Close up of woman placing a liner in her underwear

Post-partum recovery: A guide to what incontinence pads and underwear you’ll need after childbirth

As you prepare for the arrival of your new baby, you might be thinking about all the essentials that you’ll need to take care of them. It’s also important to make sure you gather what you need to help yourself recover from delivering a baby. 

Here, we explain what to expect after giving birth – from postpartum bleeding to and leaks – and give you advice on the TENA absorbent products you’ll need to stay comfortable as you recover.

Post-partum bleeding

After you give birth, post-partum bleeding (also known as lochia) can last up to six to eight weeks. This is the body’s way of healing itself and is usually nothing to worry about. For the first few days, it may feel like a heavy period made up of leftover blood, tissue from your uterus and mucus. The bleeding will become more brownish in colour as it becomes lighter and then eventually stops. 

You might find that you bleed more if you are active or move around a lot. It’s also common for bleeding to occur when you get up after lying down for a long time – this is when blood clots can also appear. 

This is a natural response and part of the healing process, however, if you pass large clots, have a fever over 38 degrees Celsius, pain in the lower abdomen, or suddenly bleed more than you did on the first day after giving birth, consult with a doctor right away.

Post-partum incontinence

By the time your baby’s due, your organs (including your bladder and urethra) will have become squeezed to make room for your growing baby. The , which surround your urethra, vagina and anus, will have been stretched; and labour also takes a significant toll on the pelvic floor.

This can cause /bladder weakness or leaks for a while after childbirth. This can last a few weeks, or you might find that you experience the odd accident now and again over a longer period. 

Immediately after birth, it’s common to experience*: 

  • Losing a large amount of pee the first time you get up after lying down for a long time or after catheter removal 
  • An increased urge to pass urine 
  • A decreased sensation of having a full bladder 
  • Urge incontinence (leaking on the way to the toilet)
  • Stress incontinence (leaking when you cough, laugh, sneeze, lift, etc.) 
  • Passive (leaking without realising you’re doing it) 
  • Difficulty passing urine (urine only tricking out or not passing at all) 
  • Needing to stand up to pass urine 
Your body needs some time to heal and readjust – things should settle down again and there are things you can do to prevent, reduce and manage your symptoms (read more here: How to manage incontinence during pregnancy and after birth). However, if you’re concerned that you may have a more serious problem, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor. 

What pads or pants do I need to wear after giving birth?

During this time, tampons are off limits. That’s because it takes weeks for your uterus to contract back to its normal size, and inserting a tampon could introduce bacteria and increase the chances of an infection. You may also have some perineal tears in and around your vagina, which could get infected or scraped by an inserted tampon, so, it’s best to use postpartum pads instead. It's also recommended to have showers at this time, rather than baths. 

For the first week or two after birth, it’s a good idea to have some post-partum pants or pads that offer maximum absorbency levels, in case you experience a loss of bladder sensation and find that you wet yourself because you don’t feel the urge to urinate. 

You might be tempted to use regular sanitary pads, but these may not give you the levels of absorption that you need. Proper postpartum pads like TENA Discreet Protect+ are thicker and longer than normal pads, which also help to cushion any areas that might be extra sore. 

Immediately after birth, you might find that you’re most comfortable wearing disposable underwear or pants. They can give a feeling of security around the tummy, whilst offering maximum absorption and protection. TENA Silhouette Plus High Waist Incontinence Underwear has a soft and breathable fabric with a body-close fit for improved comfort, whilst also offering triple protection from leaks, odour and moisture. 

As the bleeding and any leaks become less heavy, you may want to switch over to wearing post-partum pads in your own underwear. TENA Discreet Protect+ pads use soft, breathable materials for cushiony comfort and lock in odour and moisture, allowing you to stay dry for up to 12 hours. 

Over time, as the bleeding stops and leaks get lighter, you can move to a liner – TENA Discreet Ultra Mini Incontinence Liner provides triple the protection from leaks, odour and moisture thanks to its unique microPROTEX™ technology. It’s super absorbent and no larger than a menstrual pad. 

Or if your skin is still sensitive after childbirth, TENA Lights Sensitive Normal Liners and Pads are fast-absorbing, very discreet and have 0% fragrance or dye for gentle protection.

How long will I need to wear pads after giving birth?

Bleeding is heaviest for the first three to 10 days, and then it starts to taper off. You’ll want to make sure you have post-partum pants or pads that have the highest comfort and absorbency levels in these early days of recovery. 

It’s normal for post-partum bleeding to continue for up to six to eight weeks. As the bleeding becomes less heavy, you can switch from disposable underwear and pads with heavier absorbency levels to liners for lighter bleeds as things start to tail off. 

It’s common to experience some ebbs and flows with your bleeding pattern. Often, as you become more active in week three or four after delivery, the bleeding will increase slightly, so you may want to get a range of pads and liners so that you can switch them up to meet your changing absorbency needs. 

It can also take a few weeks or even months to regain complete bladder control again after childbirth. Some women may experience urinary for longer. However, there are steps you can take to improve things faster.

How to manage post-partum incontinence after childbirth

It’s common for women to ignore their symptoms or avoid seeking professional support, but you don’t have to put up with feeling uncomfortable. 

From regular pelvic floor exercises and taking the time to empty your bladder properly to retraining your bladder so that you feel the urge to pee less frequently – there are lots of ways that you can manage and improve your symptoms. Check out our detailed article for top tips and advice.

TENA is here to help you navigate your pregnancy and post-partum journey, with practical advice for pregnancy and post-partum incontinence. If you feel that you need more support, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional, like your nearest GP. We have a huge range of products designed to support you – check out the full range here or order a sample. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you can’t find the right product for you. 

* Urinary problems immediately after childbirth, September 2020, NHS