Having the ability to grow a tiny human in your body is life-giving and life-changing. Even if you're years away or months past giving birth, all birthing people can benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of how to care for their vulvar area pre, during, and post-pregnancy.
Pregnancy may or may not be something you planned, or maybe you've struggled with infertility issues or pregnancy loss previously. At any rate, here’s what you need to know to prepare for pregnancy and postpartum.
We’re intentionally refraining from using the terms woman, mother, or any other gendering vocabulary in our discussion of pregnancy since it is a myth and/or misinformation that transgender and non-binary people cannot get pregnant. While testosterone generally blocks ovulation, trans men can get pregnant while taking it — especially if it isn’t taken regularly. We support anyone who decides to get pregnant and firmly believe that gender isn't a limiting factor to parenthood.
Let's dive into the condensed guide covering everything you or your partner can expect during pregnancy and post-birth. Be prepared for the irregular spotting & literally sh!tting the bed (yes, it can happen).
The 4 Stages of Pregnancy
Throughout pregnancy, you're going to go through a whirlwind of experiences, emotions, symptoms, and side effects, if you will — all of which are perfectly normal, although normal is a relative term.
To be blunt, your hormones are going to be kind of all over the place; when pregnant, hCG and progesterone rapidly increase, then decrease postpartum. These hormonal shifts can intensify your cravings (mmmm peanut butter and sardines), emotions, and feelings of pain (and pleasure!)so it's important to find balance in caring for your physical and mental wellbeing while tuning into the mind-body connection. Pregnancy (like the sex that got you there) can be as spiritual an experience as a physical one. Let's break down what many people experience throughout the three stages, or trimesters of pregnancy plus postpartum (aka the rest of your life) below.
- nausea and vomiting
- cravings and aversions
- heightened sense of smell
- mood swings
- decreased energy
Symptoms of early pregnancy, like nausea or tenderness in your breasts, will subside, and you'll begin to notice real changes in your body. There's a tiny human growing inside your uterus! Some common symptoms during the second trimester include:
- round ligament pains
- nipple & breast/chest changes (can also start in first trimester)
- stretch marks
- baby movements
- strong(er) kicks from the baby yes, that's a real human growing in your uterus!
- swollen feet and ankles long bath soaks, propping your feet up, and gentle, but regular movement is imperative to maintain healthy blood flow
- leaking breasts/chest as your mammary glands gear up to produce milk for the baby
- frequent urination there's extra pressure placed on your bladder as your internal organs shift to make room for the growing baby
- increased vaginal discharge is very common during pregnancy, but if you're experiencing extreme discomfort, you should consult with you physician, practitioner, midwife, or doula.
Postpartum aka the Fourth Trimester aka the rest of your life
Once you've given birth, you're not only experiencing a drop in hormone levels, but you're thrown into a foreign world or caring for someone completely dependent on you. It's important to focus on bonding with the baby, but it's imperative that you take time to to take care of yourself.
For some, changing hormone levels can have a big impact on mental health and it’s not uncommon to experience symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, depression, or irritability. Some of the physical and emotional symptoms you might experience include:
- lochia vaginal discharge or bleeding is very common and nothing to be concerned about unless for prolonged periods of time, or excessive amount of fluids — more on that below!
- fatigue your body's been through a lot. Finding a support system you can rely on is imperative here.
- changes to breasts/chest as a result of milk production, which often includes soreness or leaking.
- risk of postpartum depression or "baby blues" feeling sad post pregnanyc is pretty normal, btu if you're concernced about your mental wellbeing, always reach out to your partner, a trusted family member or friend.
- changes in relationships with your partner, your support system, and yourself (see below)
- shift in brain chemistry to “parent brain ” you're not just a human now, you're a parent, responsible for another human entirely dependent on you. You're the strongest person they know.
Common (but Uncomfortable) Experiences throughout Pregnancy & Childbirth
We won't shy away from talking about these uncomfortable experiences most pregnant people go through because they're so common.
Bleeding during pregnancy is normal.
A common sign of pregnancy can be a missed period, but you might also bleed during initial stages of pregnancy. We know this can be confusing if you’ve never been pregnant.
