What is the postpartum period?
Postpartum refers to the time period after you have a baby. It's usually considered the first 6 weeks after delivery.
The following are what you can expect your body to be like after delivering your baby:
Your vagina will be sore until the tissue heals, and it may sting when you pee
You'll have a discharge from your vagina for up to 6 weeks
Your breasts will swell up as they begin to make milk and may feel tight and sore
It's common to be a little sad or anxious in the first week or two, but see your doctor if you feel really depressed—you may have postpartum depression Postpartum Depression Post means "after," and partum means "pregnancy," so postpartum refers to the time period after you have a baby. It's usually considered the first 6 weeks. Depression is feeling so sad and hopeless... read more
You may have cramps as your womb (uterus) shrinks back to its normal size over about 2 weeks
Even if you exercise, it may take several months for your belly to go back to its normal size
It may take longer to get back to your normal weight
Stretch marks don't go away, but they fade over time
For the first 3 or 4 days the discharge from your vagina is bloody, sometimes with blood clots. Then the discharge becomes pale brown, then yellow or white.
You'll usually see your doctor 6 weeks after giving birth unless you're having problems and need to see your doctor earlier.
The most common problems during the postdelivery period are:
What happens right after I deliver?
Right after delivery Delivery Delivery is the passage of the fetus and placenta (afterbirth) from the uterus to the outside world. (See also Overview of Labor and Delivery.) For delivery in a hospital, a woman may be moved... read more , doctors and nurses keep a close eye on you for a few hours to make sure you're not bleeding too much.
To keep you from bleeding too much, doctors may:
Press on your belly to help your womb (uterus) shrink
Give you a medicine (oxytocin) as a shot or in your veins to help your uterus shrink
If you lose a lot of blood, doctors will give you IV fluids and sometimes a blood transfusion.
You can start eating normally shortly after delivery.
Immediately after delivery you may not feel the need to pee even though your bladder is full, so:
You'll be asked to pee regularly
Nurses may press on your belly to help empty your bladder
If you can’t pee and your bladder is full, a nurse may put a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) into your bladder for a minute to drain your urine
You may be constipated after delivery, especially if you got an opioid pain medicine. Your doctor may suggest laxatives or stool softeners.
You may also need certain vaccines after delivery:
Rh factor if your blood type is negative and the baby’s is positive (a problem called Rh incompatibility Rh Incompatibility The Rh factor is a protein that some people have on the surface of their red blood cells. If you have the protein, you're Rh-positive If you don’t have the protein, you're Rh-negative Being... read more )
When can I go home?
If you and your baby are both healthy, you usually leave:
Within a day or two after a vaginal delivery
How soon can I exercise?
After delivery, you should get up and walk around as soon as you can.
If you had a vaginal delivery, you can start gentle exercise when you feel up to it, but don't do your full pre-pregnancy exercise routines until your doctor says it's okay
If you have a c-section, it takes about 6 weeks to fully recover and heal, and you shouldn't exercise at all until your doctor says it's okay
What should I expect as my body heals from delivery?
If you had a vaginal delivery, it's normal for your vaginal area to feel sore. Passing urine may sting. Try the following:
Apply ice or cold packs for the first 24 hours after delivery
Use numbing creams or sprays
Wash the area with warm water a few times a day
Sit in a warm shallow bath (sitz bath)
Sit on a donut-shaped pillow
If you had a c-section:
Call your doctor if your wound becomes red or starts to drain fluid
You can shower after about a day but don't take a bath until the stitches are removed
Be careful with your stitches—don't scrub over them in the shower
Don't put anything (including tampons) in your vagina for at least 2 weeks
Avoid heavy lifting and hard activity for about 6 weeks
Avoid sex for about 6 weeks
With either type of delivery, you'll have discharge (fluid) from your vagina for several weeks:
Bloody fluid for 3 to 4 days
Pale brown fluid for about 2 weeks
Yellowish white fluid for up to about 6 weeks after delivery
Vaginal bleeding may actually increase for a few days about a week or two after delivery. That bleeding is normal. It comes when the scab where the placenta was attached in your uterus falls off. You can use sanitary pads.
Hemorrhoids Hemorrhoids Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the wall of your rectum and anus. Your rectum is the last part of your digestive system where stool (poop) is stored until you pass it. Your anus is the hole... read more are swollen veins in the wall of your rectum and anus.
Pushing during delivery can cause or worsen hemorrhoids. Pain from hemorrhoids can be relieved by:
Warm sitz baths
Applying a gel with pain medicine in it
Breastfeeding Breastfeeding Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns. Although babies may be fed breast milk or formula, the World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend exclusive... read more is healthy for both you and your baby.
If you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, your breasts will be very sore and swollen for a few days until they stop making milk. Put ice packs on them, wear a snug bra that has good support, and take pain medicine such as ibuprofen.
If you choose to breastfeed, doctors recommend you feed your baby only breast milk for the first 6 months, then breast milk and food for the next 6 months. After a year, you can continue breastfeeding until you or your baby is ready to stop.
To help with nipple soreness and cracking:
Help your baby latch onto your nipple so the baby's bottom lip isn't sucked in while feeding
To reposition your baby, gently ease your baby’s lip out with your thumb or slide a finger into the baby’s mouth to break suction and then try latching again
Use cotton pads, if needed, to absorb leaking milk
Apply lanolin cream to your nipples to protect them
Take good care of yourself while breastfeeding:
Take a vitamin containing at least 500 micrograms of folic acid
Drink plenty of fluids
Eat about 500 extra calories each day (make sure the extra calories are from fruits, vegetables, and a good source of protein)
If you're on a special diet, such as a vegetarian or vegan diet, talk with your doctor about how to have a healthy diet while breastfeeding
When is it okay to have sex?
You can resume intercourse when you feel ready and any lacerations or surgical incisions have healed.
Most women delay intercourse for 6 weeks after giving birth until they're fully healed. This may take longer if:
You have a c-section
Your delivery caused tearing
You had an episiotomy (a small cut in the vaginal area made by your doctor to widen the opening)
It's possible to get pregnant again soon after giving birth. Women who breastfeed are less likely to get pregnant right away. But some women can get pregnant in just a few weeks even when they breastfeed.
It takes a year or two for your body to fully recover from pregnancy. Doctors recommend you wait at least 6 months, but preferably 18 months, before getting pregnant again.
Birth control pills Hormonal Methods of Birth Control Birth control means preventing pregnancy (contraception). You can get pregnant even if you use birth control, but properly using birth control significantly lowers the risk of getting pregnant... read more with estrogen can't be used while breastfeeding. You must wait 4 to 6 weeks to have an IUD Intrauterine Devices An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of birth control. It is a small T-shaped plastic device that a doctor can place in your uterus to prevent pregnancy. Your uterus is the organ where babies... read more (intrauterine device ) put in your uterus and 6 to 8 weeks to be fitted for a diaphragm Barrier Contraceptives A contraceptive is something used for preventing pregnancy (birth control). You can get pregnant even if you use birth control, but properly using birth control significantly lowers the risk... read more . Talk to your doctor about which birth control is right for you.
What are warning signs of problems after delivery?
If you have any of the following symptoms, call your doctor right away:
Heavy bleeding (soaking through a pad every hour for more than 2 hours)
Passing blood clots larger than a golf ball
Belly or chest pain
Pain while peeing, trouble emptying your bladder, or needing to pee very often
A hard lump in your breast
Breast pain, redness, and swelling
Pain or discharge around your c-section incision
Shortness of breath
Extreme sadness, tiredness, or trouble caring for yourself or your baby
These could be the sign of a postpartum infection or other serious problem.