OBGYN, Pregnancy and Childbirth Care
What to Expect After a Vaginal Delivery
After the extraordinary experience of giving birth, your focus turns to your beautiful new baby. When it's time to head home, it's important you take care of yourself, as well as your bundle of joy.
Here are some tips for a healthy recovery after your vaginal delivery.
Before your due date arrives, follow our handy guide on how to prepare for your hospital stay and delivery. We'll tell you what to plan for, what to bring and what you need to know in advance.
Take good care of yourself.
Follow these guidelines for a safe and swift recovery.
- Get as much rest as possible by napping when your baby naps and accepting help with household chores from relatives and friends
- Try to walk often, but check with your doctor before you exercise, climb stairs, drive a car or perform other physical activities
- You will have vaginal discharge (lochia) for up to six weeks after delivery; expect bright red, moderate to heavy blood flow for the first few days, with discharge gradually decreasing from pink or brown to yellow or white
- If you have stitches to repair an episiotomy (vaginal incision) or a tear, they will dissolve by themselves and do not need to be removed
- Urinating and bowel movements may be difficult or uncomfortable the first few days after delivery; while on the toilet, you may wish to pour warm water over your bottom or urinate while taking a warm shower
- Wipe from front to back after urination and bowel movements, then rinse using a squirt bottle filled with warm water and gently pat the area dry
- To help with bowel movements, drink plenty of fluids and eat fibrous foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and bran
- Promote healing by keeping your bottom (perineum) clean with daily showers, medicated pads, sprays or sitz baths, but check with your doctor before soaking in the bathtub or hot tub
- For hemorrhoids, use a sitz bath or sit in a tub with a few inches of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes
- Do not use tampons or douche until approved by your doctor
- To tighten your pelvic floor muscles, do Kegel exercises and pelvic tilts for five seconds at a time, four or five times in a row throughout the day
- Schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor once you get home from the hospital, usually between one and six weeks after delivery
Let friends and family help.
So you can focus on yourself and baby, now is the time to accept help from those who care about you. These quick tips on how to care for mom and baby will give your loved ones ideas how they can pitch in.
When to call your doctor.
Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms.
- Difficulty adjusting, including "baby blues," that lasts more than two weeks
- Excessive crying, anxiety, sleeping and/or eating difficulties or scary thoughts
- Foul-smelling discharge
- A return to bright red or pinkish/brownish discharge after the first week
- Heavy discharge that soaks more than one pad per hour or includes large clots or tissue
- No discharge in the first two weeks
- Tenderness, redness, swelling, drainage or separation of episiotomy
- Frequent urination, difficulty urinating or burning sensations
- Severe diarrhea or lack of bowel movements for three consecutive days
- Nipple soreness that lasts more than the first minutes of feeding, or breast soreness for more than the first one to two weeks after birth
- Tenderness, redness or hardened areas in your breasts other than during engorgement
- Cracked or bleeding nipples
- Temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
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