Life After Delivery

Written by Tracy Stickler | Published on March 15, 2012
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Gunter, MD, OB/GYN

Symptoms and Complications

The transition from pregnancy to parenthood is a big adjustment; not only is there an infant to care for, there’s a whole new set of physical and emotional symptoms to deal with. Depending on the length and type of delivery you had, your body will be going through extreme changes.

Some of the symptoms you might experience after childbirth include:

  • bloody discharge
  • abdominal cramps
  • pain and discomfort around the vagina
  • pain around the incision if you had a cesarean
  • difficulty urinating
  • sweating
  • breast engorgement
  • constipation

Complications after childbirth are rare, but it’s important to be aware of your symptoms and to call your doctor if experience any unusual symptoms. Some symptoms that may indicate a problem include:

  • heavy bleeding that lasts for more than a few hours
  • large blood clots
  • pain in the lower abdomen after the first few days postpartum
  • fever
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sharp chest pain

Hospital Stay

You, your doctor, and your health insurance company decide what is best for you. If there is a medical reason for you to stay in the hospital, your health insurance should allow it. Many insurance companies encourage women to leave the hospital 24 hours after delivery. For some women, this is safe and appropriate. However, if you’ve had a C-section, or if you’ve had a particularly difficult labor and delivery, you made need to stay in the hospital for longer.

Baby’s Health

After a baby is born, an APGAR score will be given which is used to quickly evaluate the health of a newborn. Things that will be assessed include:

  • appearance (color of the skin)
  • pulse
  • grimace (reflex)
  • activity
  • respiration

Breastfeeding

Pediatricians recommend that you breastfeed your baby for the first year of life, and women are encouraged to start feeding as soon as possible after delivery. Breast milk is the optimal food for your baby.

Some of the many benefits of breast milk include:

  • easily digestible
  • helps to prevent allergies
  • passes on mother’s infection-fighting antibodies, lowering the risk of certain  infections
  • It's free.
  • strengthens the bond between mom and baby
  • decreases risk of breast and ovarian cancer
  • reduces a baby’s chance of becoming obese as they get older

If you are breastfeeding, you will need to increase your intake of calories and incorporate plenty of calcium into your diet.

In the United States, the only medical reason not to breast feed is being HIV positive or having untreated and active tuberculosis.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression which usually affects women within the first few months after childbirth. While the fluctuations in hormone levels are partially to blame for changes in mood and behavior after giving birth, there are also a set of non-hormonal factors that may contribute to depression.

Triggers may include:

  • disappointment in the birth
  • exhaustion
  • breastfeeding difficulties
  • relationship adjustments
  • other stressors related to having a new baby

If you are suffering from postpartum depression, talk to your doctor so that you can get the help you need.

Sex after childbirth

Sex can typically be safely resumed about four to six weeks after childbirth. If healing is taking a bit more time, your doctor may recommend waiting longer. Sex can sometimes be painful the first time after delivering a baby, particularly if you’ve had an episiotomy or a tear. In addition, women who are breastfeeding have lower estrogen levels, which may affect lubrication and make the vagina feel dry and raw. Be sure to use a lubricant when you restart sexual activity. If the lube doesn’t take care of the pain, then check with your doctor to make sure you are healing as expected.

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