7 things to expect after a vaginal delivery
After your baby’s arrival, it may feel like life will never be the same. The body goes through so many changes over 9 months of pregnancy, and now that your baby has moved out into the wider world, the body will undergo several more changes before returning to relative normalcy. While every woman’s healing process is different, it usually takes about two to three weeks for stitches to dissolve and for the discomfort to ease. The full recovery from birthing your baby may take up to 6 weeks or more, depending on factors such as delivery type and complications. The following mental and physical symptoms are a normal part of the healing process, but make sure to work with your healthcare provider to ensure a speedy and full recovery.
The intense pushing your body does during labor can cause swollen blood vessels in the anus, which can lead to pain and bleeding. Hemorrhoids are more common in those with larger babies, or those who had traumatic deliveries. Natural solutions include a sitz bath or wearing a pad soaked with witch hazel, though other treatments include local anesthetics or corticosteroids. Constipation can make hemorrhoids worse so make sure to have regular bowel movements. If pain worsens, consult a doctor.
Afterbirth pains or contractions are completely normal, especially during nursing, because your body is getting back to where it was prior to your baby’s birth. Taking over-the-counter pain medications, especially those that have been shown to be safe during breastfeeding, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or lying on pillows can help relieve some of the pain.
Since your uterus and the lining take some time getting back to their regular size, bleeding in the 4 to 6 weeks after birth is standard, though up to 12 weeks is possible. However, you should contact your doctor if the bleeding does not subside in the first 6 or 8 weeks, or if you soak through a maxi pad in under one hour. You may also pass some clots, which is generally normal, but if you pass several large clots in a row, it may be a sign of a problem, so don't hesitate to check in with your healthcare provider about them if you're concerned.
- Breast changes
Breasts might become enlarged in the postpartum period due to tissue swelling and milk coming in, and may bring with it a slight rise in temperature. If you are breastfeeding, feeding your baby more often will relieve most symptoms of engorgement. If you're not, applying cold packs and avoiding breast stimulation can help. So can pumping, but the stimulation may also keep the milk from drying up as fast.
- Using the toilet
Your first bowel movement after birth can be a scary prospect. Since the base of your bladder stretched and your pelvic floor muscles are weakened, it can be difficult to urinate and empty your bowels regularly. Make sure to do kegel exercises and your bowels should right themselves after a few weeks. Even if you're not sure you can feel what's going on with your muscles when you're doing kegels at first, they're still helping, so don't be discouraged!
All new mothers suffer from sleep deprivation. Managing fatigue is difficult, especially with a newborn, so make sure to enlist friends and family for support. Setting aside time to nap is key, and remember that your recovery is important, too.
- Emotional changes
Many women experience a wide range of emotions after birth, including stress, depression, and euphoria. A little “baby blues” is totally common and normal, but more intense feelings of sadness may indicate postpartum depression, so it’s important to let your doctor know if your “baby blues” last a bit too long or seem a bit too blue.
- Larissa Hirsch. “Recovering From Delivery.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, June 2015. Retrieved October 24 2017. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/recovering-delivery.html.
- “Recovering from birth.” Women’sHealth.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 1 2017. Retrieved October 24 2017. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/childbirth-and-beyond/recovering-birth.
- “Recovering from delivery (Postpartum recovery).” FamilyDoctor.org. American Academy of Family Physicians, January 2017. Retrieved October 24 2017. https://familydoctor.org/recovering-from-delivery/.
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