You may be able to feel your uterus contract off and on for several days after giving birth. To help ease discomfort:
Whether your baby was born vaginally or by Cesarean, you will bleed from your vagina. This is part of the healing process for your uterus.
In addition to blood, the flow contains cells your uterus sheds as it gets smaller. This flow lasts for several weeks. In the beginning it is like a heavy menstrual period. It will be red and may contain small clots. As the site of the placenta heals, the flow will lessen, turning pink, then brown, and eventually white or clear.
Six weeks after giving birth, your uterus will be back to its nonpregnant size.
If you are breastfeeding, your uterus will heal faster. The hormones that let down your milk also make your uterus contract.
If your flow has been pink or brown and then turns bright red again, you have become too active too soon. Your body is telling you to slow down. You need to lie down and rest. If you push yourself too hard in these early weeks, your physical healing will take longer. This can mean feeling tired for weeks longer.
Use maxi pads and change them often. Do not use tampons until after your postpartum checkup.
You will probably have your first bowel movement two to three days after giving birth. If you have stitches in your perineum (area around your vagina), supporting these stitches with a wad of toilet paper may make that first bowel movement more comfortable.
It is common to get constipated after giving birth. This can be the result of being less active and not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Pain medicine can also make you constipated.
To help avoid constipation:
Talk with your health care provider if you think you need a laxative or stool softener. Your health care provider may recommend that you take milk of magnesia at bedtime or prescribe a stool softener.
If you have hemorrhoids, it may take two to four weeks for them to shrink. If they are still painful at your postpartum checkup, talk with your health care provider about treatment options.
To help hemorrhoids heal:
Even if you are formula feeding, your breasts may become engorged. Your breasts will still get ready to produce milk and become full. Learn more about engorgement and other common issues while breastfeeding.
If you had an episiotomy or a tear, the stitches will dissolve. They do not need to be taken out.
At first the site of the stitches may feel sore and bruised. Healing usually takes three to four weeks.
Caring for your baby around the clock is demanding. Because your baby does not sleep more than a couple of hours at a time, you can become exhausted.
To help you get the rest you need for your own healing and to be able to care for your baby:
Heavy perspiring or sweating, especially at night, is common during the first week after birth. This is due to changes in your hormones and your body getting rid of extra fluid.
Wear lightweight nightclothes and drink plenty of fluids. Using a fan to circulate the air can also help.
Because of the surgery, anesthesia and blood loss during a Cesarean, your recovery will take longer than if you had a vaginal birth. You will feel more tired and will need more rest and time to heal.
If you had several hours of labor and then had a Cesarean birth, you are recovering from the physical exertion of labor as well as major surgery.
Your health care provider will tell you when to schedule your postpartum checkup. If you have any questions or concerns before that visit, call your health care provider.
There is no way to predict when your period will resume. If you are not breastfeeding, your period will probably return in four to six weeks.
If you are breastfeeding, your period may not return for three months or longer. Some women don't menstruate until after they have weaned their baby from nursing.
You can get pregnant while breastfeeding. Learn about sexuality and birth control after birth.
When your period does begin, it may be heavier than normal for a while.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, seventh edition, ob-ah-90026
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts