Warning signs after birth

Content courtesy of March of Dimes

Your body goes through lots of changes after having your baby. These changes help your body recover from pregnancy and help you get ready to care for your new baby. It’s normal to feel some discomfort, like soreness and fatigue, as your body heals after giving birth. However, other discomforts and health problems may be a sign that you need medical care. Call your doctor if you have any of these warning signs:

  • Bleeding that’s heavier than your normal menstrual period or that gets worse.
  • Discharge, pain or redness that doesn’t go away or gets worse around your C-section incision or episiotomy/perineal tear.
  • Feelings of sadness that last longer than 10 days after giving birth, you might have postpartum depression.
  • Fever higher than 38C.
  • Pain or burning when you go to the bathroom.
  • Pain, swelling and tenderness in your legs, especially around your calves.
  • Red streaks on your breasts or painful lumps in your breast, you might have mastitis.
  • Severe pain in your lower belly, feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up.
  • Vaginal discharge that smells bad.

Trust your instincts. If you feel like something’s wrong, call your doctor. Many of these problems can be treated easily. But if you ignore warning signs and they go untreated, they may cause more serious problems. Call your doctor or go to the hospital immediately if you think your life may be in danger, or if you have any of these warning signs:

  • Bleeding that can’t be controlled.
  • Chest pain.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Signs of shock, such as chills, clammy skin, dizziness, fainting or a racing heart.

The first six weeks after birth

Content courtesy of March of Dimes

During pregnancy, your body changed a lot. It worked really hard to keep your baby safe and healthy. Now that your baby is here, your body is changing again. Some of these changes are physical, such as your breasts getting full of milk. Other changes are emotional, such as feeling extra stress. Here's what you can expect.

What is perineum soreness?

The perineum is the area between your vagina and rectum. It stretches during labor and vaginal birth, and it may even tear. It often is sore after you give birth. You may be even more sore if you had an episiotomy (a cut made at the opening of the vagina to help the baby out). Here's what you can do to manage perineum soreness:

  • Do Kegel exercises. These strengthen the muscles in the pelvic area, which helps the perineum heal. To do them, squeeze the muscles that you use to stop yourself from passing urine. Hold the muscles tight for 10 seconds and then release.
  • Put a cold pack on your perineum. Use ice wrapped in a towel. Or you can buy cold packs that you freeze in your freezer.
  • Sit on a pillow.
  • Soak in a warm bath.
  • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom. This can help prevent infection as your episiotomy heals.
  • Ask your doctor about medicine to help ease the pain.

What are afterbirth pains?

These are cramps that you feel as your uterus shrinks back to its regular size. Right after you give birth, your uterus is round and hard and weighs over 1kg. By about 6 weeks after birth, it weighs only 50gr. The cramps should go away in a few days. Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medicine you can take for pain.

What body changes can happen after a cesarean section?

A cesarean section (C-section) is major surgery, so it may take a while for you to recover. You may be really tired for the first few days or weeks after a C-section. This is because you lost blood during the surgery. Also, your incision (the cut on your belly) may be sore. Here's what you can do:

  • Ask your doctor for pain medicine and check with them before you take any over-the-counter medicine for pain.
  • Ask your husband, family and friends for help with the baby and around the house.

What is vaginal discharge?

This is bodily fluid that comes out of your vagina. It is also called lochia. Vaginal discharge may increase during and after pregnancy. After your baby is born, your body gets rid of the blood and tissue that was inside of the uterus. For the first few days, it’s heavy, bright red and may contain some blood clots. Over time, the flow gets less and lighter in color. You may have discharge for a few weeks, or even for a month or more. Use sanitary pads until the vaginal discharge goes away.

What is breast engorgement?

This is when you breasts swell as they fill with milk. It can be painful. Once you start breastfeeding, it should go away. If you’re not breastfeeding, it may last until your breasts stop making milk. 

What is nipple pain?

If you are breastfeeding, you may have sensitivity or pain in the area in and around your nipples during the first few days, especially if your nipples crack. But breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful; if it is there is likely a problem with baby’s latch and we can help.

What is swelling?

Lots of women have swelling in their hands, feet and face during pregnancy. It is caused by extra fluids in your body that helped you get ready for labor and birth. It may take time for the swelling to go away after you have your baby. Here's what you can do to manage swelling:

  • Lie on your left side or put your feet up.
  • Try to stay cool and wear loose clothes.

