Recently updated on October 25th, 2022 at 11:01 am
Postpartum care is important, even if your infant is your top priority. What to expect after giving birth vaginally, including possible side effects including discharge and pain.
Pregnancy impacts your body in more ways than you would imagine. And it doesn’t stop when the baby is born. Here’s what to expect physically and emotionally after a vaginal delivery.
1. Itching or discomfort in the genital area
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In the event of a vaginal tear or an incision made by your doctor, you may have some discomfort for a couple of weeks. Repairing from extensive crying may take more time. While you’re healing, these measures can help you feel better:
- Put something soft under your bottom, like a cushioned ring or pillow.
- Place an ice pack on the area, or a pad soaked in witch hazel, between your sanitary napkin and the skin between your vaginal opening and anus (perineum).
- Use a squeeze bottle to pour warm water over the perineum as you’re passing pee.
- Take five minutes to relax in a warm bath that is deep enough to cover your hips and buttocks. If you feel that cold water is more relaxing, then by all means use it.
- You should take over-the-counter pain medication.
Tell your health care practitioner if you’re having severe, persistent, or worsening pain. It could be an indication of infection.
2. Vaginal discharge
After delivery, you’ll begin to remove the superficial mucous membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy. You’ll have vaginal discharge made comprised of this membrane and blood for weeks. For the first several days, expect a thick, bloody discharge. Then it will taper, get increasingly watery and shift from pinkish brown to yellowish white.
Contact your health care physician if you experience excessive vaginal bleeding – soaking a pad in less than an hour — especially if it’s accompanied by pelvic pain, fever, or tenderness.
You might feel intermittent contractions, sometimes called afterpains, during the first few days after birth. These contractions, which are similar to menstruation cramps, are important because they squeeze the uterine blood vessels, preventing excessive bleeding. Since nursing causes oxytocin production, it’s not uncommon for women to experience pain. Your doctor may suggest a pain medication available without a prescription.
The pelvic floor muscles, which hold up the uterus, the bladder, and the rectum, can get stretched out or injured during pregnancy, labor, and vaginal delivery. Because of this, you may urinate accidentally when you laugh, cough, or sneeze. Most people see a resolution to these issues within a few weeks, while some chronic cases may persist for years.
You can help tone your pelvic floor muscles and gain control of your bladder by doing pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegels) and wearing panty liners or incontinence pads can also help. When performing Kegels, visualize yourself sitting on a marble and tightening your pelvic muscles to lift the marble off the floor. First, give it a try for three seconds, and then take a three-second break. Repeat the exercise at least three times daily until you can do it 10–15 times in a row.
5. Soft, juicy breasts
It’s possible that your breasts will feel full, hard, and painful just a few days after giving birth (engorgement). Engorgement can be avoided or at least reduced by nursing often.
Your baby may have trouble latching if your breasts are engorged, which includes the dark circles of skin surrounding the nipples. To aid with your baby’s ability to latch, you may want to express some breast milk beforehand. Warm washcloths or a warm shower might help alleviate breast soreness before nursing or expressing milk. Perhaps milk would be easier to remove. Cold washcloths on the breasts can help soothe a nursing baby in between feedings. Painkillers available without a prescription could also be useful.
Wear a sports bra or other supportive bra if you aren’t breastfeeding. Neither pumping nor expressing the milk will encourage your breasts to produce more milk.
6. Changes in hair and skin texture
Pregnancy hormones cause an increase in hair growth and a decrease in hair shedding. The end effect is usually a fuller head of hair but now comes payback. The hair loss might last up to five months after giving birth.
Even while stretch marks won’t go away completely after giving birth, they will lighten from red to silver with time. Dark spots of skin, like those that may have appeared on your face during pregnancy, will likely lighten after giving birth.
7. Weight loss
After you give birth, you could look like you’re still pregnant. As expected, this is the case. During birth, a woman typically loses around 13 pounds (6 kilograms) due to the loss of the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. During the first several postpartum days, you’ll lose some extra weight because of the fluids your body still contains. After then, a nutritious diet and regular exercise can help you gradually return to your pre-pregnancy weight.
8. Postpartum visit
We recommend that postpartum care be an ongoing practice rather than simply a single visit after your delivery. Make an appointment with your doctor within the first three weeks following giving birth. A thorough postpartum examination should be scheduled with your doctor during the first 12 weeks following giving birth.
Your doctor will ask about how you’re doing emotionally and mentally, go over your options for birth control and spacing your children, and go over all you need to know to care for and feed your new baby. Your doctor will conduct a full physical examination and ask you about your sleep routine and any problems you’re having with fatigue.
To ensure a healthy recovery, your doctor may examine your stomach, vagina, cervix, and uterus. Feel free to bring up any issues you have, such as returning to sexual activity or adjusting to your new role as a parent, at this time.