Your Body Postpartum
From the moment your child slides out of your body, a transformation as dramatic as pregnancy begins. Right at delivery you drop around ten to fifteen pounds of baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, and lochia.
By the tenth day postpartum, your incredible shrinking uterus contracts to one-twentieth of its prelabor size, and the cervix is closed once again. Afterpains similar to menstrual cramps and a steady discharge of lochia indicate that the uterus is returning to normal. The lochia flow continues up to six weeks, but the afterpains will probably stop several days after delivery (although nursing may continue to stimulate them periodically). Never use tampons to control lochia flow because of the risk of infection.
Your perineal area may continue to be sore for a few weeks, particularly when you need to relieve yourself. Take your peribottle from the hospital home with you and keep it in the bathroom for regular use. A hot water bottle and occasional cold packs can also ease pain and swelling. If sitting is uncomfortable, you can purchase a foam donut for your chair at a medical supply store. Most stitches dissolve within a week and external ones may fall out. Pelvic floor exercises can help speed up the healing process.
Lochia flow is heavy and bright red at first, but the color gradually changes to pink and then yellow or brown; the flow is reduced significantly within ten to fourteen days. If bright red lochia occurs after that time, it can mean that you are doing too much too soon.
As your body drops tissues and fluids and decreases its cardiovascular volume, your metabolism can seem completely out of whack. Vaginally, you might feel a little looser in general. Your vaginal skin is quite elastic and is stretched out from the birth. Exercise and time will help it return to a firmer state.
Constipation is another common postpartum problem, primarily because of the loss of abdominal muscle tone and painkillers that can slow your digestive processes. Plenty of water, movement, and high-fiber foods should help. If you have had a C-section, your incision might also make you hesitant to bear down very hard. Supporting it with a rolled-up towel can help. A stool softener may be prescribed as well. If you are breastfeeding, check with your practitioner before taking any medication.
Although sex may be the last thing on your mind right now, if you aren't up to a return to the delivery room in nine or ten short months, get back on a contraceptive routine now before the mood strikes. Your doctor can give you a prescription before you leave the hospital, if necessary.
Your breasts will be tender as you deal with engorgement. Women who aren't planning on nursing find that fully drying up their milk supply can be a somewhat uncomfortable process. Wear a tight bra, try ice packs to ease discomfort, and avoid any unnecessary stimulation. If you do breastfeed, sore nipples and other discomforts can plague you as you adjust to this new routine.