What to Expect After Your Delivery – Part 1
Congratulations! You’ve welcomed your new little bundle of joy into the world. Now your body will return to normal. Not so fast. You may find your body doing some things you might not expect. From soreness to bodily fluids, here’s what to expect from your body after you give birth, and how you can ease your discomfort while you recover.
You expect to feel sore if you had stitches after either tearing or episiotomy, but even if you came through relatively unscathed, you can still expect to feel a little sore for a few days. While you’re healing:
- Sit on a pillow or padded ring
- Pour warm or cool water over your perineum when you use the toilet
- Use an ice pack or witch hazel pads
- Take pain relievers and stool softeners as advised
If the pain gets worse or the area becomes hot or swollen, call your doctor.
Bleeding and Discharge
You haven’t had a period in nine months, and after you give birth, you’re going to feel like you’re making up for lost time. For the first few days, you’ll have a fairly heavy flow of bright red blood. After this, it will taper off and change from bright red, to brownish or pink, to yellow or white. If you bleed heavily, run a fever, or notice a foul odor, call your doctor.
If you thought your contractions would end after the delivery, think again. You’ll continue to experience contractions for a few days after your delivery. They’ll feel a bit like menstrual cramps, maybe a bit stronger, and you may notice they are worse when breastfeeding. This is your uterus clamping down to compress the blood vessels and stop bleeding. Try a heating pad or massage to ease the pain.
Swelling and bruising of the tissues around the bladder, and fear of pain around the perineum can make urinating difficult. Try pouring warm water over the area when you go. This can both help stimulate your bladder to release and dilute the urine so it doesn’t sting. If it still hurts to go, or if you have to go frequently but only pass a small amount of urine, call your doctor.
You might also notice that you leak a little, especially when you cough or laugh. This is due to damage to the nerves and stretching of the connective tissue and usually resolves in time. Kegel exercises can help you heal faster. Kegels are done by tightening the pelvic muscles for a few seconds at a time, a few times in a row. Think of stopping your urine stream, or practice when urinating. Work your way up to 3 sets of ten 10-second reps per day.
Hemorrhoids and stitches can both lead to problems with bowel movements after giving birth. If you have pain when moving your bowels, try applying chilled witch hazel pads to help reduce pain and swelling. Be sure to eat plenty of fiber and take a stool softener to make it easier. If you have hemorrhoids, your doctor might also recommend a topical medication.
Breast Tenderness and Milk
When your baby is born, your breasts produce colostrum, a super concentrated, nutrient dense precursor to milk. When your milk comes in, about 3-5 days after birth, your breasts will swell, become tender, and start to leak. If you are breastfeeding, try to nurse frequently, pump, or take a warm shower to express excess milk. If feeding is painful, a qualified lactation consultant can help evaluate baby’s latch and determine whether a tongue tie might be interfering with a good latch. Breast pads will help absorb leaking milk.
If you are not breastfeeding, ice packs can help your milk dry up. Avoid pumping or rubbing your breasts, as this will stimulate your body to produce milk. You’ll want to wear a sports bra or other supportive bra to help inhibit milk production.
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