Women's Health

What to Expect After Giving Birth

Congratulations – you’re a new mom! After months of careful preparation, you’ve just given birth. Now it’s time for you to recover physically and emotionally.

Contrary to popular belief, recovering from childbirth doesn’t happen in a matter of hours or days. For most women, it takes six weeks for the body to recover enough to get back to day-to-day activities and six months to a year to completely recover.

How quickly you recover depends on a number of factors. For example, if you have an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, you might recover faster than a woman who has a C-section delivery. Another factor that can influence your recovery is the amount of time between your pregnancies. Most doctors recommend spacing pregnancies to give you time to completely recover – both physically and mentally. It’s harder on your body if you become pregnant too quickly after you last gave birth.

Because of the misconception that women recover immediately after childbirth, many wonder if what they’re experiencing is normal. Here’s what to expect as you recover:

  • Uterine contractions – As your uterus shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size, you’ll likely experience painful contractions. These typically begin within the first few days after giving birth and last for a few weeks. Using heating pads and taking ibuprofen can help reduce the pain.
  • Vaginal bleeding and discharge – What’s normal varies greatly between women. Some women bleed heavily for only the first two weeks, while others bleed for a full six weeks. Contact your doctor if you find yourself with increased bleeding later in your recovery.
  • Hemorrhoids and constipation – Both of these are common and result from the pressure from pregnancy and pushing during labor. One of the most important things you can do to reduce hemorrhoids after childbirth is to avoid constipation. Using a stool softener can help. Another way to reduce hemorrhoids is to use an over-the-counter cream. Most women find their hemorrhoids reduce in size after six weeks.
  • Water retention – During labor and delivery, many women receive IV fluids, which can accumulate within your body leading to swollen areas. For most women, swelling resolves within two weeks. To speed up the process, keep your legs elevated, wear compression socks, and get up and move around for short periods of time throughout the day.
  • Sore breasts – This is more of an issue once you start breastfeeding. If you have difficulty getting your baby to feed, talk to your doctor. We can help make the process easier and more comfortable.
  • Weight loss – Some women seem to shed their pregnancy weight immediately after childbirth. But it can take others weeks or months to lose the extra weight. The best thing you can do is be patient. Try taking short walks and staying as active as you can. It’s also important to make healthy food choices.
  • Baby blues – This is something a lot of women struggle with after childbirth. With hormone changes, lack of sleep and increased stress, many women find they feel sad or anxious. The important thing is to recognize if it’s getting worse or uncontrollable. Help is available – talk to your doctor or a Linden Oaks therapist.

These are all normal aspects of recovering from childbirth. However, having a healthy pregnancy can help minimize the effects. This includes gaining the recommended amount of weight, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise during pregnancy.

Another way to speed up healing is to ask your family and friends for help while you recover. Prior to giving birth, communicate what might be helpful, such as watching the baby, helping with meals or pitching in to clean up the house.

Edward-Elmhurst Health can help you adjust to the demands and challenges of being a new mom. We offer support groups for moms experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety. We also have a Mom’s Line that you can call for support and information about where to get help. This number can be accessed at 630-527-7294.

To learn more about care after childbirth, visit us online or call 630-527-6363.
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