Your Body After Birth

The following tips will help you understand what happens to your body after the birth of your baby.

Breast Care

If You are Bottle-feeding

  • Wear a tight-fitting bra that supports your breasts and back.
  • You will feel fullness in your breast - do not squeeze the milk out of your breast. The fullness usually goes away in one or two days.
  • To ease the fullness, wear ice packs on your breasts.
  • Do not wear an underwire bra until you are no longer producing milk.

If You are Breastfeeding

  • Do not use soap on your nipples because it dries the skin.
  • Wear a bra that supports your breasts and back.
  • Do not wear an underwire bra until you are no longer producing milk.
  • After nursing, apply a bit of colostrum to your nipples and let them air dry.

Checking your Uterus

  • While in the hospital, your nurse will check your uterus by pressing on your lower belly. The uterus should feel firm.
  • You can help the uterus stay firm by massaging the area and, if breastfeeding, by feeding the baby often.
  • It will take at least six weeks for your uterus to return to its pre-pregnant size.
  • Empty your bladder often. If you have difficulty urinating, notify your doctor or nurse midwife.

Cramping

  • It is normal to have cramps for a few days following delivery. After each pregnancy, the cramping may feel stronger.
  • You may have more cramps when your bladder is full or while breastfeeding.

Care of the Perineum (area between vaginal opening and rectum)

  • Apply ice packs to your bottom for 24 hours after birth to help decrease swelling and discomfort.
  • To further dull pain in this area, your doctor or nurse midwife may order other medications or ointments like ibuprofen or Tucks pads.
  • After urinating, use a spray bottle filled with warm water and rinse the perineum from front to back.
  • Pat the area dry with toilet paper.
  • Change your pad every time you go to the bathroom.
  • Continue this process until your vaginal flow (lochia) has stopped.
  • If you have developed hemorrhoids during your pregnancy, they should gradually get smaller. Sit in a bathtub filled with about four to six inches of plain water, three times a day for about 15 minutes each time.
  • Your doctor or nurse midwife can also prescribe ointments to help you feel better.
  • If you have stitches, they do not need to be removed; they will dissolve. Complete healing takes four to six weeks, the soreness should be gone in seven to 10 days.

Lochia (vaginal bleeding or discharge)

  • After delivery, the amount and color of the vaginal flow will lighten.
  • You may bleed more the first few times you stand up or while breastfeeding.
  • If your bleeding turns bright red after lightening, slow down and rest more often.
  • Do not use tampons or douche until after your four-to-six week checkup.
  • Wear underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch.

Caring for a Cesarean Incision

  • Check your abdominal incision each day for the first week. It will be sore for a while and may be bruised or a little swollen at first.
  • Care steps:
    • Wash incision in the shower with mild soap and water. Don't spray the area directly with water. Gently pat dry.
    • If you had staples, the doctor will remove them before you go home. Sterile strips of tape will be placed along the incision. In five to seven days, the strips will start to peel off by themselves. If they are on longer than 14 days, or if the doctor tells you to, you may carefully peel them off.
    • Wear cotton panties to allow the incision to "breathe."

Bowel Movements

  • Your first bowel movement usually happens about the second or third day after the birth.
  • To keep your bowels moving, drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in fiber (bran cereal, prunes, etc.)
  • If you are taking pain medication, ask your doctor if you should be taking a stool softener.
  • At home, you may take milk of magnesia or mineral oil, in doses your doctor or nurse midwife prescribe.
  • Do not use an enema.
  • If you have not had a bowel movement by the fourth or fifth day after the birth, call your doctor or nurse midwife.

Rhogam

  • If your blood type is Rh negative, you probably received a shot of Rhogam during your pregnancy because your baby's blood type may have been Rh positive.
  • Right after birth, your baby's blood type is tested. If it is Rh positive, you will get another shot of Rhogam within three days. This shot will prevent problems with future children if your blood types differ.
  • If you have questions about Rhogam, ask your doctor or nurse midwife.

Rubella (German Measles)

  • Early in your pregnancy, your blood was checked for a rubella level to check whether you are immune to Rubella (German measles).
  • If the test showed you are not immune, you will get a shot of rubella vaccine in your arm after the birth, but before you go home.
  • Once you get the rubella vaccine, you should not get pregnant for the next three months.
  • Seven to 10 days after you get the vaccine, you may have a sore throat, slight fever or aching muscles. Don't worry, these will not harm the baby.
  • You may also notice redness or swelling at the shot site.
  • If you have questions about the vaccine, ask your doctor or nurse midwife.