Having a baby will change your lifestyle, your relationship with your partner, and your relationship with the rest of your family. For you and your partner to be at your best with your new child, each other, and the rest your family, you both should be aware of the changes that may happen.
What happens to my body after birth?
Childbirth is one of the most physically demanding experiences in most women’s lives. You will feel tired and sore, and it will take time to recover. Try to take it easy, eat healthy, limit visitors, and sleep when your baby sleeps. Ask your family and friends for help, but don’t be afraid to do what you think is best if your friends, relatives on in-laws give you unwanted or conflicting advice.
Recovery and exercise
If you had hemorrhoids during pregnancy, they may have become inflamed during delivery. Your perineum (the area between your vagina and your rectum) may have stretched during delivery, or your vagina may have been torn or incised. These will take time to heal. Cold packs, numbing sprays, dry heat, warm baths, and sitting on pillows can all help relieve pain, and Kegel exercises can help speed recovery of muscle tone.
Due to the strain your body has gone through during labor and other possible issues, bowel movements or urination may be difficult, painful, or even uncontrollable. Taking short walks, drinking lots of liquids, and eating fiber-rich foods may help with constipation and gas, while Kegel exercises can help tone the muscles that control urine flow. A stool softener or mild laxative may be needed if constipation is not improved with dietary modification.
Avoid the urge to diet or exercise aggressively in the first few months after delivery. Short walks and swims are good options in the early stages of your recovery. Postpartum exercise classes are also beneficial.
After you give birth, you will still look pregnant. Your abdominal muscles have stretched, and they will take time to shrink. Your uterus will also return to its normal size, and this can cause cramping for a few days or more.
Back strain is also a danger during this period. To prevent pain, support your back when you breastfeed, practice good posture, and try not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.
In the weeks after childbirth, your body will expel the tissue and blood that lined your uterus. This discharge, called lochia, can be bright red, pink, brown or yellow. It often comes during breastfeeding. Although it can last for a month or more, it usually stops after a few weeks.
Changing hormone levels may cause excessive sweating, especially at night. This will be temporary.
Getting your period again
Periods and cramping may feel different after childbirth. They may return to normal over time. If you are not breastfeeding, you may get your period in two months or less after childbirth. If you are breastfeeding, it may take longer.
Although most women are able to safely have sex a month or so after giving birth, your situation may be different. Check with Dr. Garofalo at the time of your routine postpartum visit to find out when it is safe to resume intercourse. Fatigue, stress, pain, hormone changes and the distractions of a newborn may interfere with your interest in sex. You and your partner should be honest and patient with each other. Try to set aside some time without distractions to be with each other. If your vagina is less moist than usual, use a lubricant.
It’s possible to get pregnant again before you get your first period after childbirth. If you don’t want to get pregnant again right away, use birth control when you start having sex again. Discuss your birth control options with Dr. Garofalo.
In most cases, new mothers’ breasts will fill with milk two to four days after childbirth, causing hardness and discomfort. This is called engorgement. Engorgement usually lasts for 36 hours or less if you settle into a breastfeeding routine with your baby, or several days if you choose not to breastfeed.
Most new mothers experience sadness, anxiety or even anger in the days after childbirth. These feelings are often related to hormonal changes, and they disappear after a week or so. Mild exercise, rest, and a solid support network of family, friends and other new mothers can help you cope. About one in 10 new mothers experiences a longer-lasting version of this condition. This is called postpartum depression, and it can occur after any birth, not just the first. Counseling and other treatment can help. If you think you have a problem with depression, call Dr. Garofalo to get some help.
When should I call Dr. Garofalo?
After childbirth, you should schedule a checkup with Dr. Garofalo for four to six weeks after your baby’s birth. In the meantime, write down any questions you have for Dr. Garofalo, and call him immediately if you experience
- Fever higher than 100.4°F
- Vomiting or nausea
- Pain or a burning sensation in your lower abdomen or during urination
- Bleeding more than a normal menstrual amount
- Swelling, tenderness or pain in your legs
- Painful lumps in your breasts
- Painful red streaks on your breasts
- Chest pain
- Coughing or gasping for air
- Continued or worsening pain from a vaginal tear or incision
- Vaginal discharge with a bad odor
- Trouble sleeping, even when tired
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, indifference or guilt that last for more than two weeks after delivery, intensify over time, or come more than a month after birth
- Thoughts of harming your baby or yourself