Assessment and Care of Your Body
You're probably worried about how your body will look after you give birth. What will your bottom look like, and will it ever be the same again? Will you have a scar from a repair or other surgery? Will your husband notice? These are all normal questions that every woman asks, and in most cases, things turn out just fine.
When packing for the hospital or birth center, choose the outfit you will go home in wisely. The jeans you wore at your skinniest aren't going to work, but you don't need a pair of stretch pants from your ninth month of pregnancy either. Just pack a comfortable early pregnancy outfit. You're not pregnant anymore, but your body hasn't returned to its prepregnancy state yet either.
One of the first things you might think is how skinny you must be! You look down at your now deflated belly and think, “Wow! I'm thin!” Unfortunately, once you stand up and that loose skin falls southward, you'll have a soft pouch instead of a flat stomach. Don't worry, though—it just takes some time for the skin to tighten back up. Do your best to avoid scales, tight jeans, and pants with buttons in the meantime.
Medication After Birth
Giving birth is taxing on your body, no matter how you do it. You will feel different types of pain in the postpartum process. You will experience soreness from tensing your muscles during labor, aches and swelling at any surgery sites, and general symptoms of fatigue. Additionally, a vaginal birth and a cesarean have different effects on the body. You may choose to take medication to relieve some of these aches and pains, but be sure to consult with your doctor before choosing any remedies, even over-the-counter and herbal products. Some medications will be present in your milk, which can be a serious concern if you're breastfeeding.
If you have a vaginal birth, your muscles will be sore from flexing and moving around while in labor. If stirrups are used, particularly for forceps or a vacuum delivery, then your legs may be sore around the hip area from hyperextension. Usually, a dose of ibuprofen will soothe the majority of muscle aches. For the first few days, you can take this by the clock—you won't want to wait for your pain to come back before taking another dose.
If your pain is severe, which is more likely if you have a forceps or vacuum birth or an episiotomy, there are other methods of pain relief available. Some are narcotics. These tend to make you feel a bit groggy but are very effective in relieving pain. They can also be used in combination with other, over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen.
What is an episiotomy?An episiotomy is a surgical incision made in the perineum while a woman is giving birth. This helps facilitate the delivery. The incision is closed with stitches or sutures after the baby is born.
Your pain and soreness will be a bit different if you have a cesarean. If you have an epidural or spinal anesthesia, you can be given a medication called Duramorph during or after the administration of your anesthesia. This medication is administered in the same area as the epidural or spinal medications. It can provide pain relief for sixteen to twenty-four hours, without a numbing sensation. The most common side effect from this medication is itching. Be sure to ask your anesthetist about this—some people are allergic to this drug.
After the cesarean surgery is over and the numbness or general anesthesia wears off, ibuprofen can also be helpful to you. You will still feel the same uterine sensations as you would with a vaginal birth—these sensations indicate the healing of the uterus. The ibuprofen will ease the pain from the contractions that shrink the uterus, called afterpains. You may also use narcotics for this purpose. Narcotics for pain relief can be given orally, by injection, or in your IV line, and they tend to make you groggy. Be sure to ask what your doctor or midwife has ordered that you have after your surgery.
Specific Pain Locations
Though your whole body will likely be sore after giving birth, certain areas of your body will be especially tender. Primarily, your vagina will be sore, with or without tearing or stitches. If you do have stitches from a tear or episiotomy, you are more likely to have pain in this area. You may also have hemorrhoids from the pushing process.
Sitz baths are available to help promote healing and deal with the pain associated with childbirth. They can be done in the hospital or at home. These baths help keep your perineum clean, while soothing the area. Ask your doctor or midwife about this option.
If you have an epidural during childbirth, you may later have a sore spot in your back where the needle entered. A urinary catheter is frequently used in the epidural process, so you may have soreness or a numb feeling in your urethra as well, making it difficult to urinate.
Cold packs can help reduce swelling wherever you have it and particularly in your vaginal area. You can also use spray-on topical anesthetics to numb any painful areas. Ask your doctor or midwife which of these products is available and safe for your use.
Stitches or sutures used after a tear or episiotomy are generally dissolvable. This means that you will not need to have them removed. If you find small black flecks or threads on your toilet paper, don't panic! It's just the suture material dissolving.
Having a baby puts your emotions on a roller coaster ride. You will transition from a smile to tears in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is work through it. The good news is that for the first day or two after your baby is born, you will be fairly emotionally stable.
Immediately after your baby is born, you will likely be exhausted but euphoric. You might not be able to take your eyes off your baby, even if there are doctors stitching you up and cleaning you off. You may cry out of joy over having your baby in your arms, out of relief that the labor is over, or for no particular reason at all.
If you have a negative birth experience for whatever reason, it is okay to acknowledge this. It is also important that you express this to someone you trust who can validate your feelings. Just because you aren't pleased with your birth experience doesn't mean you don't love your baby. If you ignore these feelings, you can find yourself deep in postpartum depression.
Alternatively, you may feel not much of anything after your baby is born. Exhaustion may take over due to lack of sleep during late pregnancy. Physical symptoms may overshadow the joy of having a new baby—at least for a little while. However, postpartum depression is not common in the first few days. You'll probably just feel weary until your body has a chance to heal.