The birth of your child will be one of the most precious experiences of your life. After delivery, there will be a strong focus on your baby and all of the newborn essentials. While this is undoubtedly important, it is also helpful to be prepared on what to expect with your own body. Childbirth triggers many immediate changes in your body. So that you don’t get caught off guard, here’s what to expect after you give birth:
Vaginal bleeding: A bloody discharge is completely normal after childbirth. This is simply residual mucus, tissue and blood from your uterus that needs to exit. It may be heavier and more “clotty” than a normal menstrual period. This type of vaginal bleeding is called lochia. You may experience bright red bleeding during breastfeeding or in response to additional physical activity. Typically, vaginal bleeding will go away within four to six weeks. In the meantime, wear a sanitary pad until your doctor clears you to wear a tampon.
Cramping: While it may be very uncomfortable at the time, but the abdominal cramps that you experience after delivery is simply your uterus trying to contract and return to its normal size. These should subside within the first week, but cramping is often more intense during breastfeeding. Emptying your bladder before nursing and taking an over-the-counter pain reliever can help.
Perineal discomfort: Let’s face it; your perineum went through some major trauma during delivery, so the consequential pain, aching or even numbness is expected. If your perineum was torn or if you had an episiotomy, you will likely have stitches to care for. These stitches will dissolve on their own within a couple of weeks, and your physician will instruct you on ways to reduce your tenderness, which may include sitz baths or witch hazel pads.
Constipation: Having a bowel movement for the first time after childbirth may be challenging. Many women choose to take stool softeners immediately after delivery. Drinking plenty of water and increasing your fiber intake may also help.
Hemorrhoids: It is not uncommon to have hemorrhoids going into childbirth. These will only get more swollen and painful after delivery. Tell your doctor if you are suffering from hemorrhoid discomfort, as they may recommend a topical treatment and/or laxatives.
Breast Changes: In the next 3 to 4 days, you will also feel your milk come in. This can happen regardless of whether or not you plan to consistently breastfeed your baby. Your breasts will feel large, tender and firm.
The above expectations are for a typical vaginal delivery. If you had a cesarean delivery, you will need to follow additional post-operative instructions. At North Pointe OB/GYN Associates, we want to prepare you for what to expect during your pregnancy as well as after delivery. We are here to reduce your discomfort so that you can focus on taking care of your newborn. While it may be tempting to put your symptoms on the back burner, never ignore serious concerns such as a fever, nausea/vomiting, painful urination, heavy vaginal bleeding, swollen legs, bad vaginal odor or signs of postpartum depression.