What to Expect When You are Done Expecting
After nine months of pregnancy, and hours of labor, you finally have your beautiful baby to bring home. You might think the hard work your body has just put in is over, but pregnancy changes your body in more ways than you might expect, and it doesn’t stop when the baby is born. Once those long nine months are over, your body will undergo more changes. Women’s Health Texas wants to help you feel prepared for what happens as your body adjusts to motherhood. Here are some important changes your body will go through.
After giving birth vaginally, your providers will monitor you closely, with regular checks of your temperature, uterine height, episiotomy, and bleeding. If you had an epidural, your legs may feel heavy or tingly and you may need to stay in bed after delivery until the final effects of the epidural wear off. If you have an episiotomy, you may experience some discomfort from the stitches, which can be helped with over the counter pain medication. Some women develop hemorrhoids from pushing during birth, ice packs help relieve immediate pain and swelling.
You will experience uterine cramping for the first few days, as well as when you begin to breastfeed. This is because your uterus is contracting, and in 4 to 6 weeks your uterus will return to its pre-pregnancy size. For a few weeks, you will also experience vaginal bleeding, this is your body shedding the superficial mucous membrane that lined your uterus during pregnancy.
In many ways cesarean birth recovery is the same as vaginal births; however, because a cesarean birth involves surgery, you’ll be monitored closely after birth. If you had spinal anesthesia, your legs will be numb, and you will not be able to stand until the numbness fades. You may have a catheter in your bladder to drain your urine, this will be taken out within the first 24 hours after delivery.
Also, like with vaginal births, you will have uterine cramping and vaginal bleeding for the first weeks, as well as when you begin to breastfeed. Your cesarean section incision may have dissolving sutures or staples that will be removed when your incision looks like it is healing well.
A couple of days following delivery, your breasts will begin to harden as your milk comes in. Some women experience discomfort when this happens because breasts can get engorged with milk. Applying warm water to your breasts and emptying them if you’re breastfeeding will help; if not breastfeeding, applying ice packs is better. Any discomfort should go away within a couple of days.
Getting back to “you” may feel like it takes a little longer. Lack of sleep, mood swings, and overwhelming changes can take their toll on your emotions and your relationship. During the first few weeks, you may experience feelings of being overwhelmed, stress, fatigue, and anxiety. These feelings are often called the “Baby Blues.” Give yourself time to adjust. Taking care of yourself is important, eating a well-balanced diet and some exercising, with your doctor’s approval, does help your mental health.
For some women, the baby blues are more intense and constant, lasting well beyond the first few postpartum weeks. These prolonged feelings may be symptoms of postpartum depression. If you have these intense feelings that seem to go beyond the baby blues, take them seriously. Call your Women’s Health Texas provider for further evaluation.
When to Call the Doctor
You should call your provider if any of the following occur before your first postpartum visit:
- Heavy bright red bleeding or large clots (light bleeding is normal for 1-2 weeks after delivery)
- Continuous mild to moderate bleeding beyond 10 days
- Fever or chills
- Painful cramps that don’t decrease after taking pain medication
- An incision that is red, draining, hot in one area or appears to be opening
- A painful reddened breast that is hard
- Pain, swelling or redness in your leg
- Feeling short of breath or painful breathing
- Feeling extremely depressed and unconnected to things that used to make you happy
Women’s Health Texas recommends that postpartum care be an ongoing process rather than just a single visit after your delivery. Be in contact with your Women’s Health Texas ObGyn within the first 3 weeks after delivery, and after 12 weeks, see your provider for a comprehensive postpartum evaluation. During this appointment, your provider will check your mood and emotional well-being, review information about infant care and feeding, talk about your sleep habits and issues related to fatigue and do a physical exam. This is a great time to talk to your Women’s Health Texas provider about any concerns you might have, including resuming sexual activity and how you’re adjusting to life with a new baby.