Post delivery facts: what to expect after childbirth
No matter how prepared you think you are, birthing a child will absolutely knock down all your expectations. Pregnancy books and antenatal classes will tell you what will happen to you week by week until your baby is born, and some even go further to tell you about some post delivery facts.
The truth is that when it comes to delivering a child—whether by vaginal birth or a cesarean section—the experience will feel new even if you’ve read up on the subject.
If you have just given birth and confused about the changes happening to your body, here’s a break down of the expected changes.
You will start bleeding from the vagina immediately after giving birth. This bleeding will be heavy in the beginning but the flow will lessen in the weeks following delivery. Postpartum bleeding typically lasts for 2 or 3 weeks, but it can continue up to 6 weeks.
It is natural for your uterus to shed blood, mucus and tissue so that the uterine lining can be replaced once you have given birth. You should expect some period-like abdominal cramps and some blood clots. The flow will start out deep red at first but the colour will continue to get lighter, going from dark brown to pink, and finally, milky colour towards the end of the postnatal bleeding.
It is advisable to use pads rather than tampons for vaginal bleeding after childbirth.
While lochia is normal, postpartum haemorrhage—which is a severe loss of blood after childbirth—isn’t normal at all. If you lose more than a pint of blood in less than 24 hours or pass large blood clots frequently, then you should report to your doctor or midwife immediately.
Some women require episiotomy, but this does not happen for everyone. Episiotomy refers to the procedure whereby the doctor or midwife cuts the area between the vagina and anus to make delivery easier. Stitches are necessary for women who have had an episiotomy during childbirth, and that’s why taking care of the stitches is one of the post delivery factsworth remembering.
It is important to keep the stitches clean by washing the area every day. Also, for about 10 minutes every day, you should air the stitches to prevent infections. If you are still bleeding, you can air the area by taking off your underwear and lying down on a towel.
Your doctor can prescribe painkillers to help with the pain. To keep the area clean, wipe from front to back after using the toilet. Sit on comfy pillows to remove pressure from the stitches.
Leaking urine can be an embarrassing post delivery factsif you don’t prepare for it. You may find yourself wetting your underwear when you laugh, move suddenly, cough or sneeze. This happens because pregnancy and childbirth could have injured or stretched the pelvic floor muscles, nerves and the ligaments that keep the urethra closed.
Some women will find that this problem stops some weeks after delivery, but some people will have to wait for months before the problem subsides.
To control urine leaks, you can try crossing your legs before you cough, sneeze or laugh. You can also wear sanitary pads to catch leaks. Pelvic floor muscle exercises can reverse postpartum stress incontinence but you should get clearance from your doctor or midwife before you start.
It is important to run medical tests to rule out urinary tract infection, which could have the same symptoms as postpartum stress incontinence.
The fact that your body has grown and stretched for 9 months to accommodate your baby means that it will not immediately go back to its pre-pregnancy shape. After childbirth, expect some sagging and loose skin. Abdominal muscles will also take time to readjust if you don’t have diastasis recti after delivery. Diastasis recti is when the abdominal muscles separate to make room for a pregnant woman’s bulging tummy. This condition is irreversible.
Now that you have delivered your baby, your breasts will also undergo some changes. An interesting post delivery factsabout postpartum breasts is that they will feel tight and tender as your body starts to produce milk for your baby. A good nursing bra can provide adequate support and reduce pain.
When you know what to expect postpartum, the changes won’t destabilize you so much. We have listed some common post delivery factsto prepare your mind!