Recovering From Delivery (for Parents) (2024)

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  • Your baby's finally here, and you're thrilled — but you're also exhausted, uncomfortable, on an emotional roller coaster, and wondering whether you'll ever fit into your jeans again. Childbirth classes helped prepare you for giving birth, but you weren't prepared for all of this!

    What to Expect Physically

    After your baby arrives, you'll notice some changes — both physical and emotional.

    Physically, you might experience:

    • Sore breasts. Your breasts may be painfully engorged for several days when your milk comes in and your nipples may be sore.
    • Constipation. The first postpartum bowel movement may be a few days after delivery, and sensitive hemorrhoids, healing episiotomies, and sore muscles can make it painful.
    • Episiotomy. If your perineum (the area of skin between the vagin* and the anus) was cut by your doctor or if it was torn during the birth, the stitches may make it painful to sit or walk for a little while during healing. It also can be painful when you cough or sneeze during the healing time.
    • Hemorrhoids. Although common, hemorrhoids (swollen blood vessels in the rectum or anus) are frequently unexpected.
    • Hot and cold flashes. Your body's adjustment to new hormone and blood flow levels can wreak havoc on your internal thermostat.
    • Urinary or fecal incontinence. The stretching of your muscles during delivery can cause you to accidentally pass urine (pee) when you cough, laugh, or strain or may make it difficult to control your bowel movements, especially if you had a lengthy labor beforea vagin*l delivery.
    • "After pains." After giving birth, your uterus will continue to have contractions for a few days. These are most noticeable when your baby nurses or when you are given medication to reduce bleeding.
    • vagin*l discharge (lochia). Initially heavier than your period and often containing clots, vagin*l discharge gradually fades to white or yellow and then stops within several weeks.
    • Weight. Your postpartum weight will probably be about 12 or 13 pounds (the weight of the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid) below your full-term weight, before additional water weight drops off within the first week as your body regains its balance.

    What to Expect Emotionally

    Emotionally, you may be feeling:

    • "Baby blues." Many new moms have irritability, sadness, crying, or anxiety, beginning within the first several days after delivery. These baby blues are very common and may be related to physical changes (including hormonal changes, exhaustion, and unexpected birth experiences) and the emotional transition as you adjust to changing roles and your new baby. Baby blues usually go away within 1 to 2 weeks.
    • Postpartum depression. More serious and longer lasting than the baby blues, this condition may cause mood swings, anxiety, guilt, and persistent sadness. PPD can be diagnosed up to a year after giving birth, and it's more common in women with a history of depression, multiple life stressors, and a family history of depression.

    Also, when it comes to intimacy, you and your partner may be on completely different pages. Your partnermay be ready to pick up where you left off before baby's arrival, whereas you may not feel comfortable enough — physically or emotionally — and might cravenothing more than a good night's sleep. Doctors often ask women to wait a fewweeks before having sex to allow them to heal.

    The Healing Process

    It took your body months to prepare to give birth, and it takes time to recover. If you've had a cesarean section (C-section), it can take even longer because surgery requires a longer healing time. If unexpected, it may have also raised emotional issues.

    Pain is greatest the first few days after the surgery and should gradually subside. Your doctor will advise you on precautions to take after surgery, and give you directions for bathing and how to begin gentle exercises to speed recovery and help avoid constipation.

    Things to know:

    • Drink 8-10 glasses of water daily.
    • Expect vagin*l discharge.
    • Avoid stairs and lifting until your doctor says these activities areOK.
    • Don't take a bath or go swimming until the doctor says it's OK.
    • Don't drive until your doctor says it's OK. Also wait until you can make sudden movements and wear a safety belt properly without discomfort.
    • If the incision becomes red or swollen, call your doctor.

    Birth Control

    You can become pregnant again before your first postpartum period. Even though this is less likely if you are exclusively breastfeeding (day and night, no solids, no bottles, at least 8 times a day, never going more than 4hours during the day or 6 hours at night without feeding), have not had a period, and your baby is younger than 6 months old, it is still possible.

    If you want to protect against pregnancy, discuss your options with your doctor. This may include barrier methods (like condoms or diaphragms), an IUD, pills, a patch, an implantable device, or shots.


    You need plenty ofsleep, lots offluids, and good nutrition, especially if you're breastfeeding. An easy way to stay on top of drinking enough fluids is to have a glass of water whenever your baby nurses. At least until your milk supply is well established, try to avoid caffeine, which causes loss of fluid through urine and sometimes makes babies wakeful and fussy.

    If you have any breastfeeding problems, talk to your doctor, midwife,or a lactation specialist. Your clinic or hospital lactation specialist can advise you on how to deal with any breastfeeding problems. Relieve clogged milk ducts with breast massage, frequent nursing, feeding after a warm shower, and warm moist compresses applied throughout the day.