Bleeding can occur when the egg travels down the fallopian tube and implants into the uterine lining. This is referred to as implantation bleeding or spotting. The blood is usually brown or pink in color, not bright red like menstrual blood. If this concerns you at any point, please consult a midwife or doctor.
Shitting the bed (literally) during childbirth is normal.
The pelvis is only so large, and can only hold so much material. The same muscles that you use to push a baby out are the same ones you use for a bowel movement (our bodies are so much fun!). If it happens, it’s usually just a little bit and nothing to worry about.
Your doctor or midwife and their staff have seen and heard it all, and they’ll probably be psyched to see it! It means you’re doing it right. They’re always more concerned about the blood and the childbirth process. They just want to make sure everything is okay with your birth so, seriously, it's NBD!
Episiotomy and/or perineal tearing during childbirth is normal.
Usually, this area tears naturally during childbirth. Tearing is normal and episiotomies can be helpful in true emergencies. Generally, both natural tearing and surgical cuts will require stitches afterwards that heal well and relatively quickly.
Moisturize a & Protect Your Perineum: Shop Salve
Cesarean Birth (C-section) are safe and normal.
Cesarean birth delivery is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus. It is one of two ways to give birth and is in no way easier, less important or a “failure” when compared to vaginal birth.
Cesarean birth can be a miraculous and life saving procedure, but with the national rate of cesarean delivery in the US hovering around 32%, while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a rate of 10-15%, it’s clear that some of these cesarean births are not truly medically indicated and lead to more difficult recoveries and complications postpartum.
So how do you make sure not to fall into that statistic? Start by choosing a doctor or midwife that you trust and who is up-front about their personal c-section rate. Next, make sure to arm yourself with education in the form of a comprehensive childbirth class and make sure your birth team is there to support you and love you through the process. Be a real participant in your own labor by asking questions, asking for more time, and clarifying things that are complicated.
A cesarean birth can be the best choice for you and your family for many reasons including (but not limited to) issues with the placenta resulting in distress to the baby, health complications like severely high blood pressure or a history of uterine surgery, a very long labor with little progress, or unexplained distress to the baby. If a cesarean birth is what is best for you and your baby, here are some tips and suggestions to ease the birth and postpartum experience.
Ask for a “gentle” of “family centered” cesarean. This usually includes immediate skin to skin with your baby in the operating room and the ability to have more than one support person (i.e. partner and doula) in with you during the procedure. While not all hospitals allow for this, the more consumers (aka you!) ask for these things, the sooner change will come.
Have some kind of essential oil to bring with you into the operation room—it smells funny in there, so make it nicer for yourself. Peppermint oil is great, or try our Tonic with Cedar Wood, Sweet Orange, and Oregon Grape, which is not only soothing for the skin, but will also make your surroundings "smell like a dream" (according to our beloved customer Rylee).
Initiating nursing might be a little more difficult in the first 24 hours due to a sore belly and a harder time moving around. Ask for help from nurses, a lactation consultant, or your doula. And use lots of pillows to support your baby and your body.
Go sloooow with activity and movement during your recovery. Walking around is important, but giving birth is a big deal to recover from, not to mention with the addition of major abdominal surgery! Recruit friends and family to come by to help even more than you would have with a vaginal birth.
Moisturize, Soothe & Prevent Stretch Marks
A lot of commercial moisturizers contain filler ingredients that can further irritate your skin or disrupt your hormones. Opt for organic Body Oil made without A generous layer of this luxurious blend of cold pressed Argan, Jojoba, and Sweet Almond oils and steam distilled essential oils packs in a healthy helping of vitamins, minerals, and nourishing fatty acids, without the fake fragrance or irritants from pesticides or herbicides. If you must get up and walk/run/dance again, another layer of Body Oil can also act as a lubricant between your skin and whatever’s irritating it.
What to expect after birth—vaginal or cesarean.
Literally everything about your life will change for awhile and you’ll feel totally insane and good and bad and everything in between. All the feelings are normal and no pregnancy or birth is the same. Postpartum is the rest of your life after birth, so caring for and having compassion for yourself is as important as caring for your baby.
