Advice on what to expect and how to help your body recover.
- byMaria Van Carter
Following childbirth, it can take a couple of days for your bowels to move properly again. And if you've had any stitches you may be afraid to push or strain in case you tear. Make sure to watch your diet in these early days, drink lots of water and eat high-fibre foods. See your doctor if you've not had a bowel movement after a week.
If you delivered by caesarean section, you will not only experience the joys of welcoming your new bub into the world, you will also need to recover from the major abdominal surgery. Once the anaesthetic wears off, be prepared: you will experience some pain at the wound site, though medication will be prescribed to make you more comfortable. The clips or stitches from your cut will be removed on about day four and, while this is not particularly painful, it may cause some discomfort. You'll need to take it easy and not exert yourself too much.
When the dressing is removed, have a good look at your wound. In most caesareans, the cut is made along the bikini line. Although your scar will appear red at first, it will gradually fade over the coming months. If the wound starts to bleed or becomes inflamed, see your doctor for treatment. Within a year or two the scar will become a faint line.
Childbirth weakens your perineal and pelvic floor muscles. As a result you may experience light bladder leakage for a couple of months following. The best way to recover from this is to do your pelvic floor exercises, or "Kegel's", they will help restore vaginal muscle tone more quickly. You can do these anywhere at any time - simply contract your muscles as you would if you were trying to stop yourself from urinating, hold for about 10 seconds, and repeat.
If the problem worsens or still persists after a few months be sure to see your doctor.
Pain and inflammation "down there"
Following a natural birth, your vagina will be stretched, swollen and bruised (which is not surprising given what it has just accomplished!). However, over the next few days the swelling will start to settle and your vagina will begin to regain its muscle tone. The best thing for easing discomfort and inflammation is to apply an ice pack, or a cooled gel pad.
If you had an episiotomy or perineal tear during delivery, you will have additional discomfort to the area. The perineum is a sensitive site and the pain from a cut or stitches may range in severity from mild to quite intense. The wound will generally heal within 10 days, but you may experience ongoing tenderness for up to a month.
Change your maternity pad regularly to keep the area clean. See your doctor if the pain increases, or the area becomes increasingly red and swollen - this could be the sign of an infection. If the problem is haemorrhoids, an over-the-counter topical cream will help.
For a month or two after the birth, your vagina will pass a discharge called lochia. It consists of blood and sloughed tissue from the lining of your uterus. For the first few days, the lochia will be bright red as it contains a fair amount of blood. A couple of days after delivery, the lochia will be more watery and pinkish in colour. Ten days later the discharge will be considerably less and will appear yellow-white. It will taper off over the next few weeks.
Avoid using tampons for at least six weeks postpartum - use maternity pads instead and stock up on cheap underwear. Breastfeeding will help as it makes the uterus contract. If the bleeding persists and is still bright red and heavy after a week, or if you're experiencing severe abdominal pain, visit your doctor.