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After Pregnancy and Childbirth (Postpartum): The Body’s Return to Normal

After Pregnancy and Childbirth (Postpartum): The Body’s Return to Normal

Area Affected

What Happens

Vaginal discharge

New mothers have a bloody discharge, occasionally with blood clots, for 3 or 4 days. The discharge becomes pale brown for up to 2 weeks or more, then yellowish white. The discharge may continue for up to about 6 weeks after delivery.

Inside the uterus, a scab forms over the site where the placenta was attached. About a week or two after delivery, this scab comes off, causing vaginal bleeding of up to about a cup.


During the early stages of milk production (lactation), the breasts become engorged with milk, sometimes making them feel tight and sore.

Heart rate

The heart rate, which increased during pregnancy, starts to decrease within the first 24 hours and returns to normal soon thereafter.


Body temperature may increase slightly during the first 24 hours, usually returning to normal during the first few days.


After delivery, the uterus contracts, beginning to return to its prepregnancy size and position. These contractions can be uncomfortable. The uterus may take several weeks to return to its prepregnancy size.

Genital area

The area around the vaginal opening is usually sore. Tears during delivery or an episiotomy Delivery of the baby Delivery of the baby (an incision that widens the opening of the vagina to make delivery easier) and repair of these tissues may also make the area sore. The area may sting when women urinate.


Urine production often increases greatly, but temporarily, after delivery. It usually returns to normal by about 2 weeks after delivery.

Bowel movements

The first bowel movement after delivery may be difficult, partly because the abdominal and pelvic muscles have been stretched and stressed. Also, the mother may be concerned about stitches or may have pain due to tearing or hemorrhoids.


The pushing required for delivery can lead to or worsen hemorrhoids.


Muscle tone is low after delivery but gradually increases.


Stretch marks do not go away, but they may fade, turning from red to silver, but sometimes not for years. Other darkened areas of the skin may also fade.


Most new mothers lose less than 15 pounds after delivery. Weight loss results from the delivery of the baby and placenta and loss of extra fluids. At first, they look as if they are still pregnant. Changes in the breasts due to breastfeeding may add a small amount of weight.


Many new mothers feel blue or mildly depressed. The sad mood or baby blues usually passes after about 2 weeks. If it does not, women should call their health care practitioner.