Your physical changes

Your nurse will check your uterus often to make sure it is staying contracted. This is important to seal the blood vessels that served the area where the placenta was attached. Ask your nurse to show you how to gently massage your uterus to keep it contracted.

For a few days you will be able to feel your uterus contract. These contractions are sometimes called afterbirth pains. You may feel them most strongly when your baby breastfeeds. (They may be more intense if you've had more than one child.)

You will have a bloody vaginal flow, called lochia, that is part of your uterus healing. You will need to wear maxi pads. The flow is heaviest soon after birth. Your nurse will be checking this discharge for clots. You may get a gush of bloody fluid when you stand up. Breastfeeding helps the uterus in its healing because oxytocin, the hormone that helps the milk flow, also contracts the uterus.

If you had an episiotomy or tear, it may be repaired with stitches. These stitches are absorbable so they don't have to be taken out. After the repair, your nurse may put an ice pack on your perineum, the area around your vagina. This will help reduce swelling as well as provide relief.

Within a few hours after giving birth, you will need to urinate if you don't have a catheter. You may feel some stinging the first few times you use the bathroom.

You may have constipation (being unable to have a regular bowel movement). Drink extra water and ask your nurse for a stool softener. They are safe to take if you are breastfeeding.

Using the provided water bottle to squirt warm water over your perineum from front to back may make you more comfortable. Running water in the sink or running cold water over your hand may help you start a stream of urine

You may take a bath or shower when you feel steady enough to stand. The warm water can help soothe sore muscles. Washing your body and hair can make you feel refreshed. When you are done taking a shower, put on a clean gown. (The hospital can supply one if you did not bring one.

Ask your nurse any questions you have about your recovery. She can give you comfort tips.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, seventh edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/02/2015