Discomforts After Birth
After delivery, your uterus goes from 2.5 lbs to 2 ounces in six weeks. During this time, you vagina will shed the blood and tissue that lined your uterus. At first it may have clumps and will be heavy and red, similar to the first few days of your period. After awhile, there will be less and less and it will turn pink, brown, or yellow. Do not use a tampon during this time. Instead use pads to absorb it. This can last anywhere from a couple weeks to a month or longer.
Your period will start again in about 6 to 8 weeks, unless you're breastfeeding. If that's the case, it may be several months before your period resumes. However, your body may release an egg even before you have your first period, so start using birth control once you start having sex again.
In order for your uterus to shrink again it needs to contract then relax. This creates cramps that last a few days after birth. If necessary, take a pain reliever to help alleviate the pain. Other discomforts after birth could include: sweating, swollen breasts, hemorrhoids, bowel problems, urinary problems, and fatigue.
Having Sex Again
Firstly, you doctor will tell you a reasonable amount of time to wait before having sex. After that, there's no wrong or right time to have sex after birth. The only thing that matters is whether you feel comfortable with it or not. It may feel tight or sore at first, but if you practice pelvic floor exercises, this should help your vagina recover and stretch. Take it slow and be sure you're comfortable before you have intercourse again. You may also feel a loss of libido for the first several months after birth; this is normal. Your body will still be recovering, and you may feel tired or unattractive. If, after awhile, you still feel uncomfortable about having sex, talk to someone about it. Just talking about it can help in the recovery process.
Helping Your Body
Because your body is recovering, you'll need lots of rest. Take naps, and try not to overexert yourself. You'll need to drink lots of fluids and maintain the healthy diet you had while you were pregnant to help your body recover. Have snacks and meals that require little effort and preparation. Also, don't be afraid to accept help from others during this time. You've just had a baby! Take the time you need to rest and recover.
Exercise can also help your body to recover and increase muscle strength lost in delivery. Begin exercising when you feel up to it; you don't need to start right away. Walking and swimming are great exercises to get your body moving again. Another form of exercise includes Kegel exercises, which help strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles. This can help you control bladder leaks and help in healing the perineum. To do Kegel exercises, squeeze the muscles used to stop the flow of urine, hold this for 10 seconds then release. Do this 10-20 times in a row, three times a day.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
In these instances, it's best to talk to your doctor.
- Fever over 100.4 degrees
- Depression lasting over 10 days after delivery
- Smelly vaginal discharge
- Pain during urination lasting more than a week
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain or swelling in legs
- Redness, discharge, or pain that doesn't go away (or gets worse) from an episiotomy tear, incision.
- Chest pain or coughing
- Severe pain in lower abdomen
- Red streaks on your breasts or painful lumps
About 80 percent of women feel down for the first several weeks after delivery. Although no one knows exactly why this happens, we do know it's normal and usually fades with time.
There's a multitude of reasons that could contribute to the baby blues.
- Changes in hormone levels after delivery (this is perhaps the biggest culprit)
- Physical discomforts
- Lack of sleep
- Feeling unattractive
- Lack of emotional support
Fortunately, there are also ways to help deal with the blues.
- Rest and relax
- Talk to family, friends
- Be open about how you're feeling
- Take time for yourself
- Read a book
- Watch a movie
- Take a walk
- Get out of the house every day
- Talk to other mothers
- Pamper yourself
Postpartum blues usually come several days after delivery and can last for several weeks. Try not to allow yourself to feel guilty for feeling blue. It's OK. This is something many women face, and it is not a permanent condition.
Although, if after several weeks, you don't begin to feel better, talk to your doctor. You could be suffering from a more serious condition called postpartum depression, which is characterized by feelings of severe anxiety, despair, and hopelessness. Other signs of postpartum depression include eating more or less than normal, not being able to sleep, strong feelings of depression or anger 1-2 months after birth, thoughts of harming yourself or the baby, panic attacks, intense concern, lack of interest.
Some women are more prone to get postpartum depression:
- History of depression
- Lack of support
- Marital dissatisfaction
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Anxiety before birth
If you're experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression several weeks after birth, contact your doctor.
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Return to Pregnancy
Stoppard, Miriam. "Dr. Miriam Stoppard’s New Pregnancy and Birth Book.” Ballantine Books. 2009. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Your Pregnancy and Birth.” Meredith Books. 2005. Stone, Joanne; Eddleman, Keith; Duenwald, Mary. “Pregnancy for Dummies.” Wiley Publishing. 2004.