The ultimate guide to postpartum underwear

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Comfort and security will be your top priority for bleeding after the birth of your baby.  However you can stay leak free, feel beautiful and minimise landfill waste at the same time by following our ultimate guide to the best postpartum underwear:

You have heroically brought new life into the world, you deserve pampering, care and nice things. And then you are given a pair of NHS mesh "after birth pants" - you only need to see them once to know you'd be best off gathering provisions yourself!

Reusable maternity pants can save the day if baby is bouncing on your bladder. They can be worn during labour when your waters have gone and you are making a mad dash to the hospital, then once you have used them for postpartum bleeding they can be used for the return of your regular menstrual cycle.

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What is postpartum underwear?

Postpartum underwear is absorbent pants for new mums to wear once their baby has been born. They can be absorbent disposable mesh pants that sit high to avoid c-section scars, or they can be non absorbent, normal underwear made larger to accommodate pads and scars - think Bridget Jones.

Alternatively, they can also include both absorbency, space for pads, and be designed to avoid the c-section area - Reusable Cheeky Pants!

The disposable options can seem convenient and maybe your 'go to' for a few days in hospital. They are bulky to dispose of and add to landfill. As they are predominantly made of plastic and absorbent material they can be hot and sweaty to wear. 

Disposable underwear can end up being expensive, easy to run out of, and can cause quite a lot of irritation when worn over a few weeks.

Cheeky reusable postpartum underwear has many advantages. The top layer is the same as your normal everyday underwear so should cause no irritation - Midwives recommend that only natural fibres such as cotton or bamboo come into contact with your stitches, whether you had a caesarean or vaginal delivery.

Postpartum pants are normally black so staining won't be an issue, this uses the least amount of dye making them better for sensitive, healing skin than bleached products. They can be washed and reused so you will never run out. They can be used whilst pregnant for leaks and sweeps then when your normal cycle returns.

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Why do you need postpartum underwear?

You need postpartum underwear as it is designed to absorb the discharge of uterine lining of blood and mucus (lochia) which can last for four to six weeks after birth.

This will be heavy and bright red for the first few days then should ease up over the next few weeks.

Postpartum bleeding varies in its intensity. It can be worse if you had issues in your delivery and even increases when you are breast feeding. 

Doctors and midwives recommend avoiding internal protection - tampons at cups - during this phase to avoid infections and furthering injuring tears and episiotomy scars. 

It takes around six weeks for your uterus to contract and depending on your delivery you may have pain around your vagina and perineum or along your c-section scar as it heals.  

Are maternity pants better as under bump or over bump pants?

Deciding on under or over bump maternity pants is purely a comfort decision for you.  Once baby is born reusable period pants can be worn straight away.  If you had a caesarean opt for styles that sit below or above your scar as even once healed it can stay sensitive for quite a while. You will take a while to deflate and for your body to return to (a new) normal.

Reusable period pants are great to have on hand BEFORE baby is born - if you are having some leaking issues with discharge, bladder slips, residue from sweeps and checks, or if you have slow leak of your waters.

You can go for low rise pants to sit below your bump and these can of course be used after the birth for postpartum bleeding and then for the return of your normal cycle. We recommend going up one size. Over the bump pants are great before baby is born too as they gently support your growing tummy and can 

On return of your normal cycle you can continue the pants and pads you used for postpartum! 

Feeling Confident - These make great maternity pants as the rise lifts up over your bump. They are high waisted and great for gentle support when pregnant then help to compress and hold your tummy as your uterus contracts in the postpartum weeks and are great for periods once everything returns to normal.

They also work well to cover your stomach and keep you warm for those awkward weeks where your bump outgrows all your tops and peeps out to say hello to the world! You can combine this style with pads too.

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Really comfy, slight 'spanx' vibes which I really like because I've gone all jelly-belly. It's nice to be held-in, not even from an aesthetic perspective.

Just the feeling of having my stomach held by material is nice. I still had a slight bump on the initial wear and they were comfortable. And they still fit nicely now, sometimes I wear them just for the spanx effect" Ashton, Jan 2022 reviewing our Feeling Confident

"I love them! Almost feel sexy, which is saying something 1 week after giving birth! Much prefer to (sic) disposable because of silky feel, high rise (covers belly button and dark line, which I don’t like looking at right now) and close fit. And of course, reusable!

Wore once in late pregnancy and fitted over bump fine. I feel like a kind of Bridget Jones, kind of sexy. Wouldn’t mind fiancé seeing me in them but was embarrassed if he saw me in (sic) disposables." Zoe, Nov 2021 reviewing our Feeling Confident

Feeling Sporty heavy - These are super low rise so will sit below your bump when pregnant and below your scar if you have your baby by c-section delivery.

You can combine this style with pads too.

"Excellent speedy service, good value for money, comfy supportive postpartum pants, and pretty lacy period pants too. What more can you ask for?" Emma July '22 trustpilot

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Feeling Cosy bamboo - These shorts are super soft and stretchy with an elasticated waistband that will expand and contract with your changing body, they are made of bamboo which is naturally antibacterial and very absorbent.

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What size postpartum underwear do you need?

For postpartum underwear, we recommend sizing up one size from your normal pre-pregnancy size. As long as you try them on over your own underwear you can return them for an exchange to another size or style. To decide which size postpartum pants to opt for you can use our measurement guide.

How long to wear postpartum underwear?

You'll  wear postpartum underwear for as long as you continue to bleed and discharge after birth, usually between 3 to 6 weeks. They can be washed and kept in rotation until you stop bleeding, then get them back out when your normal cycle returns. Stick to 30 degrees and avoid fabric softener.

As long as they are changed in line with your flow, and you wear the correct absorbency you might need a fresh pair when you wake in the morning, change for the afternoon and then again for bedtime. Keeping your vulva clean and refreshing regularly will help any healing stitches.

Reusable pads might be convenient when climbing in and out of pants might be too much or changing halfway through the day is not convenient when you start venturing out.

Reusable maternity pads can be put inside the maternity pants and whipped out at lunchtime to carry on in the washable pants alone. Postpartum pads can be wet with water or witch hazel and stored in the fridge to soothe stitches and swollen vulvas! Pad popsicle!

Can you use incontinence underwear for postpartum?

Yes, you can use incontinence pants for postpartum. They are very absorbent and easy to wash!

Can you use period underwear postpartum?

Yes, you can use period underwear postpartum, and all of our pads can be used too. We have a really handy 4th trimester kit that covers pads, and reusable wipes for baby too! Great to add to your hospital bag.

We hope you've enjoyed our Ultimate guide to postpartum pants and that if you haven't tried a pair yet, you feel more confident to. We are so sure that you will love our period pants and pads that we have created a 90 day trial scheme for them, so if they don't work for you, we'll refund you in full.

If you enjoyed this, we think you would like this blogs on what to pack in your hospital bag - and what not to!

or have a browse of all our blogs!

As always, if you're unsure of what you need to make the switch, please do drop the team a line or use the online chat function. The team all use the products themselves and just LOVE to chat pee poo and periods, all day long, nothing is TMI and we all love to overshare based on our own experiences...

About the Author:  Kirstin Scriven is part of the Customer Experience team at Cheeky Wipes, which since 2008 has been selling the original reusable wipes kit. She is mum to 3 and loves the forest, the sea and the hills!

Along with the rest of our crack team, she spends most days talking about poo, pee and periods and loves a chance to overshare. The business was recognised with a Queens Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2021, celebrating their hard work over the last 13 years.

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