throughout the day may be better than large amounts of food.


Epidural nerve blocks used as a form of pain control during labour have been known to cause postnatal problems including backache, migraine and neck ache. A good massage will help circulation, promote nerve function and relax the surrounding muscle tissue. Should aches and pain continue it may be advisable to seek treatment from an osteopath or cranial sacral practitioner who will be able to check if the spine is out of alignment. If you do not have a practitioner your health professional will be able to refer you.

The following herbs are useful to speed postpartum healing:

  • False unicorn root and blue cohosh encourages involution of uterus
  • Nettle provides essential minerals including vitamin K and iron and stabilises blood sugar levels
  • Calendula promotes healing and prevents infection
  • Shepherds purse helps stop bleeding
  • Lavender is calming and antiseptic
  • Uva ursi helps prevent urinary tract infection
  • Dong quai, ginger, liquorice and ginseng are useful to treat exhaustion 

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