How you feel after the birth

Grubby, sweaty and in need of a good scrub is one way of putting it. You’ve been through one of the most memorable days of your life and experienced extreme highs and lows of emotion. But once the blood, sweat and tears of labour are over, most women just want a wash and brush up.

When can I shower?

This depends on the type of delivery you have.

  • After a normal delivery: If you’ve had a normal vaginal delivery, your midwife will give you time alone with your partner after the birth to get to know your baby and maybe give the first feed. After a few hours when you’ve had plenty of skin to skin contact with your baby, they will normally suggest you go to the bathroom and try to pass urine and then take a shower. Midwives can accompany you if you are feeling unsteady or sometimes take you to the bathroom in a wheelchair.
  • After stitches: You may be nervous about any stitches you have had as a result of a tear or episiotomy (a small cut that is sometimes made in the perineum to widen the vagina for delivery), but your midwife should explain to you that these need to be kept clean and the sooner you start washing the better.
  • After a cesarean: If you’ve had a caesarean you won’t be able to walk or stand for a good few hours so you won’t be able to take a shower immediately.
  • After an epidural: If you’ve had an epidural you’ll have to wait for the effects to wear off before you can walk and you have been unhooked from the intravenous drip.

How to shower in the first hours

Obviously you know how to do this (!) but there are a few extra things to bear in mind when you shower after giving birth.

  • Don't panic about the blood: You may be shocked at the blood loss (called lochia ) you experience when you stand up for the first time. This is perfectly normal and should only be a matter of concern if you pass large clots or feel faint or dizzy. If you are worried about your blood loss, tell your midwife and she can investigate and/or check your blood pressure.
  • Go easy on the smellies: Tempting as it is to lather yourself with sweet smelling potions in the shower – midwives actually prefer you to use simple unperfumed products to minimise the risk of  causing any irritation particularly in the vaginal area.
  • Wash yourself gently: This isn’t the time to get out the loofah out – just gently wash yourself, taking care around the area of the vagina, particularly if you have stitches.
  • Dry yourself thoroughly: It’s important to dry the area around the stitches thoroughly to minimise the risk of infection developing.
  • Afterwards wear a sanitary towel: You’ll need some large maternity sanitary towels for the first days after the birth as the lochia can be quite heavy. Disposable paper knickers might be handy too (sorry but it’s true).
  • Change into nightwear: Avoid anything white for obvious reasons – a  dark pair of leggings and over-sized old t-shirt will be more practical than a nightie.

Showering and bathing in the first few days

Once you’re home you may look forward to a bath or shower as some precious ‘me time’. Use showering and bathing as a chill-out time – if you are not getting enough sleep a shower can revitalise you and a bath can help you unwind before the night-time feeds.

Mum's story:

In the first few weeks at home I took a shower in the mornings to freshen up after night time breast feeding and tried to manage a bath as well in the evenings when Tom got home. It was literally the only time I had to myself all day so I relished every moment and took a radio in to relax. I used to add lavender oil to my bath to help me de-stress and unwind and I swear it helped heal my stitches too.

Fiona, mum to Ava, two months