Giving birth is one of the most exciting, beautiful, and difficult things many women will ever do. Taking care of yourself afterward may seem trivial in comparison with the demands of your new baby. However, postpartum care is a crucial part of recovering properly and getting yourself back into top physical health to provide the care your newborn requires.
What to Expect
- Vaginal Birth: You will experience soreness in your vaginal area, especially if you had a tear or episiotomy during the birth. You may feel afterpains, or mild contractions after giving birth. These will accompany several weeks of vaginal discharge called lochia, which presents itself as bright red and flows heavily during the first days after delivery, tapering off over the next few weeks. Bowel movements may be difficult and cause hemorrhoids.
- Caesarean Section: Caesarean sections require a longer hospital stay than a vaginal birth, usually around three to four days. After receiving pain medication, your doctors and nurses will encourage walking short distances to help with the buildup of gas within the abdomen. Many women find walking to be very difficult at first, but gets easier with time. You will also experience some vaginal bleeding in the days or weeks after delivery.
Postpartum care after a vaginal birth is different than caesarean section aftercare. After a vaginal delivery, sitting on a pillow or donut may help avoid pain from a tear or episiotomy. Drinking plenty of water and eating foods that are high in fiber can help keep stools soft if you have problems passing bowel movements. Your doctor can also prescribe stool softeners if necessary. Using an icepack or a frozen sanitary pad coated with witch hazel can help relieve discomfort and pain along with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Aftercare for a caesarean section begins during your hospital stay. Your doctor may administer narcotics like morphine to help with pain relief for the first day or two. After leaving the hospital, you will require as much help as possible. You may receive a prescription for pain relievers. Your incision will remain tender and sore for several weeks after delivery though it will heal gradually and feel better every day. Be sure to get plenty of rest and avoid lifting heavy items for at least eight weeks. Your scar will start out very obvious but shrink as you heal.