What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are painful, swollen veins in and around the anus. Lots of women get them during pregnancy. They may get worse after giving birth. Here's what you can do to manage hemorrhoids:

  • Soak in a warm bath.
  • Use an over-the-counter spray or cream to help relieve pain. Ask your doctor which ones are OK to use.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Try not to strain when you’re having a bowel movement.

What is constipation?

This is when you have painful gas or trouble having a bowel movement. It may happen after you give birth. Here's what you can do to manage constipation:

  • Eat foods that are high in fiber; nuts (almonds, pecans and walnuts), beans, fresh fruit (pears, kiwi and berries) and dried fruit (prunes, apricots and figs).
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Ask your doctor about medicine to take.

What urinary problems can happen after giving birth?

You may feel pain or burning when you urinate. Or you may try to urinate but find that you can’t. Sometimes you may not be able to stop urinating. This is called incontinence. If you have pain, burning trouble urinating or you have incontinence:

  • Drink lots of water.
  • Run water in the sink when you go to the bathroom.
  • Soak in a warm bath.
  • If the pain continues, tell your doctor.
  • Do Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles. This can help with incontinence.

Why may you sweat after giving birth?

This happens a lot to new moms, especially at night. It’s caused by all the hormones in your body after pregnancy. Here's what you can do:

  • Sleep on a towel to help keep your sheets and pillow dry.
  • Don’t use too many blankets or wear warm clothes to bed.

Why may you feel tired after giving birth?

You may have lost blood during labor and birth. This can make your body tired. And your baby probably doesn’t let you sleep all night. Here's what you can do:

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps, even when he naps during the day.
  • Eat healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and pasta, and lean meat and chicken. Limit sweets and foods with a lot of fat.
  • Ask your husband, family and friends for help with the baby and around the house.

When can you get pregnant again?

If you're not breastfeeding, your period may start again in 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth. If you are breastfeeding, you may not start again for months. Some women don’t have a period again until they stop breastfeeding. It’s possible that you may ovulate (release an egg) before you get your period again. This means you could get pregnant, whether you're breastfeeding or not. Use birth control to help make sure you don’t get pregnant again until you’re ready. If you’re breastfeeding, ask your doctor about which birth control to use. Not all kinds of birth control are safe to use when breastfeeding.

Can you lose weight after giving birth?

Now’s a great time to get to a healthy weight, no matter how much you weighed before you got pregnant. You feel better and are less likely to have health conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, if you’re at a healthy weight. And just in case you get pregnant again, or if you plan to have another baby sometime in the future, it’s best to be at a healthy weight before your next pregnancy. Here's what you can do to lose weight:

  • Talk to your doctor about your healthy weight. If you were overweight before pregnancy, you may want to lose more weight than you gained during pregnancy.
  • Eat healthy foods. Limit sweets and foods with a lot of fat.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Do something active every day. Walking and swimming are great activities for new moms.
  • Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding helps you burn calories. This can help you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy faster than if you weren’t breastfeeding.
  • Don’t feel badly if you don’t lose the weight as quickly as you’d like. It takes some for your body (and your belly) to get back into shape.

What skin changes can happen after giving birth?

You may have stretch marks on your belly, thighs, breasts and bottom where your skin stretched during pregnancy. Use creams or lotions on your skin to manage stretch marks.

What hair changes can happen after giving birth?

Your hair may have seemed thicker and fuller during pregnancy. After your baby is born, your hair may thin out. You may even lose hair. Hair loss usually stops about 3 to 4 months after your baby’s birth. Here's what you can do:

  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. These may help protect your hair and help it grow.
  • Be gentle with your hair. Don’t wear tight ponytails, braids or rollers. These can pull and stress your hair.
  • Use the cool setting on your hair dryer.

Baby blues and postpartum depression (PPD)

You could be more emotional after giving birth due to hormonal changes, pain from the birth, lack of sleep and other emotional adjustments to motherhood. You could be happy most of the time, but at times be more irritable, cry more easily, feel sad or feel confused. This is the “Baby Blues” and affects up to 80% of new mothers. It peaks three to five days after delivery and last for a few weeks after birth. Although the “blues” are not pleasant, you can function normally. The feeling usually lessens and goes away over time on its own. But if it doesn’t and you think you are getting worse rather than better, you might have postpartum depression (PPD) and need help. Around 15% of women have PPD sometime within the first year of birth. For more information about PPD, including symptoms and treatment options, click here

Category: Childbirth

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