    If you develop a fever or chills or your breast becomes tender or red, you may have an infection (mastitis) and need antibiotics. Call your doctor if this happens. Continue nursing or pumping from both breasts, though, and drink plenty of fluids.

    Engorged Breasts

    Engorged breasts will feel betteras your breastfeeding pattern becomes established or, if you're not breastfeeding, when your body stops producing milk — usually within a few days.

    Episiotomy Care

    Continue sitz baths (sitting in just a few inches of water and covering the buttocks, up to the hips, in the water) using cool water for the first few days, then warm water after that. Squeeze the cheeks of your bottom together when you sit to avoid pulling painfully on the stitches. Sitting on a pillow may be more comfortable than sitting on a hard surface.

    Use a squirt bottle with warm water to wash the area with water when you use the toilet; gently pat dry. After a bowel movement, wipe from front to back to avoid infection. Reduce swelling with ice packs or chilled witch hazel pads. Local anesthetic sprays also can be helpful.

    Talk to your doctor about taking an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen to help with the pain and swelling.



    Exercise as soon as you've been cleared by your doctor to help restore your strength and pre-pregnancy body, increase your energy and sense of well-being, and reduce constipation. Begin slowly and increase gradually. Walking and swimming are excellent choices.

    Hemorrhoids and Constipation

    Alternating warm sitz baths and cold packs can help with hemorrhoids. It also can help to sit on an inflatable donut cushion.

    Ask your doctor about a stool softener. Don't use laxatives, suppositories, or enemas without your doctor's OK. Increase your intake of fluids and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. After your doctor has cleared it, exercise can be very helpful.

    Sexual Relations

    Your body needs time to heal. Doctors usually recommend waiting 4-6 weeks to have sex to reduce the risk of infection, increased bleeding, or re-opening healing tissue.

    Begin slowly, with kissing, cuddling, and other intimate activities. You'll probably notice reduced vagin*l lubrication (this is due to hormones and usually is temporary), so a water-based lubricant might be useful. Try to find positions that put less pressure on sore areas and are most comfortable for you. Tell your partner if you're sore or frightened about pain during sexual activity — talking it over can help both of you to feel less anxious and more secure about resuming your sex life.


    Urinary or fecal incontinence often eases gradually as your body returns to its normal prepregnancy state. Encourage the process with Kegel exercises, which help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. To find the correct muscles, pretend you're trying to stop peeing. Squeeze those muscles for a few seconds, then relax (your doctor can check to be sure you're doing them correctly).

    Wear a sanitary pad for protection, and let the doctor know about any incontinence you have.


    What Else You Can Do to Help Yourself

    You'll get greater enjoyment in your new role as mom — and it will be much easier — if you care for both yourself and your new baby. For example:

    • When your baby sleeps, take a nap. Get some extra rest for yourself!
    • Set aside time each day to relax with a book or listen to music.
    • Shower daily.
    • Get plenty of exercise and fresh air — either with or without your baby, if you have someone who can babysit.
    • Schedule regular time — even just 15 minutes a day after the baby goes to sleep— for you and your partner to be alone and talk.
    • Make time each day to enjoy your baby, and encourage your partner to do so, too.
    • Lower your housekeeping and gourmet meal standards — there's time for that later. If visitors stress you, restrict them temporarily.
    • Talk with other new moms (perhaps from your birthing class) and create your own informal support group.

    Getting Help From Others

    Remember, Wonder Woman is fiction. Ask your partner, friends, and family for help. Jot down small, helpful things people can do as they occur to you. When people offer to help, check the list. For example:

    • Ask friends or relatives to pick things up for you at the market, stop by and hold your baby while you take a walk or a bath, or just give you an extra hand. Or ask loved ones to drop off a meal.
    • Hire a neighborhood teen — or a cleaning service — to clean the house occasionally, if possible.
    • Investigate hiring a doula, a supportive companion professionally trained to provide postpartum care.

    When to Call the Doctor

    You should call your doctor about your postpartum health if you:

    • have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or above
    • soak more than one sanitary napkin an hour, pass large clots (larger than a quarter), or if the bleeding increases
    • had a C-section or episiotomy and the incision becomes very red or swollen or drains pus
    • have new pain, swelling, or tenderness in your legs
    • have hot-to-the-touch, reddened, sore breasts or any cracking or bleeding from the nipple or areola (the dark-colored area of the breast)
    • your vagin*l discharge becomes foul-smelling
    • have painful urination, a sudden urge to pee, or are unable to control urination
    • have increasing pain in the vagin*l area
    • have new or worsening belly pain
    • develop a cough or chest pain, nausea, or vomiting
    • have bad headaches or vision changes
    • become depressed or have hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, or any thoughts of harming your baby

    While recovering from delivery can be a lot to handle, things will get easier. Before you know it, you will be able to fully focus on enjoying your new baby.

    Recovering From Delivery (for Parents) (2024)


    Recovering From Delivery (for Parents)? ›

    Exercise. Exercise as soon as you've been cleared by your doctor to help restore your strength and pre-pregnancy body, increase your energy and sense of well-being, and reduce constipation. Begin slowly and increase gradually. Walking and swimming are excellent choices.

