The time after giving birth is known as “postpartum.” Chances are, whether a woman has a vaginal or Caesarean birth, she will experience some soreness or pain after delivery. However, a gynecologist can offer a number of care and treatment options that can help her while she heals.
It is important to discuss postpartum care with your gynecologist before your baby arrives. Your gynecologist can help you better understand what to expect and what you can do to help your healing go faster. Additionally, when your baby arrives, you will be focused on nursing and learning to care for your baby, and it may be hard to focus on postpartum care.
With any birth, there is always the possibility of complications and the chance you may need an emergency Caesarean birth (C-section). Therefore, even if you don’t plan to have a C-section, you should talk to your gynecologist about them, including postpartum care after a C-section.
Vaginal Birth Postpartum Care
You may experience some soreness during the first few days after a vaginal birth, particularly if you had a vaginal tear or needed an episiotomy before delivery. Using an ice pack or sitting on a pillow or padded ring can help ease the pain.
You may also experience some vaginal discharge and a heavy blood flow, as well as contractions, similar to menstrual cramps. If your pain is significant, ask your gynecologist about pain relievers that can help. You may leak urine when you cough, strain or laugh or have a hard time controlling your bowel movements. For most women, these problems resolve themselves.
Painful urination may also be another complication after vaginal birth. Although this will gradually improve as you heal, it can help to pour water across your urethra and vaginal area while attempting to urinate. Painful bowel movements or hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the anus or rectum, can also occur. Soaking in a warm tub or applying ice packs and hemorrhoid creams to the area can help. You can ease bowel movement pain by eating foods high in fiber and drinking plenty of water, or asking your doctor if you can take a stool softener.
C-Section Postpartum Care
Because a C-section is major surgery, you will stay in the hospital for 3 to 4 days after your baby is born. It will take approximately six weeks for you to fully heal.
After delivery, your uterus is stitched closed with absorbable sutures, then the layers of tissue and inner skin, and finally, the outer skin. The incision will be covered with a sterile bandage. It's normal to feel pain around your incision, however your doctor will give you anti-inflammatory and pain medications. You may be given an ice pack to hold on your incision. You'll will remain in bed for 12 to 18 hours, then you should try to get up and move.
A day after your C-section, the sterile bandage will be removed. The incision should be kept dry and exposed to as much air as much as possible to promote healing. Don't apply any creams or ointments to the area unless prescribed by a doctor. By the time you leave the hospital, your incision should feel soft, however in the following days you will notice some hardness underneath your incision.
At home, clean the incision with soapy water and keep it dry. Keep everything you need nearby to avoid getting up more often than needed or using the stairs. Don’t lift anything heavier than your baby. If you need to sneeze or cough, gently hold your abdomen to protect the healing incision. Avoid strenuous exercise, but do take gentle walks as often as you can. Movement will help you heal as well as help prevent blood clots and constipation. Do not participate in sexual intercourse or use tampons, until your gynecologist tells you it is okay to do so, typically no sooner than six weeks after birth.
You should call a doctor immediately if you have a fever over 101, experience excess bleeding or if your wound is separating.
Whether you had a vaginal birth or a C-section, you may experience the following:
- Breast Issues: Some women’s breasts become firm, swollen and tender.
- Depression or Mood Changes: After giving birth, many women experience mild depression that lasts for a week or two. If talking to family and friends does not help or if your depression worsens, talk to your gynecologist and get the professional help you need.
- Weight Changes: It is common to lose 10 pounds or more when giving birth. In the days after delivery, expect to lose even more, as leftover fluids exit your system. Make sure to eat healthy foods and get moderate exercise so you can return to or maintain a healthy weight after birth.