Body changes

Vaginal discharge

Your body will begin to pass the blood and mucous built up in your uterus. This flow is called lochia, and it will last about 4-6 weeks. Lochia should have a smell like fresh blood or mucous. The amount may increase slightly when you first get out of bed or standing up after lying down for a period of time, or when you breastfeed.

  • For the first 2-3 days, the lochia is dark red and made up of blood and some small clots.
  • From day 3-10 the fluid is pink or light brown.
  • By about 2 weeks, the discharge will turn to a yellowish-white mucous that can last for another two to eight weeks.

Use only sanitary pads to absorb the bleeding. Do not use tampons as they can lead to infection.

Excess weight

  • During the delivery, you may lose 10-15 lbs., the rest may take longer to lose.
  • You may need to continue wearing maternity clothes for the first few weeks.
  • Your health care provider will let you know the amount of activity and exercise you can do before leaving the hospital.

Body aches and fatigue

  • It is normal to feel very tired after childbirth.  
  • You may have sore muscles and body aches on the first day after the delivery. This is mostly from pushing.
  • Rest and sleep are important for recovery and healing.  
  • It is also important to begin moving around even in the first 24 hours. This is important to prevent complications such as blood clots and infection. You can increase activity as you are able.
  • You will continue to feel tired off and on, over the next few weeks. Resting is important because it helps you heal and gives you energy to be a mother.
  • Try to rest or sleep when the baby is sleeping. Take family and friends up on their offers to assist with housework, meals, or whatever is most helpful to you.
  • If you had a cesarean section, don’t expect to recover as quickly as you would if you had a vaginal delivery. It will take four to six weeks to feel fully recovered. Allow yourself time to rest and heal. 

Bladder function

  • You may experience a buildup of urine in the bladder. This may be due to hormonal changes, the effects of anesthesia, or surgical trauma.
  • Your nurse will be checking with you and feeling your bladder to watch for this.
  • Pain and swelling may also make it difficult for you to empty your bladder.
  • If you are unable to urinate on your own, it may be necessary for your nurse to insert a catheter to empty your bladder.  
  • This usually will go away within 24 hours unless a urinary tract infection occurs.
  • It is important to watch for signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection.
  • Slight urine leakage from the bladder may occur for several weeks. Be sure to mention this with your health care provider at your follow up appointment.

Skin

  • Sweating or perspiring is very common and is one of the ways which the body removes the extra fluids from pregnancy.
  • If there were no complications with your delivery, showering or sponge bathing can be refreshing. 
  • You may need assistance with this at first or for a few days.

Leg swelling

  • You may find that your legs are swollen and it may be difficult to see your ankles.
  • You were given a lot of fluids during labor and your body will take 7 days or so to naturally lose the extra fluid.
  • Be aware of how you place your legs when sitting or in bed. To keep your blood flowing, try not to cross your legs, flex them too tightly, or position them with pressure against the back of the knees.

References

AWHONN.  (2006).  The Compendium of Postpartum Care, 2nd Edition. Philadelphia, PA:  Medical Broadcasting Company.

Riley, L.  (2006).  You & Your Baby:  Pregnancy.  Des Moines, IA:  Meredith Corporation