    What is the 5 5 5 rule after birth? ›

    The 5-5-5 rule in postpartum can help new mothers manage their wellbeing. It suggests taking five days in bed, five days on the bed, and five days around the bed, to be sure you're getting adequate rest. The first five days are intended for a mother to rest in bed, and have skin to skin bonding time with the baby.

    What is the hardest day of postpartum? ›

    Depending on how your labor went and if you tore or had an episiotomy, though, you may still be sore and even have vagin*l and perineal pain. Cramping: Postpartum cramping happens as your uterus contracts and is usually most intense on days two and three after delivery.

    How long does it take to heal from vagin*l birth? ›

    What Is vagin*l Delivery Recovery Like? vagin*l delivery recovery, also called postpartum recovery, takes time. Some women don't feel like their pre-pregnancy selves again for a few months, though many feel mostly recovered after 6-8 weeks. Two-thirds of babies in the U.S. are born through vagin*l delivery.

    How long should you rest after giving birth? ›

    Specifically, the first 3 days postnatal should be spent minimizing activity and resting as cortisol levels are highest during this period. Resting allows our stress hormones to drop back to a normal level and promotes the healing process.

    What is the 40 day rule after birth? ›

    In the Middle East, resting 40 days after having a baby is customary in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine. During this 40-day period, someone comes to the house or stays with the new mother to take care of the baby, the house and the other children, so that all new mothers have to do is rest.

    What is the 15 day rule after birth? ›

    The 5-5-5 is a guide for your first 15 days after arriving home from giving birth. Five days in bed, followed by five days on your bed, and finally, five days near your bed.

    What is the golden hour postpartum? ›

    The time immediately following birth is known as the Golden Hour when it comes to mother-baby bonding. During this period, skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby is critical to promote attachment, reduce stress for both mother and baby and to help baby adapt to life outside of the womb.

    What does no one tell you about postpartum? ›

    You may leak a little bit during the first few weeks of postpartum life, and that's ok! Your pelvic floor has gone through A LOT and may be weak for a bit. That weakness can lead to leaking or the feeling of pelvic heaviness. You may also notice some leaking accompanying your bleeding.

    Why are 40 days after delivery important? ›

    In Hindu culture, this time after childbirth was traditionally considered a period of relative impurity (asaucham), and a period of confinement of 10–40 days (known as purudu) was recommended for the mother and the baby. During this period, she was exempted from usual household chores and religious rites.

    How long does the cervix take to close after birth? ›

    The cervix generally doesn't close fully for around six weeks, so up until that point, there's the risk of introducing bacteria into the uterus and ending up with an infection, Pari Ghodsi, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn based in Los Angeles, tells SELF.

    How long does it take for the stomach to go down after birth? ›

    You'll likely lose much of that weight over two months after giving birth as your uterus shrinks and your body flushes out the remaining fluids. Nonetheless, your body could take anywhere from six to nine months postpartum—and in some cases, as long as two years—to return to pre-pregnancy weight.

    When does the placenta scab fall off? ›

    Inside the uterus, a scab forms over the site where the placenta was attached. About a week or two after delivery, this scab comes off, causing vagin*l bleeding of up to about a cup.

    How long should you stay in bed after giving birth? ›

    It can also help you recover safely to avoid postpartum injuries and reduce your risk of things like postpartum depression, anxiety, clogged milk ducts and mastitis. The basics of the rule consists of 5 days in bed, 5 days on the bed and 5 days around the bed.

    When can I sleep with my wife after giving birth? ›

    There's no required waiting period before you can have sex after childbirth. But a typical recommendation is to wait to have sex until after you've had a medical appointment with your healthcare professional to check your health following childbirth. That's true for both vagin*l deliveries and C-sections.

    How many days should I stay home after giving birth? ›

    If you're both doing well, you'll usually be ready to go home somewhere between 6 and 24 hours after birth. You may need to stay a bit longer if: you've had an emergency caesarean section. you or your baby need extra care.

    What is the 6 week rule after giving birth? ›

    Many health care providers recommend waiting 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth to give your body time to heal before you have sex. When you're ready for sex, be careful – you can get pregnant even before your period starts. This is because you may ovulate (release an egg) before you get your period again.

    Why do they want you to wait 6 weeks after birth? ›

    Most doctors recommend waiting six weeks after giving birth to have sex again. This allows for general healing and for your body to recover from specific birth-related issues, such as: vagin*l tear or episiotomy (an incision that enlarges the vagin*l opening for the baby to come through) Cesarean incision.

    What is the 411 rule during labor? ›

    Other ways to recognize labor:

    The 5-1-1 Rule: The contractions come every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute each, for at least 1 hour. Fluids and other signs: You might notice amniotic fluid from the sac that holds the baby.


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