Postpartum is the period that lasts from the time you have delivered your baby to about 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth. The postpartum period involves various physical and emotional changes and dealing with these adjustments in the process of becoming a new mother. It is a learning experience for parents to care for their newborn. After you are discharged from the hospital, it is very important to care for your body as it undergoes many physiological changes whilst returning back to the pre-pregnancy stage.
Changes and care immediately after delivery
You may experience different symptoms depending on the type of delivery you experienced.
After a vaginal birth, you may spend one night in the hospital if you have not had any major complications.
- Your blood pressure, vaginal bleeding and heart rate will be monitored regularly.
- You may experience pain and discomfort if you have had a vaginal tear or episiotomy.
- Your abdomen will be monitored regularly for firmness to monitor the shrinking of your uterus.
- Vaginal bleeding is a normal occurrence. Inform your doctor if you experience discharge of large blood clots, high fever or a foul odour.
- The perineum (area between the vagina and the rectum) may be swollen and painful due to stretching during the vaginal birth. Applying ice packs helps relieve the discomfort.
After a caesarean section, you may experience pain at the surgical site and have to stay 2 to 3 days in the hospital.
- The medications administered for a caesarean section may make you feel nauseous or itchy and the surgical site may hurt.
- Your blood pressure, bleeding and heart rate will be monitored regularly. The size of your uterus and firmness will be checked.
- Your doctor will prescribe medications to relieve pain.
- Try sitting up and moving around several times a day to promote healing.
Postpartum Home Care
After you are discharged from the hospital, you will be instructed to take warm Sitz baths to soothe the vulva and perineal areas to relieve discomfort if you have delivered vaginally.
- You may feel tired and sleepy as your body is still undergoing major changes. Take adequate rest, eat nutritious foods and increase your intake of fluids to promote healing and adequate breast milk production.
- Vaginal bleeding may continue for up to 8 weeks. Inform your doctor if you experience the passage of large blood clots, a foul odour or a high fever during this time.
- You may experience urine leakage for a few months while you cough, sneeze or laugh. This is normal and will resolve. Do your pelvic floor exercises.
- Bowel movements can be painful after childbirth and so it is important to include a high fibre diet or stool softeners to allow easier passage.
- You may experience skin changes and hair loss due to hormonal changes. This is normal and will get better after a few months.
- It is important for your baby to continue to breastfeed; seek help if you experience discomfort, breast soreness or redness.
- You may feel sad and depressed post-delivery. This is called “postpartum blues/depression” and can be very serious, impacting your ability to care for your new baby. Seek help if you are unable to care for yourself or the baby, as treatment is available to make you feel better.
- Inform your doctor if you experience pain or redness in the legs.
- You should exercise regularly, as instructed by your doctor, to help healing, improve mood and to regain your pre-pregnancy bodyweight.