It is very important that you take good care of yourself over the next few weeks. Rest is very important after you give birth and caring for your baby places extra demands on you emotionally and physically. If you have had a caesarean birth, we have included an additional section to help you understand your care over the next few days.
After the birth of your baby*
Your nurse will check your blood pressure, the position of your uterus and your vaginal blood loss (lochia) frequently during the first hour and regularly throughout your hospital stay. If you have chosen to breastfeed she will also help you to give your baby his/her first feed during this time. As soon as you feel able and medication (eg. Epidural anesthesia) has worn off your nurse will assist you up to the bathroom. Please do not get out of bed for the first time on your own as you may feel somewhat dizzy or weak.
* The above procedures are definitely performed in Canada and some developed countries but may differ from country to country.
Vaginal Bleeding (Lochia)
After the birth of your baby you will have vaginal bleeding which may continue for 3 to 6 weeks. Initially, the bleeding, called lochia, will be bright red like a heavy period. Your bleeding will then decrease in amount, from moderate to spotting and will change in coloure from bright red, to pink to brown. If you are breastfeeding it is normal to experience an increase in flow of brighter red blood during or following a feeding. This will decrease over time.
Please let your nurse/midwife knows if:
- your bleeding increases
- you pass any clots (show these to your nurse/midwife)
- your bleeding has a bad smell
Do not use tampons until after your post partun chech up with your doctor/midwife. The time of your post partum visit will vary according to your caregiver ( usually around 6 weeks after the birth of your baby.) Until the bleeding stops, do peri-care (as discussed below) each time you use the bathroom.
Peri-Care/ Going to the Bathroom
Often it is difficult to empty your bladder completely due to bruising and discomfort. Medication for pain is available every three to four hours. Be sure to take it as often as necessary. The medication ordered for you is safe for the baby if you are breastfeeding.
Using ice packs helps to relieve swelling and bruising for the first 24 hours. After that, heat in the form of a warm bath or spray from the showerhead can soothing.
Episiotomy or Perineal Tear
The stitches that were used to repair your episiotomy or tear will dissolve on their own, usually within 2 weeks. Occasionally the stitches may be seen on your sanitary napkin or toilet tissue when they have dissolved and the end piece drops off. If you have any discomfort you may take pain medication that has been ordered by your doctor or midwife. It is also safe to take a daily bath, but avoid oils or bubble bath in your bath water.
Call your doctor/midwife if you have vaginal discharge with a bad smell or if the area becomes hot, swollen, reddened, if you develop increased pain or if you have a fever.
Abdominal Cramping (After Pains)
If this is your second baby, or more, you may feel cramping or pains in your uterus as your baby nurses. Occasionally, first-time mothers experience this as well. These are called after pains and are stimulated by the release of oxytocin, when your baby nurses. This is how breastfeeding helps to promote shrinking of your uterus back to its pre-pregnant size. You may find that deep breathing and relaxation techniques, or taking pain medication ½ hour prior to feeding helps you to cope with cramping. Remember that the cramping is only temporary.
Normal bowel movements should occur within 3 days of the birth. The best way to avoid constipation is to eat foods high in fiber such as bran, whole wheat, vegetables and fruit and to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Try to minimize the use of pain relievers with codeine as it has a constipating effect. However, ensure that you have adequate pain relief so that you can maintain activity, as this is just as important to preventing constipation.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins around the rectum. Ice packs are often soothing. Apply hemorrhoid cream to your hemorrhoids as your doctor/midwife has prescribed. You can also apply compresses called “Tucks” to the rectal area. These can be obtained at your local drugstore.
Avoid sitting or stranding for long periods. Keep bowel movements soft by eating a high fiber diet and drinking plenty of fluids (6-8 glasses per day). Also consider taking the stool softener and take as directed.
Hemorrhoids usually reduce in size or disappear within six weeks after delivery.