How to Recover quickly after a normal delivery (vaginal birth)

Seun Oladele Sun 06-Feb-22 08:02:40

You've worked hard to give birth to your baby vaginally. Now your body needs a bit of time to get back to normal, so don't expect miracles! We explain what you'll feel in the coming days.

How will I feel after a normal delivery?

Every woman has her own experience of a vaginal birth (normal delivery). You may feel alert and happy and physically, mentally and emotionally satisfied. Or you may feel bruised and battered or dazed and exhausted. You may even feel anything between these two extremes!

Even though you might have had labour complications, a difficult birth or a tear, you're still relieved that you have a healthy baby.

It's a good idea to take it easy over the next few days and weeks. Look after your post-labour aches and pains, begin breastfeeding, and spend time getting to know and love your baby.

Why am I getting stomach cramps after giving birth?

What you're feeling is your womb (uterus) contracting back to its pre-pregnancy size. These are called after-pains, and they usually last for two days or three days after your baby is born.

Just before your baby was born, your womb was about 10 times to 20 times bigger than it was before you became pregnant. Your uterus is now shrinking to its original size.

The pains can sometimes be more intense if you’ve had twins or triplets or more than one pregnancy or if you are breastfeeding. Your doctor will give you a painkiller that is safe to take if you're breastfeeding.

Your doctor will check your womb after your delivery and again before you're discharged from the hospital. She will place her hand on your tummy and feel for the top of your womb in relation to your tummy button and your pubic bone. Let your doctor know if it feels sore when she does this, as it may mean you have an infection.

Your doctor will check your belly again at your six-week, postnatal check. By this time, she shouldn’t be able to feel your womb.

How long will it take for my stitches to heal after my delivery?

It's common during a vaginal birth to have small tears to the area between your vaginal opening and back passage (anus). These usually heal quickly, but a more severe tear or a cut (episiotomy) may take longer to heal. Stitches may be painful for a few days or even weeks.

Having a perineal tear, or an episiotomy, can also make sitting down uncomfortable. Your doctor will give you medicine to ease the pain. You could also use cold gel packs on your perineum to soothe the area.

You'll need to keep this part of your body clean to prevent infection there as well. Take a bath or shower at least once a day, and change your maternity pad regularly. Learn more about how to take care of your stitches after a normal delivery.

And don't forget your pelvic floor exercises. Doing the exercises may help to reduce swelling and speed up healing. Take a look at our article on how to do pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) to learn the right technique.

If your perineal pain and discomfort doesn’t get better, or you notice that your wound smells, tell your doctor right away.

Is it normal for my breasts to hurt after giving birth?

As soon as you've given birth, your body gets to work again. Your baby's suckling and two hormones, called prolactin and oxytocin, stimulate milk production.

In the first few days after your baby is born, your breasts fill with mature milk, and more blood flows to your breasts, making the tissues swell. Your breasts may feel heavy, warm, firm, and sometimes lumpy.

As unpleasant as it sounds, this doesn't often last for long. Within a day or two, your breasts should begin to soften up and you will feel much more comfortable.

If the engorgement doesn’t settle with frequent feeding, see your doctor or a breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible. If your breasts stay overly full, you're more vulnerable to mastitis.

Some mums also find they have sensitive, sore and painful nipples in the early days of breastfeeding. The most common cause of sore nipples is your baby not latching on well.

Keep in mind that although feeding comes naturally to your baby, it may be a bit of a learning curve for you. Some women find it easier than others, but nearly all women will produce enough milk for their baby. You can help to make sure your baby is getting enough milk by:

checking that she's latched on properly when feeding

offering both breasts at each feed or switch feeding (switch sides often if your baby is sleepy)

feeding more often

expressing milk after feeds

If you're worried that your baby's not getting enough milk, talk to your doctor.

Find out more about breastfeeding problems and their solutions!

How will I know my postpartum bleeding is normal?

Straight after the birth, you'll have a bloody discharge from your vagina. The bleeding (lochia) can be heavy, but it gradually gets less and less over the following days and weeks.

The bleeding starts off as bright red and then over the next few days it changes colour and becomes browner as your womb heals and returns to its pre-pregnancy size. It usually stops altogether by the time your baby is about six weeks old.

If you’re breastfeeding, it can make the bleeding redder or heavier. You can also get cramps like period pain, called after-pains. This happens because breastfeeding causes your womb to contract.

Sometimes, bleeding that's much heavier than normal lochia happens. This is called postpartum haemorrhage (PPH).

Speak to your doctor right away if:

The bleeding suddenly becomes very heavy and soaks more than one pad an hour.

The bleeding becomes persistently fresher (bright red) and heavier four days or more after giving birth, even after you rest.

You pass lots of large blood clots.

You start to feel faint or dizzy, and your heart starts to race

Learn about the postnatal symptoms you should never ignore.

Why am I peeing so much now that I've had my baby?

While you were pregnant, your body stored fluid. Now you've had your baby, this fluid has to go somewhere.

In the days after giving birth, you'll probably be peeing for longer and more often. This is one way your body gets rid of the extra fluid. You'll also sweat more. You may feel the need to wash or bathe more often while you get through this phase.

You may have swollen feet and ankles for a while, as the extra fluid in your body moves around. It may be even more noticeable than any swelling you had when you were pregnant.

