After the Baby is Born
After your baby is born, your body will undergo many changes to return to “normal”. Knowing what to expect during this period will help you through the challenging but rewarding first days and weeks of motherhood.
In the first few days after delivery, you can expect:
- Monitoring after labor. Whether you’ve had a vaginal or cesarean birth, you will undergo regular checks of your temperature, uterine height, any incisions, and the amount of vaginal bleeding you experience.
- Recovery from vaginal labor. Getting your energy back should be a priority. Take naps or relax when your baby is resting, and remember that your body may take up to two months to recover from vaginal delivery. Cesarean delivery recovery can take even longer.
- Swelling. You may have hemorrhoids from pushing during labor; ice packs and over-the-counter medications can help relieve pain and swelling.
- Dietary issues. Fiber from fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of liquids may help you with bowel movements, while a healthy diet will help provide the proper nutrients in breast milk.
- Difficulty with urination. After vaginal delivery, swelling may interfere with urination. If it does, be sure to let your nurse know. For 24 hours or so after a cesarean delivery, you may have a tube in your bladder to drain your urine.
- Recovery from anesthesia. If you’ve had anesthesia, you may have to stay in bed while it wears off. Your legs may feel heavy or tingly.
- Hormonal changes will stimulate the production of breast milk and cause your uterus to contract to its normal size – a process that usually takes four to six weeks. In the first few days after delivery this contraction can cause cramping, which can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication. Hormonal changes can also cause sweating, emotional changes and other symptoms.
- Breast changes. A few days after delivery, your breasts will harden and create colostrum and then breast milk. Colostrum is rich in protein and helps provide immunity to illnesses for your baby. If changes to your breasts cause discomfort, warm water and breastfeeding your child (or pumping) can provide relief. If you do not plan to breastfeed, a firm bra and ice packs can help reduce milk production and discomfort.
In the weeks after delivery
Most women have their first post-delivery OB/GYN checkup six to eight weeks after delivery. After six to eight weeks, your bleeding should have stopped. If you have any concerns about your body before then, contact our office.
The following symptoms are reasons to call the office:
- shortness of breath or painful breathing
- chills or fever
- heavy bright red bleeding or large clots
- painful cramps that don’t feel better after pain medication
- an incision that is red, draining, hot or appears to be opening
- pain, redness or swelling in your leg
- a hard, painful reddened breast
- depression or a feeling of disconnection
Sexual activity. As a general rule, you can resume sexual intercourse after six weeks postpartum visit.
Diet and exercise. As you recover from pregnancy and labor, be patient when it comes to getting back in shape. Eat healthy foods that are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, whole grains and low in fat. Drinking plenty of water will help with metabolism and digestion. Along with a healthy diet, gradually increasing your exercise levels will help you regain your strength and endurance and also help you reach your goal.
Emotional changes. Many women experience a wide range of changing emotions in the weeks after giving birth. You may feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired and anxious. This is normal, and often results from hormone changes, pain, fatigue, and the physical and emotional intensity of your childbirth experience. Having a strong support network can help, as can exercise and a healthy diet.
Postpartum depression. For some women, emotional changes after delivery may last for more than a few weeks and seem like too much to handle. If you are experiencing prolonged feelings of sadness, apathy, restlessness, irritability, guilt, hopelessness or fatigue, contact our office: these feelings may be symptoms of postpartum depression, a form of depression that affects some women after childbirth. Other symptoms can include overeating, poor appetite, difficulty sleeping or waking, headaches, indigestion, chronic pain and even thoughts of death or suicide. Treatments can include counseling and medication.
Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. If you score greater or equal to 10, please contact our office.