The birth of your child will be one of the most exciting, life-changing days of your life. But it will also be messy. Very messy.
And that mess will linger for weeks as your body does everything it can to recover from the amazing thing it’s achieved. It’ll basically be like your period but on steroids.
You’re never quite prepared for some of the things you experience that first day postpartum, but you can still make sure you stock up on the best postpartum pads you can find.
For a while, it’s going to look like a crime scene in your bathroom. But take a deep breath, and relax. You’ve got this.
When Should I Start Using Postpartum Pads?
You’re going to need them right away, as soon as you can stand up and walk your way to the bathroom after delivery. The hospital will supply you with some, but in my experience, they aren’t nearly as nice as the ones you can order for yourself. You’ll want to bring some with you, along with some other essentials for the hospital.
The hospital will offer you cheap, thick pads, but most women want something with wings to wrap around and fully protect their underwear from stains. But just as a heads up, bring old underwear to the hospital that you don’t care about at all — just in case they’re destroyed.
How Many Pads Will I Need?
You might underestimate what’s going to happen unless you’ve already had a child before. But expect that you’ll have a very heavy flow that will last for weeks.
The first few days will be intense — you’ll be changing your pads frequently, sometimes as often as every 60 to 90 minutes.
And although it may seem crazy to you right now, you may end up sandwiching pads on top of each other, to make sure you are thoroughly covered in the first few days. That sandwich trick may seem wasteful, but if you want to sleep for any length of time, one pad won’t cut it and you don’t want to ruin your sheets because you’re being stingy with pads.
Slowly, as the days pass, you’ll begin changing them less frequently. But you can still expect to need them for about four to five weeks (1).
If that seems like a lot of blood you’re going to be losing, there’s a reason for that.
When you’re pregnant, the amount of blood in your body will increase by up to 50 percent (2). But after birth, the extra blood vessels and tissue that supported your baby need to come away and be shed from your uterus — the medical term for this is lochia (3). Some bleeding is normal as you shrink back down again, and of course, some is down to injury or tearing from birth itself.
How many pads are needed varies greatly from woman to woman? Some like to change their pads well before they’re fully soaked, while others leave them on until they can’t handle any more blood.
If you opt for cloth pads, you won’t need nearly as many as you will with disposables. How many you choose depends on how frequently you want to wash them.
Choosing the Best Postpartum Pads
Everybody’s personal preferences and postpartum experiences are different.
But no matter what your experience is like post-birth, here are a few basic qualities you’ll want to look for in a good postpartum pad, plus some tips you’ll need when buying them.
- Buy a wide assortment: You’ll need a large number of overnight pads. I’d make sure about half my stash of pads were overnight ones because you’ll need them for the first week or so. But for the other weeks, you’ll just need an assortment of thinner pads meant for lighter days. For the final week or so, you may be able to get by just with pantyliners.
- Get pads with wings: Many pairs of underwear have been trashed in the postpartum period because women have used pads that don’t have wings. You’ll need wings on some of the pads you buy — I can’t stress that enough. Wings will protect you at night and they’ll guard your clothing against embarrassing leaks during the day.
- Decide between cloth or disposable pads: I went disposable all the way after the birth of my two children. It wasn’t because the environment isn’t important to me. It’s because I had heavy bleeding and I couldn’t imagine cleaning all those cloth pads when I already felt so incredibly overwhelmed. If you plan to use cloth pads, more power to you — they certainly feel softer than disposables (4).
- Softness: If you’re expecting your first child, I can’t stress enough how sore your nether regions are going to feel for the first week or so. A pad that isn’t exceptionally soft is going to feel like sandpaper, so make softness a priority even if it costs a bit more. After all you’ve been through, you deserve that little bit of pampering.
Best Postpartum Pad Reviews of 2020
With all the blood and the sleep-deprivation, your first few days postpartum may well seem like a post-apocalyptic zombie movie. Even fairly straightforward births can leave you feeling a bit dazed and wincing every time you so much as cough. It’s during this time that the humble postpartum pad really shines as the superhero it is.
Here are postpartum pads that can really help:
1. Always Maxi Overnight Pads
At the beginning of your postpartum time, you’ll be using overnight pads during the day because your flow will be so heavy. As things slow down, you’ll still want overnight pads so you can get a good night’s sleep without worrying about leaks — well, at least as much sleep as your newborn will allow you to get.
These overnight pads are the undisputed champ as far as I’m concerned. I always had a major stockpile of these after my deliveries.