Even though your body is trying to get rid of extra fluid, you still need to drink plenty to keep your bladder and kidneys healthy. Staying hydrated will also help to prevent constipation.

If you're breastfeeding, you'll be thirsty often, so have a drink handy while you're feeding your baby. Water is best. You could also try fresh fruit juices (with no-added-sugar) or these traditional confinement drinks for breastfeeding mums.

I'm scared of doing my first poo after giving birth. When will it happen and will it hurt?

You're not alone in feeling worried about this, especially when you have stitches or a perineal tear.

It's fairly normal not to do a poo for a couple of days after having your baby, even if you usually go daily. When you are ready to do a poo, it shouldn't hurt.

The area between your vagina and anus (perineum) will feel quite numb. This is because the nerves inside and around your vagina are stretched from your baby's birth. The feeling will normally come back in a few days, but it can sometimes take longer.

If you've had stitches or a tear, doing a poo won't make the tear any bigger, or make your stitches come away. However, try not to push or bear down, as this can strain your pelvic floor, and make healing slower.

Once you're sitting on a toilet seat (western-style), go on your tiptoes, so your knees are slightly higher than your hips. You can put your feet on a stool to lift your knees further, while resting your elbows on your knees. If you're using an Indian style squat toilet speak to your doctor for advice.

When you're on the toilet, try not to hurry things along. Distract yourself by reading a magazine or book. Feeling tense will make it harder for you to do a poo.

When you feel the urge to poo, don't put it off. Waiting can make you constipated. Drink plenty of water to ease things along, as dehydration hardens poo, which makes it more difficult and uncomfortable to pass.

Speak to your doctor if you're at all worried. She may be able to give you a stool softener to make doing a poo easier for you.

Why are my emotions all over the place after childbirth?

Giving birth is a tiring and emotional experience, so it’s not surprising if you feel up and down. There’s a lot going on, and there are several things that can affect you such as:

physical discomfort after your baby's birth

a difficult labour and birth

the demands of caring for a new baby

worry about being a parent and bonding with your baby

hormonal changes

not getting enough sleep

Whatever the cause, it's normal to feel overwhelmed and weepy for a few days after you've given birth (the baby blues). This usually sets in two days or three days after the birth, and should get better a few days later.

If the feelings of anxiety and upset don't fade in the first few days and weeks, or if you're feeling worse rather than better, then you should speak to your doctor. You could have postnatal depression.

This is when you start to feel depressed and increasingly like you can’t cope. Some women lose interest in caring for their baby and stop being able to enjoy anything. Many women don’t tell anyone and suffer in silence. But, there is support and treatment available and the sooner you can get help the better.

Is it normal to leak urine when I cough or laugh?

Leaking pee when you cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise is very common after having a baby. It’s called stress incontinence.

Your pelvic floor muscles stretch from the front to the back of your pelvis, and act like a supportive sling. These muscles help to maintain control of your bladder and bowel.

Your body changes a lot during pregnancy, and as your baby grows he pushes down on your bladder and urethra (the tube that takes urine from your bladder out of your body).

These changes, alongside hormone changes and the stress of labour, can all affect how well your pelvic floor muscles work. If they’re not working well, it can cause stress incontinence.

You can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by doing pelvic floor exercises, or Kegels.

It's normal not to feel anything for a week or so after a vaginal birth, because your nerves have been stretched. But keep trying to do your exercises. Even though you can't feel much at first, you'll still be doing some good.

You will need to do the exercises for at least three months, doing at least eight muscle contractions three times a day, before you start to notice a difference.

Ask your doctor to show you how to do the exercises, and for help if you think you haven't got the technique right.

If doing the exercises doesn't help, or if you are having any difficulty with passing urine, speak to your doctor. You may need to see a specialist recommended by your doctor.

Why do I still look pregnant even though I'm not?

Your tummy muscles stretched and weakened as your baby grew. So, you may have a bit of a tummy and feel out of shape for a while. Eating a healthy diet and being active will help you to tone up.

Doing specific postnatal exercises can help you get back into shape too, as well as helping any backache. These include deep stomach exercises that will strengthen your abdominal muscles. You may be able to find a postnatal exercise class locally, or you could ask friends and family for suggestions.

Start off gently with any exercise programme, and always listen to your body.

Get advice from your doctor before exercising. This is all the more important if you had back pain or pelvic pain when you were pregnant.

Watch our postnatal exercise videos – they're specially designed for you to do easily at home.

I'm exhausted as a new mother. How can I cope?

If just reading about all this makes you feel like taking a nap, it's no wonder. The dramatic change from pregnant woman to new mum is exhausting, and when it's combined with a lack of sleep, it's not surprising you're tired.

In just a few weeks, your body reverses changes that took nine months to happen. So, take things slowly to begin with, and let yourself recover from giving birth.

Try to get extra rest during the day, while your baby is sleeping. This can be hard if you have other children to care for, so ask your husband and family members to help out. You could also consider hiring a live-in maid or part-time help to give you a hand. You'll find your new role as mum easier and more enjoyable, if you care for yourself alongside your baby.

Many mothers recommend following traditional confinement practices. They believe that this long period of rest helps in quick and complete recovery.

You'll get through these early days, grabbing a nap or getting soothing postnatal massages when you can, and with the help of the best distraction of all: your new baby.

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