After months of waiting, meeting your new baby is an incredibly exciting moment. Whether you’ve had a lengthy or speedy labour or a vaginal or C-section delivery, your body will need some time to recover. But what happens to your body after you give birth? We can help you navigate the recovery process by answering some common questions you might have, along with simple tips to help your body in the early days following birth.
Will I bleed?
Whether you’ve had a C-section or vaginal birth, you can expect some vaginal discharge[i]. This is known as lochia, the vaginal discharge after birth that consists of blood, mucus, uterine tissue and other materials from your uterus. This is normal and may last for weeks. You’ll notice the discharge is red and heavy for the first few days, but it should eventually become watery and change from pinkish-brown to yellowish-white. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor.
When can I exercise?
When you can exercise will depend on the type of birth you’ve had. If you’ve had an uncomplicated pregnancy and vaginal delivery, it’s generally safe to start some very gentle exercise a few days after giving birth or when you feel up to it[ii]. If you’re recovering from a C-section or had a complicated birth, you’ll probably need to wait a little longer[iii]. In these cases, you should always talk to your doctor and find out when it’s safe to resume any exercise.
What about stiches and scars?
Sometimes during vaginal childbirth, your doctor will need to make a cut between your vagina and anus. This is called an episiotomy, and if this is something you experience, a doctor will stitch your incision and advise you on how to keep the wound clean afterwards to avoid infection. Your doctor may recommend medications to help relieve pain, it is important to only consume recommended pain medications. Your stiches should heal within a month of giving birth, but if you have any concerns, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
During a C-section, your doctor will need to make an incision to deliver your baby. The incision will heal over the next few weeks, during this time there may be mild cramping, light bleeding or vaginal discharge, incision pain and numbness in the skin around the incision site. It is important to seek medical attention if you develop a fever, if pain or bleeding worsens or if there are other concerns. It is recommended to avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby and to only take the pain relief medication recommended by your doctor.
Will I lose weight after birth?
Since your body will have undergone some astounding changes during your pregnancy and after giving birth, it will undoubtedly be different from before.
Most women can expect to lose around 5.8 kg. in the first couple of weeks after giving birth. This includes the weight of your baby, the placenta and amniotic fluid[iv]. You may also lose a little more weight over time as your body continues to reduce excess fluids that had built up during pregnancy. It is important to remember to take it easy on yourself and you should not feel pressured to lose baby weight. Healthcare providers recommend a healthy diet that is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and gentle physical activity postpartum.
Why do I feel so emotional?
It’s completely normal to experience all sorts of different emotions after giving birth. Pregnancy and childbirth can be quite a rollercoaster ride, so it’s natural to feel happy, sad or anxious at times (often all in the same hour!). A change in mood is usually nothing to worry about, but if you find you’re struggling with a consistently low mood, you may have postpartum depression[v]. If this is your experience after giving birth, you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible so they can give you the help and support you need.
What about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding can be an incredible bonding experience between you and your baby. However, each mother’s experience is different. Sometimes after a C-section, it may take a little longer for your milk to come in. This doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed. Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby in the first 24-hours of birth helps you to bond and can also help you start to breastfeed[vi]. Consider seeing a lactation specialist if you are struggling with breastfeeding.
Found this article helpful? For more tips and advice on taking care of your body after giving birth and your new baby, sign up now.