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 changes while returning back to the pre-pregnancy state.
Changes and care immediately after delivery
You may experience different symptoms depending on the type of delivery you experienced, either vaginal delivery or caesarean section.
After a vaginal birth, you will typically spend 2 to 3 nights in hospital checking on your wellbeing and your baby’s health.
- 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 (widening of the vaginal opening).
- Your abdomen will be monitored regularly for firmness to monitor shrinking of your uterus.
- Vaginal bleeding is a normal occurrence. Inform your doctor if you experience discharge of large blood clots, high fever or foul odour.
- The perineum (area between the vagina and the rectum) may be swollen and painful due to excessive stretching during the vaginal birth. Applying ice packs helps relieve the discomfort.
Caesarean section or C-section
After a caesarean section, you may experience pain at the surgical site and have to stay 4 to 5 days in the hospital.
- The medications administered for a C-section may make you feel nauseous or itchy and the surgical site may hurt while you nurse your baby. Ask for help if you find it difficult to nurse.
- 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 may be instructed to take warm salt baths to soothe the vulva and perineal areas to relieve discomfort if you’ve delivered vaginally. Other postpartum home care remedies include:
- 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 discharge of large blood clots, foul odour or 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.
- Bowel movements are painful after childbirth so it is important to include a high fibre diet or stool softeners to soften the stools and 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 infection.
- You may feel sad and depressed post-delivery. This is called ‘postpartum 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 deep vein thrombosis or blood clots in the legs.
- You should exercise regularly as instructed by your doctor to help healing, improve mood and to regain your pre-pregnancy body weight.