Your body after giving birth
For the first three to four days after your baby is born you may experience “after birth pains”. These pains generally occur during feeding of your baby and are caused by the hormone oxytocin causing contraction of your uterus. The pain may be felt in your lower abdomen, back or your thighs. You can take paracetamol and/or apply a hot pack to the area where the pain is experienced (taking care not to allow the hot pack to come in contact with the baby).These pains will cease after a few days.
Your bleeding will be like a period. It will be heavy and bright and at the beginning and you would be advised to wear maternity pads. These pads should be changed every 2-3 hours. After 1-2 days your bleeding will settle become darker and be more mucousy. In the early days you can expect that your bleeding may be brighter or slightly increased after a feed. Eventually the bleeding will stop altogether.
When to be concerned about your bleeding
Sometimes when your placenta is delivered small pieces of placenta and or membranes may remain inside of your uterus. Your midwife or your discharge paperwork will assist you in finding out if your placenta and or membranes were thought to be complete at the time of your birth.
You should contact your hospital or family doctor if;
- Your blood loss continues to be heavy or increases and you are having to change your pads more frequently.
- You pass large clots
- You are feeling unwell with fever, chills and abdominal pain
- Your vaginal loss changes from dark to bright red
- Your vaginal loss may have an offensive smell
After seeing a doctor you may be prescribed antibiotics, need to have an ultrasound and sometimes you may need to have an operation called a curette to remove any tissue that may be remaining within your uterus.
How long until I will get another period?
This varies between women, if you are breastfeeding without using any formula then your period may not return for four to twelve months. This is not a reliable method of preventing pregnancy. If you do not wish to become pregnant then a reliable method of contraception should be used. If you are formula feeding your baby then a reliable method of contraception should be used four to six weeks after birth.
Stitches, perineum and pelvic floor
Your vagina and perineum may be sore and swollen for a week or so after your birth. At the time of your baby’s birth you may have had some stitches placed in your vaginal muscles and the skin to hold the edges together while healing takes place. With your permission a midwife will check your stitches while you are in hospital and when you are seen in your own home. After ten to fourteen days the stitches will dissolve and fall out.
It is helpful to;
- Keep your stitches clean and dry. Showering once or twice a day and change your pads each time you go to the toilet
- Take pain relief such as Paracetamol to help with the discomfort. Avoid codeine as it is constipating and not recommended to breastfeeding mothers
- Avoid constipation by drinking plenty of water, and include in your diet plenty of fibre such as fruit and vegetables, bran and cereals.
- Try and lie down for a rest during the day to take the pressure off your stitches for an hour or so
- Delay resuming sexual intercourse while your perineum is still painful. Possibly for at least two weeks
To learn more about recovery after birth and the types of perineal tears during childbirth, please see the fact sheet: Caring for your perineum and pelvic floor after the birth of your baby.
If your perineum is still painful after a couple of weeks please see your family doctor.
Post caesarean section
About one in five babies in Victoria are born by caesarean section. Some caesarean sections are planned while others became necessary during labour. Some women are comfortable with the need to have a caesarean section while others are left with feelings of “failure as a woman” to have not birthed vaginally. Other women may be upset to have a scar as a result of the surgery. If you are experiencing disappointment to have had a caesarean section it is important to speak with a health professional about those concerns.
The healing from a caesarean section is relatively quick however there are some considerations. Recovery will include management of pain from the wound. This will involve using the medication that was prescribed to you when you were discharged from the hospital. Moderating your activity to allow time for wound healing. That means avoid lifting, bending, heavy house work and any activity that causes pain. Some women may experience numbness and itchiness over the scar for weeks to months after the caesarean section. If there is any sign of infection in the wound such as redness, ooze generally feeling unwell then it is advisable to contact your family doctor. It is advisable not to drive a car for several weeks.
How will I give birth to my next baby?
It is important to speak with your doctor about why you had a caesarean section and the possibility of a vaginal birth next pregnancy. You can research vaginal birth after a caesarean section VBAC, for your own information.
Returning to your pre-baby body
This too is very individual. Some women will return to their pre pregnancy body quickly while it may take several months for other women. Six weeks after your baby’s birth your uterus will be returned to its normal size. It will take longer to lose the weight gained in pregnancy and for your body to feel firm again.
Helping your body get back into shape
- Choose regular, simple and healthy meals.
- Wear supportive clothing such as high waist underwear, bike shorts or leggings to provided additional support for the first few weeks.
- Participate in some form of exercise every day. Begin with pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises (please see the following fact sheet: Pelvic Floor Exercise) and gentle walks as soon as you feel comfortable after birth, gradually building up.
- It is recommended you wait at least 6 weeks after birth to return to other forms of exercise (please see the following fact sheet: Return To Exercise After Birth).
Last Modified: Tuesday, 09 August 2022