This is very common after pregnancy due to the physical and mental stress. The gut-brain connection is real and even the fear of tearing stitches when you poop, pain-relieving drugs, or anesthesia can alter your gut microbiome and make it difficult to defecate.
We recommend: A daily probiotic to protect, promote, and maintain a healthy gut, immune system, and vaginal microbiome. SHOP PROBIOTIC
Perineal & Vulvar Soreness
Regardless of episiotomies and tearing, the vaginal and perineal tissue does a lot of stretching during birth and swelling and soreness is super normal for the first couple of weeks post-birth.
We recommend: Warm bath soaks to soothe physical and mental stress. SHOP TONIC
Hemorrhoids are the swelling of a vein in the rectum from pregnancy. Some people also get them from the strain and pushing during pregnancy.
We recommend: Our anti-inflammatory Salve will offer immediate cooling relief courtesy of Tea Tree Oil while the Coconut & Jojoba Oil base moisturizes sensitve skin. SHOP SALVE
Mood swings are common (read more on "baby blues" below). You also might be sweating more and temporarily have some hair loss, which is perfectly normal and usually only lasts for a few weeks.
Lochia is a type of vaginal discharge after giving birth that may contain blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. It has three main stages and can continue four to six weeks after childbirth.
Lochia Rubia (or Cruenta) The first discharge stage is composed of blood, fetal and uterine membranes. Like a heavy period, this discharge will be bright red because of the large amount of blood. This will last 3-5 days after birth.
Lochia Serosa This second stage of discharge has thinned and turned pink or brownish in color. This contains white and red blood cells and fluids that prove healing is happening. This should continue through the 10th day after delivery. If this stage continues more than a few weeks after birth, it can indicate postpartum hemorrhaging and should be reported to your physician.
Lochia Alba The third discharge has turned white or yellowish-white. It normally occurs during the third to sixth week after delivery. Any kind of excessive bleeding or discharge after a couple months post birth can indicate damage to the tissue and should also be reported.
We recommend: NYSSA's Postpartum Pads are specifically designed to support bleeding and leakage post-birth. They're exceptionally absorbent, and feature a 100% organic cotton top sheet to help keep you dry and comfortable as you heal. SHOP NYSSA POSTPARTUM PADS
Should “baby blues” last longer than a few days to a few weeks, you might have a postpartum mood disorder. The feelings of nervousness and anxiety begin to increase, and mood swings become more intense. Symptoms can include:
- depressed mood/severe mood swings
- excessive crying
- difficulty bonding with your baby
- insomnia (or excessive sleeping)
- intense irritability
- hopeless or extreme fear of becoming a good caregiver
- anxiety and panic attacks
- thoughts of death or suicide
We recommend: Rely on a robust support system, be gentle with your body, and eat nourishing food that restores your body and mind your body so that you can feed, nourish, and care for another human being.
If you’re hit with postnatal depletion, or depression in the early weeks, pick up a copy of The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother. READ IT NOW
Having questions is very normal, and you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable reaching out to your midwife, doula, or doctor. Common questions you can (and should) ask your midwife or doctor include:
How long till I feel like myself again?
What should my calorie intake be?
When can I start exercising again?
\How long before I can have sex again?
What if I don’t want to have sex?
Will my breasts go back to normal?
Why am I losing hair?
What if I’m feeling sad after pregnancy?
What if I’m scared I won’t make a good caregiver?
Just remember that nothing is off the table and all of your feelings are valid. Don’t be afraid to turn to other forms of support within your community for the care you deserve — therapists, postpartum doulas, and parent friends can and will be super helpful during this time of immense change. Supporting healthy healing during and after birth is an important process. You got this.
Many of Momotaro’s most enthusiastic fans are pregnant people who have turned to our products and relief during this sensitive time. Shop our pre and postpartum products here.
Protect Your Birth: A Guide For Black Birthers Navigating the Whitewashed Healthcare System by Dr Mare (she/her) OBGYN
Strategies to Cope With Past Trauma and Reclaim Your Body During Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum by Sevonna Brown (she/her)
Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.