Delivering a baby is one of the most challenging yet rewarding events in a woman’s life. You have accomplished the seemingly impossible and pushed a human being out of your body. Many women tirelessly prepare for their birthing experience, and there are many resources available on what to expect during delivery. But what happens after your baby is born? How do you know if the way your body recovers is normal or if you should be concerned? It is just as important to prepare for your postpartum recovery as it is to prepare for your baby’s delivery. If you’re wondering what to expect after delivery, this article will give you the information you’ve been searching for.
After delivery, your uterus has to shrink from the size of watermelon back down to a pear. This shrinkage called “afterpains” doesn’t happen immediately and generally takes a few weeks to complete. You may feel cramping and dull or occasional sharp pains as this process occurs, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Breastfeeding isn’t just beneficial for your baby, a woman’s body is created to heal itself, and when you feed your baby, it releases hormones that contract and shrink your uterus. This symbiotic process restores your body and nourishes your baby.
Constipation is incredibly common postpartum since your body has been through a traumatic experience that throws it out of whack. Things like pain medicine, anesthesia, and fear can all affect your ability to use the bathroom. If you’re feeling afraid to relieve yourself due to tearing or stitches, you can make the process easier by allowing yourself to relax; eat plenty of fruits and fiber-rich vegetables, and if necessary, take a stool softener. Drinking plenty of water will also soften stool and keep things moving. If your constipation lasts more than four days, contact your doctor and tell him what’s happening. He may have something you can take that will help alleviate the issue.
Baby Blue/ Mood Swings
Up to 80% of women experience some form of baby blues and mood swings after delivery. Fluctuating hormones, lack of sleep, and stress all contribute to a possible rollercoaster of emotions. If you experience these emotions, don’t feel bad or get embarrassed. It’s perfectly normal to struggle a bit after your baby is born. However, if these emotions become severe, you must call your doctor immediately. You may have postpartum depression, which needs a doctor’s intervention.
Many women leave the hospital with hemorrhoids after delivery. These occur from the pressure of pushing during delivery, and they can be painful or itchy and are a general pain in the butt (pun intended). If you develop hemorrhoids, you can use a soothing cream or Tucks medicated pads, which were a lifesaver after I had my daughter. You can also apply witch hazel and ice to help soothe the area. Hemorrhoids shrink over time, but if they get larger, you should consult with your doctor.
Vaginal bleeding will occur after the delivery, whether you have a natural birth or c-section. Your body is getting rid of excess blood and tissue left over from the pregnancy and is essentially cleaning out your insides. Expect the blood flow to be heavy for about the first two weeks, then begin to lighten and become spotty. You may find your spot for up to six weeks after your baby is born, which is entirely normal and nothing to worry about, but if you experience a blood clot larger than a quarter, call your doctor immediately. You must never use tampons during this time, as the bacteria on them can make you incredibly sick. You should not insert anything into your vagina until your doctor clears you at your six-week postpartum checkup.
Sore Breast, Perineum, And Vagina
Your body has just had the beating of its life, so expect to be sore pretty much everywhere after delivery. Your breast will fill with milk and may become chapped and dry due to breastfeeding. The perineum and vagina have just been stretched to their limit and sometimes beyond, so the area may be very sore for a few weeks as it heals. Use ice or a heating pad to relieve discomfort and limit physical activity. If you experience sharp, intense pains, inform your doctor immediately.
Knowing what to expect after delivery can take the fear out of the unknown. The delivery and postpartum process are messy, but it is also beautiful and amazing. Expect abdominal pain, constipation, emotional swings, hemorrhoids, vaginal bleeding, and soreness the first few weeks after you’ve given birth. Soon all these discomforts will subside, and you’ll look back at the process and see yourself as the wonder woman you truly are!