Post-pregnancy Care

After delivery, the mother's body will take on the rigorous new role of readjusting to its pre-pregnancy state. This will approximately take 6 weeks, and it is beneficial for the mother to understand and be more patient with the process of returning to pre-pregnancy state.

Post-pregnancy state

  1. Breasts

    After delivery, the breasts will feel achy, full and tender to the touch. This is in preparation for breastfeeding. Wearing a supportive bra after childbirth, morning and night, will help to protect the tender breast tissues and ease the ache.

    During lactation, the breasts will be engorged with milk. A little milk should be expressed to soften the nipple so as to allow the baby to latch on. Engorgement will occur less often once a feeding routine is established.
  2. Skin

    Any skin discoloration that occurred during pregnancy should disappear about three months after delivery. Minimizing sun exposure to these areas will help to prevent the color from darkening. Stretch marks will also begin to fade.
  3. Abdomen

    The tummy still appears pregnant for a few weeks after delivery, as the uterus is still enlarged and the muscles supporting it need time to become taut again. Within 6 weeks, the uterus will contract back to its normal size.

    During this period, mild cramps will be experienced, and is due to the clamping of blood vessels that reduces postpartum bleeding. These cramps may be increased during breastfeeding. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin which causes uterine contractions.
    • Cesarean Incision Site:
      The incision should heal on the outside in two to three weeks, but may remain sore and sensitive for up to two months. Itching around the incision site may be experienced and a pharmacist or doctor may be consulted with regards to the medications that can be taken to relieve the itch.
  4. Vagina

    Blood volume is doubled during pregnancy, and as such the excess blood will be released through vaginal discharge for about 2 weeks. For the first four or five days, the flow will be bright red and heavy, and may contain clots of blood. The flow should taper off within two weeks.
  5. Perineum

    The perineum is the area between the vagina and rectum. It stretches and may even tear during labour and vaginal birth. Uncomfortable swelling and pain may be experienced due to the stretching required during the delivery of the baby.

    To prevent infection and to speed up the healing of the rectal and pelvic muscles, you can:
    • Do Kegel exercises –
      1. Squeeze the muscles used to stop passing urine
      2. Hold the muscles tight for 10 seconds
      3. Release
    • Put a cold pack on the perineum
    • Sit on a pillow
    • Soak in a warm bath
    • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom to help prevent infections
    • Consult a doctor or pharmacist regarding medications to help ease the pain

Lifestyle changes

  1. Exercise

    Kegel exercises will help strengthen the pelvic floor, increase blood flow to the perineum, and promote healing. They will also help prevent incontinence and help the body to regain vaginal tone.

    Walking is a perfect warm-up to more aerobic exercise later on. A regular exercise routine can be resumed after eight weeks.
  2. Nutrition

    Keeping cut-up fruit and veggies in the refrigerator for between meal snacks. Stock up on yogurt, low-fat cheese, and other quick fixes that offer essential body-healing nutrients. This will prevent unnecessary weight gain, as you are getting used to eating for one.

    Dieting to lose the extra weight before the baby is weaned from breastfeeding could affect the milk supply. Furthermore, losing weight too quickly can slow the recovery process and lead to post-pregnancy depression.
  3. Sex

    Waiting for 6 weeks after delivery to resume intercourse will allow the uterus to heal and reduce the risk of infection. However, depending on the type of delivery that was chosen, this time frame may be altered.

Six-week check-up

The physical examination will include checks of the following:

  • Shape, size, and location of uterus to ensure that it has returned to its pre-pregnant state
  • Episiotomy or C-section stitches have healed
  • Vaginal discharge is clear
  • Blood pressure
  • Weight
  • Cervix, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes and perineum
  • Abdominal wall if you had a C-section
  • Breasts
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Birth control
  • Urine sample
  • Legs for swelling or varicose veins

Pap test, parenting issues, social support, sex, birth control, exercise, diet, breastfeeding and emotional concerns may be discussed to chart the recovery process. 

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