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
- breast engorgement
Complications after childbirth are rare. But it’s important to be aware of your symptoms and to call your doctor if you experience anything unusual. 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 following delivery
- nausea and vomiting
- sharp chest pain
You and your doctor will decide what is best for you and make sure that it works with your insurance. 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. You may need to stay in the hospital for longer if you’ve had a C-section or if you’ve had a particularly difficult labor and delivery.
After a baby is born, an APGAR test is done and the score is used to quickly determine the health of a newborn. Things that will be assessed include:
- appearance (color of the skin)
- grimace (reflex)
Doctors recommend that you breastfeed your baby for the first year of life. 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 get plenty of calcium.
Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression that usually affects women within the first few months after childbirth. While the fluctuations in hormone levels may be 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
- 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 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.
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 lubrication does not alleviate the pain, then check with your doctor to make sure you are healing as expected.