Changes in Your Body After Giving Birth

The postpartum period is the six-week period that begins after the birth of a child. During this time, a mother’s body is healing, is creating a milk supply to support breastfeeding, and hormone levels return to a non-pregnant state.

Changes to Your Body after Birth

Vaginal Birth 

It is normal for the perineum (the area around your anus and vagina) to be swollen, bruised, and tender after giving birth, especially if there are stitches or hemorrhoids.

Some options that may help:

  • Apply ice packs or a frozen, water-soaked maxi-pad or baby diaper to the area (Ice packs should not be applied directly to the skin).
  • Keep the area clean. Use a peri-bottle or spray bottle to rinse the area after passing urine or have a bowel movement. Pat the area dry rather than wipe.
  • Let the perineum air-dry while resting.
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Take pain medications as recommended by your health care provider.

Cesarean Section Delivery

  • Get plenty of rest. Just like with any major surgery, your body needs time to heal. Give your body up to six weeks to fully heal. Ask for help.
  • Avoid strenuous activities for the first few weeks.
  • Avoid carrying anything heavier than your baby.
  • Take pain medications as recommended by your health care provider.

Common Postpartum Concerns

Vaginal Bleeding

Bleeding (Lochia) immediately following delivery is common and can last for 2 to 6 weeks. The flow starts heavy and dark red with some clots. The bleeding will slow, and the colour will change to brown, pink, and then to white. Change the sanitary pad often.  If you soak a pad completely within an hour, rest for a few hours. If the bleeding continues after resting or if you are passing clots larger than a golf ball, get in contact with your health care provider. Do not use a tampon during this time.

Uterine Pain or Afterpains

These are contractions you feel as the uterus goes back to its regular size. These pains may be more noticeable when breastfeeding.  Afterpains usually ease after a week.

Elimination

You may find it hard to pass urine for a couple of days. Drink lots of fluids and attempt to go to the toilet even if you do not feel like you have to go. Eat foods high in fibre and drink lots of fluids to make bowel movements softer and easier to pass, especially if you have hemorrhoids. Talk to your health care provider if you cannot pee, it burns or hurts when you pass urine, or you are constipated for more than three days.

Breasts

Your breasts will get firmer and bigger. The Breastfeeding Handbook (PDF)  (Baby Friendly NL) provides information on how to get started with breastfeeding and to keep it going. Breastmilk will be yellow at first (colostrum) and provides everything your baby needs to grow.

Your  Changing Feelings

Pregnancy, delivery, breastfeeding, and the recovery period are associated with hormone changes. Many women feel a wide range of emotions with these changes. The ‘baby blues’ often happen in the first week or so after delivery. These feelings are usually temporary, but some do not get better and require professional help.

Tips to help you cope during the first few weeks:

  • Try to get as much rest as you can.
  • Sleep when your baby sleeps.
  • Limit the number of visitors and keep the visits short.
  • Arrange for family and friends to help with cooking and cleaning.
  • Give yourself time to adjust to your new life.
  • Ask for help.
  • Take time for yourself.

See a health-care provider if:

  • There is a bad smell coming from your vagina.
  • You are passing large blood clots (i.e. bigger than a golf ball) from your vagina.
  • The vaginal bleeding becomes heavier rather than lighter (i.e. soaking more than one pad an hour).
  • Your stitches open.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have vaginal bleeding for longer than six weeks.
  • Your nipples or breasts hurt.
  • You are thinking about not breastfeeding as much or stopping altogether.
  • You are feeling worried.
  • You are having signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety that have lasted longer than two weeks, or  you are experiencing unusual feelings such as panic, hopeless or frustration; if it is hard to concentrate or you have scary thoughts.
  • It is six weeks after your baby was born - time for the post-natal check-up!

Services related to this information:

Public Health Nursing office

Your Physician / Nurse Practitioner 

811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555

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