They have the wings that you need to protect your clothes and they’re big, wide and long enough to protect you during your heaviest flows.
These are 15 inches long and they have an extra-wide back portion so you’ll get plenty of protection when you’re reclined at night and sleeping. They have a raised core so they fit your body better than flat pads do.
- These are super absorbent.
- They’re unscented for women who are sensitive to odors.
- The leak guard core will quickly absorb any fluids so you won’t have any accidents.
- These are so big that you may feel like you’re wearing a diaper.
- The mesh on these may not be a good choice for women with stitches.
2. Always Radiant Pads
If you’re unfortunate enough to get stitches, I totally understand your pain. You have to find fabric or disposables that will feel extra soft because your skin will already be sore, inflamed and desperate for some comfort. You don’t want anything that's going to cause extra aggravation to that area.
Don’t let the thinness of this pad fool you — it can hold a lot. The flex-foam this pad uses can absorb 10 times its weight.
It’s so comfortable to wear, you’ll forget you’re wearing anything. The cover is so soft and it doesn’t use a loosely-woven mesh, which means that stitches won’t get caught anywhere.
You don’t have to worry about sliding with these pads — they stay in place thanks to the strong adhesive they use — plus they have wings so your clothes will be protected.
- These are so comfortable.
- You’ll be amazed at how thin these are, and they never feel bulky.
- They stay put.
- They are a bit more expensive than ordinary disposables.
- These are scented, which some women may not like.
3. Seventh Generation Maxi Pads
Disposable maxi pads aren’t cheap, but you’ll want a big supply in your cabinet during your postpartum weeks. They're quick and easy to use, and they do a great job of guarding against spills. Make sure you look for pads with wings so you aren’t ambushed by leaks though.
If you’re irritated by dyes or fragrances, you’ll love these pads. I’m not ordinarily bothered by either of those things, but these really appealed to me post-birth because I was already experiencing so much irritation I couldn’t stand the thought of more.
Plus, since these are chlorine-free, you can feel good that you aren’t contributing to the chlorinated toxins we produce as a society.
These are heavy enough to use for maternity pads, even in the first few days. Unlike some other brands, these are made of simple cotton.
- These shouldn’t irritate any new mom’s skin.
- They aren’t overly expensive.
- They have wings.
- The cotton can bunch up pretty easily when the pad starts getting wet.
- They don’t absorb super quickly, but they do after a while.
4. Organyc 100% Organic Cotton Pads
If you’re worried about the chemicals and materials used in disposable postpartum pads and some cloth pads, you have a lot of organic options you can check out instead. These pads still offer great performance in terms of absorbency, but you can feel safer when using them.
These heavy flow pads are made out of 100 percent organic cotton, so you’ll have one less thing to worry about if you’re concerned about potential chemicals being placed next to your skin. They also have wings to give you added protection from leaks.
They’re biodegradable pads so you won’t have to feel residual guilt every time you think about how much waste you contributed with your after-birth pads.
This brand is a great choice for moms who’ve been irritated by materials used by other companies.
- These are completely organic.
- Your skin won’t be irritated by these.
- They’re better for the environment than typical disposables.
- These are fairly expensive.
- You’ll have to change them more frequently than synthetic pads.
5. Poise Incontinence Pads
It can actually be a bit of a shock to behold just how heavy a flow your body is capable of after birth. Even those of us used to heavier periods may be surprised and find themselves scrambling to keep up. If you're a heavy bleeder, don't worry; there are excellent choices out there for dealing with that postpartum deluge.
You might feel a little awkward buying incontinence pads from the store, but consider it par for the course — as a mom you’ll be dealing with all sorts of embarrassing body fluids, stains and smells on the regular.
While these pads are designed primarily for bladder weakness, their absorbency makes them ideal for new moms. If you happen to find yourself with a little postpartum incontinence anyway, this pad will also have you covered.
These are super absorbent for heavy flows, with a long, generous shape that adheres well to your underwear.
- Large pads that doesn’t bunch up.
- Soft quilted top is comfortable against the skin.
- Great for overnight use.
- Locks moisture away and keeps it off your skin.
- These don’t have wings.
- May have a chemical smell.
6. Dutchess Cloth Menstrual Pads
Cloth postpartum pads aren’t as convenient as disposables, but you can feel better about what you’re doing for the environment when you wear them. Plus, cloth pads come in a bunch of different fabrics and they’ll feel so much softer against your irritated skin than disposables will.
