As an expectant parent, the questions are endless when it comes to childbirth, so much so that any new mum might find that they aren't as prepared for what changes occur after giving birth as they are for pregnancy and labour.
From what to expect from your first postpartum period to maternity pads, there's a lot to get your head around when it comes to everything you need to know about welcoming your newborn into the world.
Related: Your hospital bag checklist: essentials to pack for labour, according to mums and experts
Here at Mother&Baby, we're here to help. That's why in this guide to maternity pads, we've covered everything from postpartum bleeding, to where to buy maternity pads and even recommendations from our shopping experts. Find out more about why you should trust us here.
What is postpartum bleeding?
According to LloydsPharmacy, "After giving birth it’s common for you to experience vaginal bleeding and discharge, even if you have had a caesarean. This is known as lochia, and the bleeding comes from the area where the placenta was attached. Your body is getting rid of any additional blood and tissue that nourished your baby and is no longer needed."
Read our guide Birth Health A-Z: Postpartum Haemorrhage for more information.
What are maternity pads used for?
Thankfully, maternity pads provide good protection and are here to support new mums during this experience, so you can get on with all the day-to-day tasks required of being a new parent.
Want to know more about maternity pads? Keep reading as we get to the bottom of frequently asked questions around how many maternity pads to take to the hospital and more.
But first, here are all the best maternity pads you should buy today.
The best maternity pads
Winner of the 2020 Gold Best Pregnancy/Maternity Product in the Mother&Baby Awards, these 100 per cent organic cotton maternity pads are designed for your body. Not only do they absorb a heavy flow after you give birth, but they encourage healing and reduce the risk of infection.
Lydia, one of our expert mum reviewers had this to say, "I think this product is quite expensive for maternity pads, but for the comfort and protection they provide, it is worth it. I would choose this product over others because they are the widest, softest and most comfortable of others on the market that I have tried. I have and would continue to recommend these to friends that are expecting a baby, as they are a hospital bag essential."
Read our full review on Organyc Maternity Pads.
Lil-Lets have always had our back when it comes to our feminine hygiene needs, right? And, their range of maternity products are no different. Developed to make sure your comfortable after giving birth, these pads are here to support you every step of the way.
One happy mum on Amazon said, "Not one for leaving reviews, but as a first-time mum, we all need one less thing to worry about. I'd tried a few brands before running out one night; ordered these on same-day delivery on Prime (winning, as I didn’t need to leave the house with a newborn or describe to my husband what I needed/where to find them) and they were perfect.
"Not only were they very absorbent, but they were also very thin, unlike most that make you feel like you have a nappy on. These Lil-Lets Maternity Pads covered all areas thanks to their large wings, plus I found they were breathable and comfortable, with no irritation of stitches. As a bonus, these pads are very discreet when you leave the house!"
As a new mum, you'll probably find that your priority shifts from design to practicality, and these maternity pads fit the bill. Yes, they're pretty bulky, but they'll provide you with the ultimate protection. Don't just take it from us...
One mum said, "Just had my baby three weeks ago and can guarantee and recommend this product to everyone! It's softer than any other hygiene product I've tried for postnatale care. It's not irritating 'down there', it's kind to the skin so if you have stitches, it won't affect you.
"They're very big (massive really, but it's a good thing) in order to catch all the postnatal bleeding without you fearing that you might have 'spotty accidents' on your clothes, especially while going back home from hospital. Buy with confidence soon to be mummies."
Say goodbye to toxic and synthetic materials thanks to these certificated organic cotton pads. Whether you have sensitive skin or are looking for a more environmentally friendly option, these menstrual pads are kind to you and the planet.
One mum said, "I've never been a pad wearer, preferring tampons or menstrual cups. However, for the few weeks postpartum, pads are needed, and these are perfect from day two or three when you're done with the hospital kind and want something a little less bulky, but still with full coverage. Natracare maternity pads are soft and absorbent, but too narrow and short for the early days when you're (hopefully!) spending a lot of time reclining and resting, so I was glad to find these.
"The design is great - they're breathable, comfortable and biodegradable. Very thin, but still absorbent enough for minor incontinence/bladder leaks most women experience in the early days after pushing a baby out."
It's all about absorbency with the Natracare Maternity Pads. Although these don't have wings, they're super soft and an essential in any expectant mum's hospital bag.
One mum said, "Very soft and absorbent. Found them very comfortable and didn’t have the plastic feel that other brands have. Would definitely recommend. As a guide (I had no idea how many to order before giving birth) I went through a box in the hospital (induced labour so water broken) and then two boxes at home when recovering."
Cheeky Pants Cloth Sanitary Pads are an eco-friendly alternative to maternity pads. These pretty pads have a leakproof minkee outer, two layers microfibre, inner layer bamboo charcoal microfleece or bamboo terry to provide you with protection.
Not technically a pad but a great alternative if you’re after more protection and comfort. Always Discreet Boutique lets you walk with poise and makes bladder leaks no big deal. Thanks to its fabric-like material and a hidden super absorbent core that turns liquid into gel and locks away wetness instantly, you feel fresh and secure no matter what.
One reviewer absolutely loves these: “I got these to try and I am so glad I did. I have 3 beautiful kids and I'm currently pregnant with number 4 so the oops moments are still a daily occurrence. These pants are so comfortable to wear, and they don't feel or look like incontinence wear.
“I love the fact they come in different colours; I can choose which goes well with my outfit. The absorbency is great, I haven't had any leaks at all since trying these. They are my go to product now, thank you!”
Now that we've covered all the best maternity pads to buy, it's time we run down everything you need to know about these postpartum essentials.
How many maternity pads to take to hospital?
As you'll need to change your pad every one to two hours, we recommend taking at least two boxes of maternity pads to the hospital and having plenty more stocked up a home. If you're left with spares, you can donate any unopened maternity pads to a local charity.
When to start wearing maternity pads?
Maternity pads are usually associated with managing bleeding after giving birth. Once the water breaks, the choice is yours to make. Many women choose to wear one when travelling to the hospital and during labour.
When to stop wearing maternity pads?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this; it’s up to you when you stop using maternity pads. We’d recommend when the bleeding is at its heaviest to use a maternity pad as they’re designed to absorb heavy bleeding. As this becomes lighter, you can switch to an ultra-pad alternative. Always make sure to contact your GP or midwife for advice, especially if you have any concerns.
Are maternity pads different to sanitary towels?
Again, LloydsPharmacy has more incredible advice when it comes to maternity pads. It explains, "Compared to sanitary pads, maternity pads are much longer, thicker and softer. They have been designed to be more absorbent and gentle on your skin compared to sanitary products. Even if you used tampons before your birth it is best not to use tampons after you have given birth as this could lead to infection. When your periods start again then you can use tampons if you prefer them over pads."
Where to buy maternity pads:
As well as the recommendations above, there is a wide range of online retailers that sell maternity pads. If you want to do some of your own research before committing to the best maternity pad for you, here are a few suggestions on where to buy maternity pads. Don't forget to bookmark this page and come back later.
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