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What are Postpartum Pads?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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Postpartum pads are sanitary napkins used during the first week or two after a pregnancy. They’re also sometimes employed after major gynecological surgery, such as hysterectomy. The average pad is longer and wider than even super or overnight maxi pads, and they’re often worn with net underwear. The underwear can help secure the pad, since not all of them have adhesive backing. The additional size helps prevent the heavy flow of blood that accompanies the early postpartum period from ruining clothing; most women can’t get away with smaller pads until the second or third week postpartum.

There may be different shapes and sizes of postpartum pads. As noted, most are longer than overnight maxi pads, so that when worn, the borders of the back and front of the pad rise to about mid-pubis and mid-buttocks. The extra length and width gives more room for bloodflow to disburse without leakage. An incorrectly placed pad still could leak, and women should be concerned if they saturate more than one pad an hour, suggesting hemorrhage. In most cases, healthy postpartum bleeding is easily caught by the pad, provided it’s placed correctly, and in the first few days women will probably end up changing pads each time they use the bathroom.

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Many hospitals and birth centers provide women with ample postpartum pads for pregnancy recovery at home. In case they are not provided, some pharmacies and a few online stores stock them and the prices are comparable to other maxi pads. It’s also possible to purchase additional sets of net underwear, and these are often little more than a US dollar (USD) per pair. A lot of women like to make this investment because these can substitute for and protect regular panties until possibility of leakage is reduced.

As bloodflow amounts decrease, women usually downsize in pad needs. They may start replacing postpartum pads with overnight napkins, then heavy pads, and continued smaller sizes. Tampons should never be used during the postpartum period due to potential risk of infection.

While many women experience postpartum pads that are disposable, there are a number of companies that advocate use of natural and reusable pads instead. Made with materials like cotton or hemp, these can be good alternatives for women who prefer a more natural approach. Some women who generally favor these still feel that heavier bleeding during the first days postpartum is too heavy to make practical the use of natural fiber postpartum pads, especially at night.

Others advocate for their use at all times. Generally, women should look for or make their own pads with numerous layers to try to prevent leakage. A higher number of reusable pads may be needed because they could necessitate more frequent changes and the pads need to be cleaned in between uses.

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