Recovering after giving birth
Having a baby can be an exciting time, but it can also be very emotional. You may also feel very tired and will need to give your body time to recover from labour and the birth.
How you will feel
You may feel tired for the first few days. Even moving and walking can seem like hard work, so make sure you get plenty of rest.
For many mothers, the excitement and pleasure of having a new baby far outweigh any problems.
Sometimes, however, you can feel low or depressed as your hormones change dramatically in the first few days. Some women get the ‘baby blues’ and feel rather weepy around three to five days after giving birth.
This can be worse if your labour was difficult, you are every tired or you have other worries.
Some women worry because they don’t feel love for their baby immediately. You may just need to give yourself time to adapt to motherhood.
If you feel you are not bonding with your baby, talk to your partner or a family member, or discuss your feelings with your midwife, health visitor or GP.
If you have had stitches, bathe the area often in clean, warm water to help it heal. Have a bath or shower with plain, warm water. Afterwards, dry yourself carefully.
In the first few days, remember to sit down gently and lie on your side rather than on your back.
Pelvic floor exercises can also help you to heal.
If the stitches are sore and uncomfortable, tell your midwife as they may be able to recommend treatment. Painkillers will also help. If you are breastfeeding, check with your midwife, GP or pharmacist before you take any over the counter products like ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Usually stitches dissolve by the time the cut or tear has healed, but sometimes they have to be taken out.
Going to the toilet
The thought of passing urine can be a bit frightening at first if you are sore or cannot feel what you are doing.
Drinking lots of water dilutes your urine, but if you still find it difficult, tell your midwife or health visitor.
You will probably not need to open your bowels for a few days after the birth, but it is important not to let yourself become constipated.
Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, salad and wholemeal bread and drink plenty of water.
Whatever it may feel like, it’s very unlikely that you will break the stitches or open the cut or tear again.
Bleeding after giving birth
After the birth, you will bleed from your vagina. This will be quite heavy at first, which is why you will need super-absorbent sanitary towels.
Do not use tampons until after your postnatal check, six weeks after the birth of your baby, as they can cause infections.
While breastfeeding, you may notice that the discharge is redder or heavier.
You may also feel cramps like period pain, known as ‘after pains’. These are because feeding causes the uterus to contract.
Gradually, the discharge will become a brownish colour and may continue for some weeks, getting less and less until it stops.
If you are losing blood in large clots or notice an offensive odour, you should save your sanitary towels to show the midwife, as you may need treatment.
Your body after giving birth
Your body will have gone through some major changes over the past few days.
Many women experience changes in the size of their breasts during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
If you don’t plan on breastfeeding, you don’t need to do anything. But on the third or fourth day, your breasts may be tender as the milk is still being produced. Wearing a firm, supportive bra might help. Your breasts will reduce in size in a week or so.
Speak to your midwife or health visitor if you are very uncomfortable.
Your abdominal muscles will probably be quite loose after delivery.
Despite having delivered your baby, plus the placenta, afterbirth and a lot of fluid, you will still be quite a lot bigger than you were before pregnancy. This is partly because your muscles have stretched.
If you eat a balanced diet and exercise, your shape should return to normal soon.
Breastfeeding helps because it makes the uterus contract. Sometimes you may feel a painful twinge in your abdomen or period-type pain while you are breastfeeding.
It’s quite common after having a baby to accidentally leak urine if you laugh. Cough or move suddenly.
Pelvic floor exercises will help with this.
If the problem persists after three months, see your doctor who may refer you to a physiotherapist.
Haemorrhoids, commonly known as piles, are very common after delivery, but they usually disappear with a few days.
Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, brown bread, and wholegrain cereals and drink plenty of water. This should make it easier and less painful to pass a stool.
Try not to push or strain as this will make the piles worse. Let the midwife or GP know if you feel very uncomfortable. They will be able to give you an ointment to soothe the piles.