Postpartum Recovery After Childbirth
During the days and weeks after the delivery of your baby it is vital that you understand what changes will occur to your body and what it takes to recover during this postpartum recovery period.
There are some common postpartum changes shared by most women, but there are also some postpartum body changes can be different for every woman.
You may, or may not, experience any of the following body changes.
You May Experience:
1. Bleeding and vaginal discharge (lochia) may last for 2 to 4 weeks. It can come and go for about 2 months.
2. Discomfort and swelling in your breasts due to ‘Breast engorgement.’ This is common between the third and fourth days after delivery as your breasts begin to fill with milk.
3. If you had a caesarean (C-section), you may have pain in your lower belly and may require pain medicine for 1 to 2 weeks. Be sure to speak to your Doctor first before taking any medicine.
4. Contractions called ‘after-pains’ shrink the uterus for several days after childbirth. It can continue shrinking to its pre pregnancy size for several months.
5. Sore muscles which are common after childbirth and often caused by the hard work you put in during labour. Generally, the soreness should go away in a few days.
6. Vaginal pain, soreness, discomfort, and numbness, is common after vaginal birth.
You may experience greater soreness than some women if you had a perineal tear or episiotomy.
When to Call a Doctor
If you are concerned in any way or are experiencing any unusual pain or discomfort call your doctor immediately.
Postpartum Recovery after Childbirth
Postpartum Recovery Day 1
1. You may require strong analgesia for the first 48 hours after the operation. This is where your doctor or nurse will advise you.
2. As you have had major surgery, you will need assistance from your support team when trying to sit-up in bed.
3. There will generally be less vaginal bleeding a Caesarean as the surgeon will often clean out the uterine cavity with swabs before stitching up the walls of the uterus.
4. You will continue to have a catheter (inserted before your caesarean) until you are able to get up and walk to the toilet.
5. Your IV line (inserted before the operation) will be kept in place until your intestines begin to work again.
Postpartum Recovery Day 2
1. You may find yourself urinating more frequently.
2. You may find that you have increased flatulence.
3. Be aware of how you are feeling and seek assistance if you are not feeling well or are experiencing unusual symptoms.
4. If you have a temperature of over 37.8.C that lasts for over 24 hours contact your doctor as this could be sign of an infection.
5. Maintaining movement is important (even if you had a Caesarean).
As your blood clotting mechanism would have changed toward the end of your pregnancy in an attempt to prevent excess haemorrhage during labour.
This can increase the risk of blood clots (thrombosis) during these early days after delivery so moving is essential.
6. Your nurse or carer will be constantly changing your sterile dressing that covers your incision.
7. You may experience postpartum faecal incontinence.
8. Your uterus is continuing to shrink.
9. You will be encouraged to start gentle breathing and gradually build up to deeper and deeper breaths as this deep breathing can encourage your lungs to inflate fully after having been compressed by the baby and your diaphragm.
Postpartum Recovery Day 3
1. Your stitches are usually removed today. But not in all cases.
2. As your anaesthesia wears off you may experience some pain around your incision. The pain level will vary for each individual so speak to your carer about pain medications.
Postpartum Recovery Day 4
You will now be sitting up and getting out of bed each day with the assistance or under the supervision of a nurse or carer. You start to slowly walk short distances.
Postpartum Recovery Days 5 – 6
1. If you haven’t had your stitches removed yet, they may be taken out today.
2. Your incision scar can appear rather red and raised and may be tender to the touch.
3. As pain medication may be starting to relive some pain, you should still remember to get out of bed using the correct technique and to avoid reaching for items.
4. Always use both hands to push yourself up to an upright position.
Postpartum Recovery Day 7
1. Pain around your incision should be significantly reduced.
2. If you notice any redness around your incision let your doctor know as it may be infected.
3. The skin around your scar may become dry and itchy now.
4. The upper edge of your scar can feel ‘bumpy’ and may ‘overhang’ the lower edge when you are standing upright.
Don’t worry; this is normal due to the surgeon cutting through several muscle layers.
Postpartum Recovery and Care After Vaginal Birth
During this post-baby period it’s important to focus on your healing and on taking care of your body after delivery.
You will need to take your time in returning to normal daily activities as if you rush back too soon you may cause unwanted injuries.
This is especially important if you have had a caesarean as your recovery time will be delayed.
1. Give your body a chance to heal with proper rest and recovery.
2. Learn the correct technique for getting in and out of bed.
3. You can ease constipation by drinking lots of fluid and eating high-fibre foods.
4. Cleanse yourself with a gentle squeeze of warm water from a bottle instead of wiping with toilet paper.
5. Use pads instead of tampons for the bloody flow that may last as long as 2 weeks.
6. If your doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
7. Try sitting in a few inches of warm water several times a day and after bowel movements.
8. Ease the soreness of haemorrhoids and the area between your vagina and rectum with ice compresses or pads.
9. Hold a pillow over your incision when you cough. This will provide additional support for your belly and may help to decrease your pain.
10. Do your pelvic floor exercises.
What to Avoid during This Recovery Period
You should avoid:
1. Lifting anything heavier than your baby.
2. High impact activities.
3. Wearing tampons, instead wear pads.
4. Activities such as jogging or running, riding a bike, weight lifting, and aerobic exercise.
5. Activities that require extreme balance.
6. Movements that cause additional strain on your stomach muscles.
7. Sexual intercourse until you are healed (4 to 8 weeks).
8. Long trips and travel with your baby for the first 6 weeks.
9. Scrubbing when showering. Pat the incision dry when you are done.