These reusable pads offer enough protection to use postpartum. They come in packs of five. While you will have an upfront investment with these, they will more than pay for themselves in just a few months because you won’t need to buy disposables anymore.
They have cloth wings that are secured by a snap. Plus, you can fold these over and snap them together for compact storage.
These pads use double charcoal bamboo layers. That means they’re naturally dark so they won’t look as stained up as light-colored pads will.
- They’re odor-resistant.
- These pads are good for the environment and your body.
- They feel soft when you wear them.
- They can shift when you use them since they don’t use adhesive.
- These can feel a little hot because they aren’t the most breathable choice out there.
7. Always Thin Daily Liners
Though the first few weeks postpartum can seem like an eternity, there will come a time when the flow slows down to a trickle and you start to feel like your old self again. As the bleeding tapers off you can pack away the heavy-duty pads and move onto something lighter.
These Always liners are great for all women, mothers or not. They’re small, discreet, and comfortable to wear, and really help with keeping very light bleeding or spotting at bay.
After a few weeks your postpartum flow will slow down and when it does, you won’t want to keep using your giant diaper-sized pads anymore. A regular panty liner will be enough for the lightest flow or those days when you don’t want to be caught by a drop or two.
These breathe well and are light and thin enough that you can forget you have one on.
- Portable enough to throw a few in your purse.
- Feels like wearing nothing.
- Controls odor.
- Inexpensive enough for regular use, even long term.
- May be too thin and small for some women.
- May not protect the sides of your underwear.
Make Yourself a Postpartum Survival Kit
Postpartum pads are just one of the things you’ll be glad to have around once your baby is safely delivered and in your arms. In the weeks leading up to the big day, spend some time putting together a hospital bag to have with you during delivery, as well as a postpartum kit of little essentials waiting for you when you return from the hospital.
For your hospital bag, choose a large tote and pack it ahead of time, ready to grab when you need it. You can easily add things as you think of them, but consider including comfortable pajamas, a belly wrap, some lovely new toiletries, breast pads, nipple cream, soft nursing bras and of course clothing and essentials for the little one.
On your return home though, the real recovery begins. A great postpartum survival kit will make you feel cared for, and put you in the right state of mind to heal, recover and bond with your baby. Some things to include:
- Bath herbs: Sea salt and healing herbs can be added to a warm bath to soothe your mind and help your body repair itself. Keep in mind that herbs are not regulated by the FDA.
- Peri bottle: You’ll be feeling pretty tender for a while, and wiping with ordinary toilet paper can be painful. A little bottle that gently squirts water will help you stay clean and fresh without aggravating any stitches, if you have them. Also consider some gentle wet wipes.
- Haemorrhoid cream: It’s not fair, but it’s a fact. Chances are you’ll develop a few, and you’ll want something to soothe and relieve this less-than-glamorous side effect of childbirth. Witch hazel is a great natural alternative.
- Nipple TLC: Have plenty of nipple pads, nipple cream, and lotion on hand, plus a few good quality nursing bras.
- Numbing spray: Some moms take time to get back to normal after a traumatic birth, but fortunately there are medicated wipes and numbing sprays to take the sting out of recovery.
- Large maternity panties: For a few days, you might appreciate the support of large, full coverage, mesh maternity pants, especially if you’re dealing with a giant postpartum pad.
- Laxatives: Postpartum healing can be crappy except, ironically, when it isn’t. No need to say more about this; just make sure you have something on hand when/if you need it.
- Treats: Childbirth is physically draining, but it’s also hard emotionally. While your body is reeling, take care of your heart and mind, too. A luxury scented candle, some gorgeous silk pajamas, a pretty new hair clip or some soothing herbal tea all go a long way to making you feel pampered and ready to get back into life again.
You might like to organize all your postpartum goodies in a basket or box that you store in the bathroom where you’ll most likely be needing it.
The Bottom Line
Always Radiant pads are the hands-down our pick for the best postpartum pads. These are seriously great pads whether you’ve had stitches during your delivery or not.
There aren’t many pads out there that are so comfortable you forget you’re wearing them — but this is one that makes that list for me. And when you’re wearing pads for potentially four or five weeks, you’ll need something like this in your corner.
They may not look impressive, but they’ll handle anything your body can throw at them.
The weeks after birth will be uncomfortable and messy, but you’ll forget all about it every time you look at that little love of your life. If you have any questions or detect a feel that your bleeding has increased since you have been discharged from the hospital, it is always best to contact your OB.